Syrians hold massive festival in support of president
Updated: 2011-07-18 08:49
DAMASCUS - Thousands of Syrians packed the Umayyad Square in downtown Damascus Sunday to participate in "Syria Youths fingerprint" activity that aims to express loyalty to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country has been plagued by four months of protests.
The festivity is held to mark the 11th anniversary of Assad's swearing-in ceremony, and to voice allegiance and loyalty to Syria's leader, who is under heavy international pressures over the alleged crackdown on anti-government protests that rattled the country in mid-March.
Fireworks lit up the midnight sky over the Umayyad Square, as participants chanted the same oath made by Assad upon taking office in 2000.
Participants also carried al-Assad's posters with the Syrian flags and shouted slogans such as "the people want only Bashar."
Rawan Hmesheh, a participant and student, told Xinhua "I don't belong to any party or sect. I came here to express my love to the president and my country and to say God, Syria and only Bashar."
Maan abd-Alhaq, a Syrian actor, told Xinhua during his participation in the festival "reform and freedom are the slogans of Syrian people, we refuse to import such slogans from anybody."
Syria has been in unrest since mid March when anti-government protests broke out in the southern province of Daraa and spread to other cities. The Syrian authorities blamed the unrest on "armed groups and foreign conspiracy" and stressed that it would track down gunmen who have intimidated people and damaged public and private properties.
The Syrian government said 1,200 members of security forces and army personnel had died since the eruption of protests. According to activists, more than 1,600 civilians have died and some 10,000 have been detained.