Funerals again turn into Syrian anti-government protests
Angry Syrians on Saturday buried around 51 civilians killed in anti-government protests across the country as security and military forces stormed dissident towns, according to opposition activists, dpa reported.
Tensions mounted in the suburban area of Douma near the Syrian capital, Damascus, as thousands of mourners participated in funerals for two local men killed by security forces during pro-democracy protests on Fridy, said the activists.
A total of 51 people were reportedly killed by security forces in different parts of Syria on Friday.
Most funerals held Saturday turned into anti-government demonstrations, broadcaster Al Jazeera reported quoting activists.
At least three people were killed Saturday in the northern province of Idlib when security shot randomly to disperse demonstrators in the neighbourhood of Shaykhoon, according to Al Jazeera.
Elsewhere, security forces, supported by army personnel, raided districts in the restive southern province of Daraa and made mass arrests, the Local Coordination Committees, a network of opposition activists, said.
It reported a similar crackdown in the central city of Homs.
Meanwhile, around 200 Syrian opposition figures met near Damascus Saturday to build a common line on anti-government protests that have been ongoing since March.
The meeting was held on a private farm owned by one of the opposition figures.
"Every member of the opposition is either a potential martyr, detained or missing. This is why we call for uniting opposition forces so that the Arab Spring does not end in Syria," a leader of the National Coordination Federation, Hassan Abdul Azim, said during the meeting.
Abdul Azim added that holding a meeting in Damascus did not mean "they are supported by the regime."
The meeting, held under the slogan "No to foreign intervention, no violence, no sectarianism," comes two days after opposition parties in exile formed the Syrian National Council in Turkey.
Representatives of coordination committees, who are activists working on organizing protests and documenting them, were not able to attend Saturday's gathering due to security concerns.
However, they sent their demands and some of them were able to connect online to the meeting.
"We know that the meeting was closely monitored by the regime's intelligence, but no arrests were made so far," an opposition activist in Damascus told the German Press Agency dpa by phone.
The opposition at the meeting called for the release of all prisoners and setting up a national unity government to lead the country during a transitional period.
They also called for putting military and security officials behind the violence on trial.
The crackdown by President Bashar al-Assad's troops on pro-democracy protests has left some 2,600 people dead since mid-March, according to the UN Human Rights Committee, and triggered a series of sanctions by the United States and the European Union.
Syrian state television reported that a group of Russian lawmakers arrived Saturday in Damascus to meet with al-Assad and opposition members in a bid to solve the crisis in the country.
"Russia cares about the fate of the Syrian people. That's why we want to find a way to stop a negative scenario developing," Ilias Oumakhanov, vice president of Russia's upper legislative house, said according to the television report.
"Russia is against any external interference in Syria's domestic problems," he added.
Russia has continued to support the Syrian regime and refused to back Western sanctions against al-Assad's government.