Thousands of anti-regime protesters massed across Syria after weekly Friday prayers. The protesters took to the streets of Damascus, Aleppo, Baniyas and the southern city of Daraa where the unrest started almost one month ago.
Activists said up to 3,000 protesters marched to the centre of Daraa and more were on their way to the southern city, where security forces shot dead at least seven people last week
The latest demonstrations came a day after Syria announced an amnesty for scores of prisoners detained since the protests erupted and as it unveiled a new cabinet to replace the one that quit last month.
The new cabinet line-up included over half of the members of the former cabinet.
In an attempt to calm the unrest, the Syrian president and vice-president met community leaders from Deraa, where the unrest started. However, demonstrations continued after the meeting, indicating that any promises the regime made to the Deraa leaders were seen as insufficient.
April 1-16, 2011
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
The unrest in Syria is gathering momentum, with over 350 protestors allegedly killed since the start of the troubles. The intensity and persistence of the riots is unprecedented since Bashar Assad came to power. As predicted by Political Capital, the address by Syrian President Assad to parliament was insufficient to calm the brewing unrest that has now spread to almost all parts of the country. Significantly, it has spread to Aleppo and Baniyas, home to one of Syria’s main oil refineries and home to Muslim Sunni, Christians and Alouties.
The protestors are gradually increasing their demands, which more vocal and direct calls for regime change. With the government apparently slow in responding to the demands of the protestors, it is expected that the protests will continue to gather momentum not only in the number of demonstrators, but crucially also in their geographical spread.
Key among the demands of the protestors is to repeal Article 8 of the Syrian constitution, which states that the ruling Baath Party “leads the State and society” as well as cancelling the emergency rule that has been imposed over 40 years ago. Whilst the regime may indeed suspend the emergency law, as Assad and government spokesmen have repeatedly pledged to do, repealing Article 8 will be less likely to be done. The regime views this as the start of the process of regime change and the protestors see it as a crucial step towards greater political rights.
The overall situation in Syria looks set to deteriorate, and the economic impact of the unrest will likely start to be felt over the next weeks.