The protest movement in Syria delivered on a promised record turnout on Friday, with massive rallies reported in virtually every city nationwide. The regime’s security forces were also out in force, however, shooting massive numbers of demonstrators.
A very preliminary count has at least 88 protesters killed and several hundred others wounded. The toll is almost certain to rise in what has been dubbed by opposition members the “Good Friday Massacre.”
Syria’s state media was largely mum on the protests, but accused “armed groups” (the regime’s chosen term for demonstrators) of injuring firemen in an attack in Damascus. Interestingly for an “armed” group, the attackers were said to have thrown stones at the firemen. They also accused al-Jazeera of “distorting facts” in covering the protests, saying it amounted to “incitement.”
The protesters were by far the most widespread Syria has seen, and the death toll was likewise much larger than in previous days. Each Friday has seen a larger rally than the last, with a tiny demonstration along the Jordan border five weeks ago swelling to a massive rebellion calling for regime change.
Leaders of the protest movement issued a statement today demanding the abolition of the Ba’ath Party’s system of single party rule in favor of full democracy. They also demanded that political prisoners be released and the existing security state replaced.