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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Syrie: silence, Bachar al-Assad réprime

Syria: Silence. Bashar al-Assad is repressing his people

Translated Sunday 27 March 2011, by Kristina Wischenkamper and reviewed by Bill Scoble

According to revised figures given by human rights activists at least fifteen people, including a young girl, were killed Wednesday in Daraa, southern Syria, the scene of unprecedented demonstrations against the government.

France’s call to "stop excessive use of force" against protesters has not been heard by the Syrian authorities. The security forces of President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday opened fire at the funeral of two of the five people killed during the night at Daraa, in southern Syria. Among the dead, the eleven-year-old girl was "killed by a stray bullet during the funeral” a human rights activist told AFP. "Live ammunition was fired (by police), while parents of both victims and protesters were returning from the funeral", said the activist. Khaltoum Faisal, Governor of Daraa, has been dismissed, Syrian television announced.

The two people being buried were a young girl, Ibtissam Massalmeh, and a doctor, Ali al-Ghoudab Mahamid, both killed the previuos night by police forces, said the activist. At the same time, security forces and protesters exchanged fire in the al-Omari mosque area, which has become the rallying point and the scene of the clashes, said an AFP reporter who witnessed one casualty.

Daraa, which lies a hundred miles south of Damascus, is encircled by the army and the anti-terrorist forces. In the afternoon, the streets were deserted and most shops closed. Five demonstrators were killed overnight in clashes between police and protesters around the mosque, according to the activist who had reported "live fire". The authorities, however, gave a different version, blaming the clashes on "armed gangs" and reporting four deaths, according to the official SANA news agency.

The authorities have also denounced "foreign parties who continue to spread lies about the situation in Daraa". "These parties claim that they have messages and pictures from inside the city where massacres have taken place, to encourage the inhabitants" to revolt, according to Sana. More than a thousand demonstrators chanting anti-regime slogans gathered around the mosque Tuesday daytime.

An unprecedented protest movement began on 15 March in Syria following a call via a Facebook page entitled "2011: Revolution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad" for "a Syria without tyranny, without emergency law (in place since 1963) or courts of special jurisdiction. "Since 15 March there have been small, localised demonstrations throughout the capital, and then the movement spread to the south. As well as the deaths on Wednesday, six protesters have been killed since Friday in the repression at Daraa, according to the human rights activist. Dozens of protesters have been arrested throughout the country since 15 March, according to human rights advocacy groups.

President Bashar al-Assad, in power since 2000, has not spoken publicly since the protests began. The opposition has denounced the lack of reforms in over a decade.

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