BEIRUT

Middle East

Syrian protesters slam U.S. blacklisting of jihadist group

In this Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 photo, Syrian rebels pose for a photo in Aleppo, Syria. (AP Photo/Narciso Contreras)

BEIRUT: Thousands of Syrians took to the streets on Friday, criticising Washington for blacklisting a rebel jihadist group and saying that it was President Bashar al-Assad who was a "terrorist."

The protesters demonstrated under the slogan: "There is no terrorism in Syria except that of Assad."

Protesters in the Eastern Ghuta region, just outside Damascus and which has come under regular air raids by the regime army, held up a sign reading: "Thank you to all the 'terrorists' in Syria who are fighting Assad."

"We are all Al-Nusra Front," it said, in reference to the jihadist group blacklisted by Washington on Tuesday.

Lines of children and men linked arms and carried the three-starred flag of the revolution as they called for downfall of the regime in the street as shopkeepers looked on.

US blacklisting of Syria's hardline Islamist Al-Nusra Front as a "terrorist organisation" has drawn fierce criticism from rebels, opposition groups and activists, who have condemned the move as both ill-timed and ill-conceived.

The broad view is that the Salafist group is fighting courageously against Assad, whose ouster its members consider a religious duty, and has done nothing to warrant censure.

Washington blacklisted Al-Nusra, which has claimed the majority of suicide bombings that have rocked the country in recent months, warning that extremists could play no role in building the nation's future.

Protesters, meanwhile, were also vocal on social media networks like the Facebook.

On the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page, a retrospective of the most powerful scenes of the 22-month anti-Assad uprising were shown in a video footage -- from the original protests in Daraa to the massacre in the town of Houla in May.

"From the famous honour Friday we demonstrated in all cities and towns, to make the freedom dream a reality," read the subtitles, set against a dramatic musical score, and referring to the first protest in Daraa on March 18 last year.

"When Western countries feel threatened ... they try to minimise our great revolution and describe some revolutionaries as terrorists," the video said, professing "we will not allow anyone to interfere in our internal issues."

In the northwestern town of Kfar Nabal, demonstrators rejected exile for Assad, demanding that he be put on trial in Syria, where more than 43,000 people have died since the revolt erupted in March 2011, according to activists.

Syrian activists also had a revolutionary message for the citizens of Damascus allies Russia and China: "Intelligent peoples governed by idiots, remove your tyrants!" read a banner held aloft in Kfar Nabal as a line of children cheered.

 

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