BEIRUT – In a striking show of strength, the popular movement opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad took the streets in large numbers across the country after weekly prayers, defying a campaign of violence and mass detentions by security forces.
Protesters’ exuberance in demonstrations from the Mediterranean coast to the east border, and north to south, appeared to catch authorities and even some activists off guard. Assad’s aides had publicly claimed in recent days to have gained the upper hand. Some activists had tried to lower expectations for the protests after Friday prayers.
Instead, the size and scale of the civil disobedience appeared to show a new level of determination by a movement now loudly demanding an end to the 48-year-old regime run by Assad and a small group of relatives and cohorts.
Robust demonstrations broke out in the capital, Damascus, including in the Muhajereen district close to Assad’s residence, a sign they were spreading to the very center of power.
By many accounts, it was a banner day for Assad’s opponents. According to a trove of video footage uploaded to the Internet, protests broke out from the coastal city of Banias to the far eastern cities of Deir el-Zor; in the ethnic Kurdish cities of Qamishli and Amouda, and restive suburbs and satellite cities that ring Damascus.