Monday, April 18, 2011

Secret police tell parents of arrested protesters to forget their children and have some more

On March 6, 15 teenagers were arrested for scrawling graffiti in Deraa, a nondescript farming town near the Jordanian border. They had written on a wall, ‘The people want the regime to fall’ – the mantra of the Arab spring. Their parents, accompanied by a local religious leader, went to the police to plead for their release, but were told to forget about their children.

‘Go away and have some more’ was the advice.

When this provoked huge demonstrations in front of the city’s mosque, the local police chief – who happened to be the president’s thuggish cousin – ordered his forces to open fire. Five people were killed, starting a chain reaction that has led to dozens of deaths in Deraa and an uprising across Syria.

The regime initially tried a combination of concessions and repression to stop the protests. The police chief and an unpopular local governor were sacked and detainees released, but this failed to quell anger in an area where tribal concepts of honour run deep.

When some of the arrested teenagers were freed they had been tortured, with faces smashed up, burns on their bodies and fingernails pulled out.

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