In a bit of a twist Wednesday, thousands of Syrian women and children blocked a main coastal highway between Tartous and Banias and demanded the release of hundreds of men who have been detained largely in Bayda and Beit Jnad in recent days.
Witnesses who spoke on anonymity for fear of recourse said the crowd was shouting “We will not be humiliated!” and made some progress with authorities, who eventually released about 100 of the detainees to the group.
Protests calling for political reform in Syria having been going on for about a month now, but Wednesday marked the first protest led by women and even small children, rather than men.
While President Bashar Assad has responded with changes to his cabinet, and also granted Syrian nationality to thousands of Kurds, his government has also clashed with protestors to violent ends.
Friday marked the single bloodiest day of the conflict, with 37 deaths reported around the country.
Details about why the men in Bayda and Beit Jnad were detained Tuesday is unclear, and conflicting stories are coming from different sources. Residents and activists have said the men were arrested when security forces and pro-government gunmen began an attack against the villages to quell opposition there.
The Syrian government countered that "criminal killers" were responsible for opening fire in Banias and surrounding areas, which led to the death of civilians. In a supposed response to these attacks, the Syrian army was requested to pull the criminals from residential areas.
The protests between Tartous and Banias are not expected to end today, as protestors have said the sit-in will continue until all the men are released.
(photo: VOA News)