DAMASCUS: Pro-democracy protests erupted in several Syrian towns and
villages on Friday after the main weekly Muslim prayers, with demonstrators
holding olive branches and calling for more freedom in defiance of a brutal
crackdown, witnesses said.
In Ain Arab, a mainly Kurdish region near the northern city
of Aleppo, hundreds took to the streets chanting "no to violence, yes to
dialogue" and "we are not Islamists or Salafists, we want
freedom,", said Radif Mustapha, head of a Kurdish human rights group who
was reached by telephone.
"No one is calling for the downfall of the
regime," he said, as the demonstrators could be overheard shouting
"azadi, azadi" or "freedom" in Kurdish.
In the coastal city of Banias, thousands of men, women and
children took to the streets, with many of the men bare-chested to show proof
they were unarmed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The demonstrators called for freedom and urged the regime to
lift its siege on several Syrian cities where protests have taken place in the
last two months, the rights group said.
Hassan Berro, an activist, told AFP that protests were also
taking place in several towns and villages in the northeast of the country
including Qamishli, Amuda and Derbasiyeh.
He and the others said security forces had not intervened to
stop the protests so far.
Their accounts could not be independently verified as
foreign journalists are prevented from traveling in the country to report on
the unprecedented protests.
Friday's demonstrations were taking place amid mounting
pressure by the international community for the Syrian government to stop its
crackdown on pro-democracy protests.