Syrian protesters are out in force today, defying a violent government crackdown that has left 500 people dead over the past month.Syria’s exiled Muslim Brotherhood voiced its support for the anti-government movement for the first time since protests began, Reuters reports.
The Brotherhood called on Syrians to take to the streets Friday in solidarity with the people of Dara’a, a city that has been under siege by government security forces.
The group said accusations by Syrian authorities that militant Islamists were behind the unrest were wrong and aimed at fomenting civil war and undermining nationwide demands for political freedoms and an end to corruption.
But a Jordanian Islamist, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, said that Muslims were obliged to join the protest and that the overthrow of Assad’s minority Alawite rule would be a step toward implementing Sharia law in the mainly Sunni Muslim state.
As in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is by far the most powerful underground organisation in Syria. The group – which was instrumental in toppling Egypt’s ousted president Hosni Mubarek – might similarly lend some organizational support and leadership to the protests in Syria.
But the Syrian branch of the Brotherhood is not nearly as robust as its Egyptian counterpart. The group was brutally crushed in the 1982 Homs massacre, when former president Hafez Assad – the current president’s father – killed anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 Sunni Muslims.
That brutal crackdown – one of the bloodiest in the history of the Middle East – looms over the current crisis as a reminder of just how far the Syrian regime will go to remain in power.
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