Syria ceasefire sees return of Friday anti-regime protests

Syria ceasefire sees return of Friday anti-regime protests
For the first time in years, anti-government protesters have taken to the streets of Syria demanding the fall of the Assad regime with thousands massing on Friday.
3 min read
04 March, 2016
Protesters gathered in rebel-controlled territory to demand regime change [twitter]
As the first week of Syria's ceasefire comes to a close, Syrians in rebel areas took to the streets to celebrate and followed a Friday tradition from the early on in the 2011 revolution. 

It was the first time the people had massed on the streets in years, due to the dangers that public gatherings make easy targets for Syrian regime bombers and snipers. 

This Friday's demonstrations came under the theme of "The Revolution Continues!" and streets in opposition-held areas in Aleppo, Damascus, Homs and Deraa were packed. 

Daraa, a city in the southwestern, is where the country's anti-government protests first began back in March 2011 and they took place again with added vigor.

Back to the start

"You could say we've gone back to the beginning," Hasaan Abu Nuh, an activist from the town of Talbisseh in central Homs province, told AFP news agency.

The scenes were reminiscent of the protests that first kicked off the popular uprising against the Assad regime in 2011, and usually took place after Friday prayers.

According to Abu Nuh, the last demonstration in his hometown was back in June 2012, before the Assad regime intensified its military crackdown on peaceful protestors.

"There were a lot of young guys that used to protest with us who weren't there today because they've been killed," the activist told AFP via a phone conversation.

Another activist, Abu Nadim, told the French news agency that his home city of Aleppo had also seen hundreds of protesters fill the its streets to show that they are not "armed gangs" but civilians demanding freedom and the downfall of the regime.

Video footage from the northwestern Syrian city of Maarat al-Nouman also showed hundreds of protestors who had taken to the streets with the green, white and black tricolore of the opposition movement. Amongst those seen dancing and chanting slogans were young children holding flags and banners probably for their first time.
Protesters in the city of Maarat al-Nouoman on Friday [Youtube]

Posts on Faceboook and Twitter have also shown footage from elsewhere in Syria, where women were seen marching alongside men to demand Assad's removal.

Revolutionary days

Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed while millions were displaced from their homes. 

A recent report estimated that the number of dead due to the conflict is close to 470,000, which is 11.5 percent of Syria's pre-war population.

A ceasefire came into effect on 27 February, and is part of increased efforts by world leaders to try and secure a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

Many, however, remain skeptical about how long the current cessation of violence will last, with many observers drawing attention to continued military assaults by the Assad regime.

Agencies contributed to this story.