Last updated: 13 April, 2012

Syrians demonstrate to test ceasefire

Syrian demonstrators took to the streets on Friday after opposition and activist calls for mass protests to challenge the commitment of President Bashar al-Assad’s government to a UN-backed ceasefire.

Protesters staged a rally at Qadam district in Damascus, while another protest broke out in the town of Irbin, outside the capital, according to videos posted by activists on the Internet.

Late Thursday, demonstrations broke out in several areas.

In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, protesters chanted “Freedom forever, against your wishes Assad,” according to the Local Coordination Committees activist group, which described the rally as the “largest in months.”

Protests also took place in the northern city of Aleppo, as well as Zabadani and Douma in Damascus province, and Daraa, cradle of the 13-month-old uprising in the south.

Activists put out a call for the protests on Thursday, urging Syrians from all religions and political movements and those who are “hesitant” to take to the streets.

“Today, no one is excused, because it is a day for all Syrians,” said a posting on the Facebook page of The Syrian Revolution 2011 activist group, an engine of the uprising.

“Rise up if you want an end to the killing. Rise up if you want an end to destruction of the cities. Rise up if you want an end to the (rule of the) Assad family,” it said.

“The squares are waiting for you, heroes of Al-Fayhaa,” said a banner on the Facebook page, using another name of Damascus.

The umbrella opposition Syrian National Council urged people to take advantage of the ceasefire brokered by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which entered into force Thursday, to demonstrate against the Assad regime.

“We call on the people to demonstrate and express themselves… The right to demonstrate is a principle point of the plan” of Annan, SNC chief Burhan Ghalioun told AFP.

Ghalioun also urged the international community to deploy observers to monitor the peace agreement, which stipulates the right to demonstrate.

The Syrian conflict has cost the lives of more than 10,000 people, according to monitors.

The interior ministry said Thursday that people wishing to demonstrate should request a permit, saying that the right to stage protests is now guaranteed by the new constitution which was approved in a referendum in February.