Pressure mounted on Syria
DAMASCUS- It’s not on the front pages of the Western press, and it’s not leading the hour for the main Arab satellite networks like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, but the Syrian uprising continues apace, while the Assad regime’s countermeasures are becoming increasingly brutal.
International pressure mounted on Syria's president Monday, with key European governments and the United Nations denouncing a deadly crackdown that has failed to dampen a popular uprising against the authoritarian regime.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon personally called President al-Assad to say he was "greatly disturbed" by the reports of violence.
Iran Sunday accused Jordan and Saudi Arabia of being behind the wave of anti-government protests in Syria.
"A probe into the root causes of the latest events in Syria shows that the revolt is mainly supported by Saudi Arabia and Jordan," Iran's Press TV said.
The criticism from France was particularly significant, because French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been seen generally supportive of Syrian President in the past few years. He visited Syria twice in 2008 and 2009 and hosted President al-Assad in Paris, helping ease Syria's international isolation in recent years. He also led an effort to restart stalled peace talks between Syria and Israel and tried to woo Syria away from the fold of regional power Iran.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the use of force against peaceful demonstrators "dismaying and outrageous." British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the violence "unacceptable," and said "political reform ... is the only legitimate response to demands from the Syrian people."
President al-Assad blames the violence on armed gangs rather than reform-seekers and has vowed to crush further unrest.
UK Foreign Office advises against all but essential travel to Syria due to deteriorating travel situation.
Syria’s main human rights movement has said the death toll from less than a month of protests has reached 200 and called on the Arab League to impose sanctions on the ruling hierarchy.
Reuters reported that Fayez Sara, a journalist who was jailed for 2⅟₂ years along with 11 Damascus Declaration members and released in 2010, was arrested again on Sunday, rights activists said.
“The secret police have been rounding up every outspoken figure they can get their hands on,” one of the rights defenders said. “They call them in for ‘interrogation’ and keep them, pick them up from the street or break into their homes.”
Protests in Syria spread for the first time to a university campus and were violently suppressed on Monday, a day after the government of President al-Assad acknowledged that it was using force against protesters.
The admission came in a statement from Syria's Interior Ministry that was published Sunday by SANA, Syria's official news agency.
Until the new statement, the Assad government had insisted that the deaths were caused by foreign infiltrators bent on destabilizing Syria.
"In recent weeks, groups of citizens gathered in demonstrations in several areas in Syria, particularly on Fridays, making a number of demands that were met with immediate response from the leadership," the statement said.
Certain "spiteful individuals," the statement continued, nevertheless burned government buildings, killed or wounded state security officers, and tried to sow distrust.
"The Syrian authorities, in order to preserve the security of the country, citizens and the governmental and services establishments, will confront these people and those behind them according to the law," the statement read. "The Ministry of Interior affirms that there is no more room for leniency or tolerance in enforcing law, preserving security of country and citizens and protecting general order."
Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights activist who is a visiting scholar at George Washington University, said that the statement was an attempt to further intimidate protesters. Besides the protesters who have died, about 800 have been detained, according to figures compiled by him and other activists.
Though the Monday protests at Damascus University's science campus were relatively small, with student demonstrators numbering a few hundred, the fact that the movement has spread to a university campus is highly significant, Mr. Ziadeh said.
"Damascus University has more than 75,000 students, and this could spread quickly," Mr. Ziadeh said. Witnesses at the university said that one student was killed as the protests were dispelled, but that could not be independently confirmed. "That's why they have to react very forcefully. They have to send a message."
Picture Name Faculty of Science at Damascus University
SANA reported on Monday that Dean of Faculty of Science at Damascus University Mohammad Said Mahasni denied reports of killing a student during a demonstration for a number of students in the faculty, saying "these reports are baseless and untrue."
"A number of students gathered in front of the faculty today, chanting national slogans and supporting the comprehensive reform process led by President Bashar al-Assad, rejecting and denouncing attempts of sedition and destabilizing security and stability Syria is enjoying," Dr. Mahasni said in a statement to SANA.
In other Syrian provinces, Deep grief and sadness engulfed the Syrians over the killing of nine Syrian Arab Army Soldiers, two of them high-ranking Officers, and the injury of dozens, at the criminal hands of a group of terrorists and thugs on Sunday in an ambush on Lattakia-Tartous highway at Banias Coastal City.
Picture Name Syrian Army Martyrs were laid to rest
SANA also published, for the first time since clashes had been started in Syria, the names of the Martyred and injured policemen at the hands of armed groups during the past days in Daraa, Damascus countryside, Damascus, Homs, and Lattakia along with some pictures for them.
George Jabbour, a former Syrian parliamentarian, said that he, like many Syrians, hoped that Mr. Assad's appointment of a new parliament, expected shortly, would help to calm the protests.
"The government is working towards reform as seriously as it can," Mr. Jabbour said. "I have no idea who is causing this bloodshed -- I have not made up my mind." He added, "But I hope that the new government will be in harmony of the thinking of the protesters and that things will go more peacefully."