University protest in Syria ‘turns deadly’
Four students reportedly dead after security forces storm dormitories at university in country’s second city, Aleppo.
Syrian activists and opposition groups say security forces have stormed student dormitories at a university in the city of Aleppo following anti-government protests there, killing at least four students and wounding several others.
Thaer al-Ahmed, a local activist, said on Thursday that security forces and armed pro-government men fired tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the students at Aleppo University after entering the students’ residences late on Wednesday night.
He said raids and intermittent gunfire continued until early morning on Thursday.
More than 50 students have reportedly been arrested.
The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC) activist group and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the raid and casualties.
“Regime forces demanded through loudspeakers that the dorms be evacuated, then began detaining the students,” the LCC said in a statement.
The deadly incident prompted the University of Aleppo to announce on its website that it was suspending classes until after final exams on May 13.
Aleppo – the country’s second city – has been largely spared from the violence that has plagued other Syrian cities, but the university students have been staging almost daily protests calling for an end to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Meeting with Annan
The apparent violence against students in Aleppo came just hours after Syrian officials in Damascus sat down with Kofi Annan, the joint UN-Arab League envoy, to negotiate the terms of the ceasefire in March and early April.
The April 12 truce has led to a small reduction in the daily carnage, especially in cities were monitors are deployed permanently.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused government forces on Wednesday of going on a killing spree in oppositio-dominated areas.
“Everywhere we went, we saw burnt and destroyed houses, shops and cars, and heard from people whose relatives were killed. It was as if the Syrian government forces used every minute before the ceasefire to cause harm,” Anna Neistat, a senior HRW researcher, said on Wednesday.
Human Rights Watch blames Syria for war crimes
In assaults on the northern province of Idlib, troops killed at least 95 civilians and destroyed hundreds of homes, HRW said in a report that accused the Syrian government of war crimes.
Syria has not commented on the report. It accuses foreign-backed armed groups of being behind the violence.
Anita McNaught, reporting from near the Syrian border in Mardin, Turkey, said the report corroborated what Al Jazeera had witnessed in Syria.
“Indeed, their conclusions, that civilians had been deliberately targeted; that there had been people who had been taken out and executed; that there was both – my words, not theirs – a form of collective punishment going on and quite discriminate elimination of homes … that belonged to people who were known to be in opposition to the government – yes, we saw all of that,” she said.
Syria is also gearing up for multi-party elections on May 7, part of a political reform package agreed to by Assad as a
gesture towards those who want an end to his family’s four-decade grip on power.
Western states do not set much faith in either the ceasefire or reform process. France has called for UN sanctions, but the West can do little given the diplomatic cover Syria enjoys at the Security Council from China and Russia.
According to the UN, more than 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since an anti-government uprising began in March last year.