About a thousand Syrians gather near Dubai consulate

Crowds denounce Syrian president and protest violence against dissidents there.

Dubai, February 10, 2012 - Approximately 1,500 people protesting the violence and regime of Syrian president Bashr Al-Assad demonstrated near the Syrian Consulate in Bur Dubai, Dubai February 10, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)
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DUBAI // Around a thousand Syrians gathered near their consulate after prayers Friday to protest their president and the bloodshed in their home country.

Men stood atop cars leading chants while the crowd waved Syrian flags, beat drums and raised signs.

“God, Syria and freedom!” they shouted as they cycled through chants supporting the uprising and denouncing President Bashar Al Asad and his predecessor and father Hafez.

"Freedom - whatever it takes is better than what we have now," read the sign of 26-year-old Rama Imad, who came with her husband and son.

The crowd demonstrated near the consulate of clusters in Bur Dubai, which police had blocked off. Officers stood behind the crowd for over an hour, before asking them to disperse.

Syrians present said they had gathered in the area several times before, as early as last March when the uprising erupted. More than 5,400 people have died since then, the UN estimated last month.

Friday’s demonstration drew the largest crowd by far, they said, spurred by a recent siege of the Syrian city of Homs. Yasir Zeirs, 24, with a Syrian flag draped around his shoulders, said two friends of his had been killed there last week.

Protesters also expressed anger at Russia and China, which earlier this week vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling on President Asad to relinquish some powers.

“The people support the Free Syrian Army!” the crowd chanted, referring to the armed opposition formed by defectors and other rebels. "Our souls and our blood for Homs!"

"The Syrian people are one! One, one, one!" the crowd shouted.

"You can see people from all over Syria,” said Yamen, 34, who declined to give his last name.

A man who gave his name as Abu Abdulrahman brought his four children to the event, saying it was “for their freedom and their future”. He said he had lived through the prior crackdowns in Syria, but that at least today such violence could be documented.

Many in the crowd held up their mobiles to capture the event, though police on occasion instructed some to stop. Residents nearby watched from their balconies.

The authorities had expected these crowds and arrived early that morning, said Maj Gen Mohammed Al Mansour, the general manager of protective security and emergency for the Dubai police. A few dozen men in uniform, riot gear and plainclothes could be seen. They had shown up at previous gatherings but allowed them to carry on for a limited time, said Hassan Hamza, 35.

When an officer finally stood atop a car and asked everyone to leave, the crowd repeated a chant from earlier: "Thank you, thank you, UAE!"
The protest ended quietly, with only one minor dispute. It was between a handful of men and a taxi driver whose car, parked in the area at the time, had suffered dents in its hood after being used as a podium.

chuang@thenational.ae