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Syria Protests Move North as Government Promises End to Emergency Law

By Jack Phillips
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 27, 2011 Last Updated: March 27, 2011
Related articles: World » Middle East
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Syrian soldiers guard a street in the port city of Latakia on March 27, 2011. (Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian soldiers guard a street in the port city of Latakia on March 27, 2011. (Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

The Syrian government on Sunday confirmed to several news agencies that it is going to dispose of its five-decade long emergency law, while crackdowns on protesters persist. The protests moved from the south to the northern coastal city of Lattakia over the weekend.

A government official told Al-Jazeera television that the 48-year-old law will “absolutely” be lifted. However, the official did not give a timeframe. In order to abolish the emergency law, “one or two steps in the implementation” needs to take place, which may happen next week, the government official said.

Since March 16, protesters have taken to the streets demanding reforms, an end to government corruption, and emergency law.

Their protests, which have been centered in the southern city of Daraa, have been violently suppressed by government security forces.

According to blog Syria Revolution Digest, the protesters clashed not only with security forces but “gangs of smugglers, known as the Shabbiha” on Saturday, who are apparently supported by the security forces.

The “Shabbiha opened fire on protesters from their cars and from rooftops” and killed around 17 while injuring more, said the blog posting. “Protesters withdrew to the narrow alleyways, where people [threw] rocks and garbage cans on passing security cars,” it continued.

After the fighting ceased, councils were formed to work with security forces and some members of the Shabbiha, the blog said. However, the city is locked down by police, who will not allow anyone to pass in or out of checkpoints.

The United Nations said that around 55 people were killed in the past week due to the unrest. According to AFP, activists say that more than 126 have been killed.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Syria should put an end to the violent crackdown as it “not only does not resolve the grievances of people taking to the streets, it risks creating a downward spiral of anger, violence, killings and chaos.”

Last Thursday, the Syrian government had said that they would consider lifting the emergency law, but on Friday, violent crackdowns persisted.

“To announce a package of long-overdue and very welcome reforms, and then to open fire at protestors in the streets the very next day sends diametrically opposite signals and seriously undermines trust,” Pillay said.

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