Thousands Are Said to Be Detained in Syria (New York Times)
In Syria, Reports of Arrests Proliferate
By ANTHONY SHADID Published: May 2, 2011
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian security forces have escalated an arrest campaign in the country’s most rebellious regions, detaining hundreds over the past few days in the besieged city of Dara’a and towns on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, activists said on Monday.
Since the uprising began six weeks ago against the rule of PresidentBashar al-Assad, security forces have sought to arrest protesters in locales across the country. But in recent days, activists have spoken of a broader campaign of intimidation, with arbitrary detentions aimed at instilling a sense of fear that the uprising had seemed to break.
“They’ve arrested people left and right, random arrests,” said Ayham al-Zoghbi, a resident in Dara’a, a southern border town that has been besieged by the Syrian military for more than a week. “Anyone between 18 and 45 they could put their hands on was arrested.”
Insan, a Syrian human rights group, said it had documented more than 500 arrests in Dara’a since Thursday, and more than 300 in towns on the outskirts of Damascus.
Both regions have proved crucial to the persistence of the uprising, the gravest challenge yet to the more than four decades of rule by the Assad family. Protests over the arrest of teenagers in Dara’a, a poor town in a drought-stricken agricultural area, soon galvanized nationwide demonstrations. Unrest has been particularly pronounced in the capital’s suburbs, and the Syrian government has sought to stanch its spread to Damascus.
Since the uprising began, Insan said that it had documented 2,434 arrests across the country and was still trying to verify the fate of at least 5,000 others.
“This is just what we know,” said Wissam Tarif, the group’s executive director.
In one high-profile arrest on Monday, he said security forces in the capital arrested Diana Jawabra, an outspoken critic of the siege of Dara’a, her hometown. She resisted and was forced into a car at gunpoint, Mr. Tarif said, citing witnesses. Ms. Jawabra, 39, had been trying to arrange a relief convoy, departing Tuesday, to the town, whose plight has prompted solidarity protests in other regions of Syria and in neighboring Jordan.
Residents of Dara’a had long seethed under the government’s heavy-handed control, in particular the sway of Atef Najib, a cousin of Mr. Assad’s in charge of security in the region, who became the subject of sanctions by the Obama administration last… Read more…