The old and the young are joining forces in Syria to take part in spontaneous protests, according to refugees arriving in
Turkey. One teenager said some security forces who fired on a crowd leaving a mosque in his village were Iranian.
Anti-regime protesters using mosques, Facebook
by Nicolas Cheviron
ANTAKYA, Turkey, June 9, 2011 (AFP) - Safe in Turkey, Syrian dissidents injured in a crackdown back in their homeland say that the spirit of revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is being fomented everywhere from mosques to social networks.
“Demonstrations take place outside the mosque after prayers. It’s not an organised thing, it’s more or less spontaneous,” said Akran, a 17-year-old student nursing a gunshot wound at a hospital in this Turkish city.
“The young, the old, women, everyone takes part,” said the youth, from a village near the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib.
On May 20, security forces — some who wore black uniforms and who were Iranians, according to Akram — flooded into the village in armoured vehicles and fired on the crowd leaving the mosque.
He was hit in the leg by a bullet, and two weeks later, the wound is still a centimetres-lone gash of raw flesh. Like many others hospitalised here with similar wounds, he was able to flee across the mountains, being picked up by strangers and ferried to the border, which Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said will not be closed to refugees.
At the border, refugees are immediately whisked away by police to a Red Crescent camp. Those injured in clashes with the Syrian security forces, now numbering in their dozens here, are immediately ferried to hospitals by ambulance.
Mosques have also been the gathering place for demonstrators in the northwestern city of Jisr al-Shughur.
“Coming out from prayers, everyone meets in the central square of the town to demonstrate. Everyone knows the meeting.
Even Christians wait for the others to come out from prayers,” said Rajah, a 23-year-old baker from the city.
He said security force repression intensified after Friday prayers.
According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, violence reached an unprecedented level in the town last Saturday, when 35 people were killed.
His face, torso and arms a vivid constellation of burns, said he knew little of the clashes.
“I was talking to a friend, and then nothing. Later, they told me that a bomb exploded close by.”
The young baker said that though the mosques are a rallying point for protesters, it did not mean that Islamists are directing the demonstrations in Jisr al-Shughur, which the Muslim Brotherhood made its stronghold in the 1980s.
“All the Muslim brothers have left the country for a while now. There are no longer in Syria. If they were, they would be immediately executed by the regime,” said Rajah.
The protests does not lack for leaders, he says, adding that they are drawn from “the people of the town who are respected, the older ones, coming from different spheres.”
With a white beard and powerful voice, one of the older patients in the Antakya hospital fitted the description of respectability.
A teacher in his 50s, he had been hit by bullets in both legs on May 20 in a village near Idlib.
“The demonstrations are organised on Facebook, sometimes by telephone when it’s possible,” he said.
But according to several of the injured, the Syrian regime has cut telephone and Internet service to Jisr al-Shughur in the past few days.
Pro-democracy demonstrators last month dedicated a Facebook page to a 13-year-old boy allegedly tortured and killed by the security forces in Deraa, the birthplace of the anti-regime protests, calling for demonstrations in his memory.