Syria braces for “Martyrs Week” of protests

Syria on Tuesday was braced for the start of "Martyrs Week", a series of rallies organized by a Facebook group in honor of those killed in recent security crackdowns on pro-reform demonstrations.

"The Week of the Martyrs will be a thorn in the regime's side," the organizers of the Facebook group Syrian Revolution 2011 said, designating Tuesday as the first day of protests focused on coastal towns "far from the capital.”

"We announced [the protests] as peaceful and insist on that," said the group, which has garnered more than 100,000 supporters online and proved a persistent motor of anti-regime rallies.

The organizers also called for a boycott of cell phone companies on Wednesday, a rally against the ruling Baath party on Thursday outside its Damascus headquarters, and countrywide demonstrations on Friday.

Activists estimate more than 130 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, mainly in Daraa and the port city of Latakia, since political unrest erupted March 15.

President Bashar al-Assad, who is facing a domestic crisis unprecedented in 11 years of rule, has made a string of gestures hinting at change but has failed to appease protesters who are demanding greater freedom and political reforms.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon

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