Activists vow daily Ramadan protests in Syria

The Guardian reports:

A sweep by government forces has seized one person every hour during the five-month Syrian uprising and detained them in secret, leaving their families no way to locate them, says a human rights group.

The group, Avaaz, claims 2,918 people have been “forcibly disappeared” since anti-government demonstrations began in Syria on 15 March. Most are accused of being involved in the rebellion that continues to undermine a regime long renowned as the Middle East’s most formidable police state.

An additional 12,617 people also remain in detention; however their incarceration has been declared to family members. Tens of thousands more people have fled from towns and villages in northern Syria in the face of intensive military assaults that Damascus claims are ridding the area of criminals and collaborators.

The scale of the detentions in Syria has been compiled by a network of activists and researchers who have provided information to Avaaz. The group has gathered photos of many of the disappeared and is launching an awareness campaign today.

“Hour by hour, peaceful protesters are plucked from crowds by Syria’s infamously brutal security forces, never to be seen again,” said Avaaz’s executive director, Ricken Patel. “President Assad’s attempt to terrorise Syrians into submission isn’t working, but they urgently need the international community to demand the release of the disappeared and a transition to democracy.”

Al Jazeera reports:

When widespread protests broke out in Syria in March, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime turned to its feared security services to smother the anti-government movement.

The bloody response has so far succeeded where other attempts to put down the “Arab awakening” have failed, and President Assad remains in power.

Verifying the toll of the crackdown is difficult, since the government has banned most journalists and observers, but activists and researchers say more than 10,000 people have been detained and at least 1,500 killed since March. A response of proportional size in the United States, by way of comparison, would have meant more than 136,000 people detained and 20,450 killed.

At least 66 people are believed to have died while in the custody of Syrian authorities, according to a list provided by activists to Human Rights Watch researcher Nadim Houry in June.

Outside audiences have encountered the regime’s brutal response primarily through grainy YouTube footage and second-hand accounts relayed by expatriate activists.

These brushstrokes paint a useful yet broad picture: a dozen people killed in this city, a thousand people protesting in that city.

But first-hand accounts from those who have been through the packed cells of Assad’s jails or those who have come under gunfire from his troops offer a more personal understanding of the uprising.

Recently, Al Jazeera spoke with six men, three of whom were in Syria, and three of whom had left the country. All had been arrested or seen relatives suffer at the hands of the security services.

Their stories, which are available below, portray a violent state system in a spasm of panic, unsure of what it is confronting, yet nevertheless determined to crush it.

Stories of six survivors.

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