Hundreds of thousands of Syrians protested Friday, four months into uprisings there and after a week-long siege by government forces of the city of Homs left bodies strewn in the streets, The New York Times' Nada Bakri reports. Six people were reportedly killed when government-allied armed forces fired on demonstrators.
Friday’s demonstrations, under the slogan of unity, came a week after a wave of sectarian bloodshed in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, claimed the lives of at least two dozen people. The violence signaled a dangerous turn in the four-month popular uprising against [President Bashar al-Assad], who has been in power since 2000.
Homs, the country's third largest city and a center of manufacturing, was the site of some of the largest protests, Bakri reports. Protesters across Syria (pictured above in Deir al-Zor) chanted
in support of the residents of Homs, the Los Angeles Times
reports. Assad's government blamed the violence on Islamists, and is trying to spread the perception that the protest is just a fight between Sunni and Allawite Muslims. "That is what the regime wants everyone to believe so they become afraid," a Western diplomat in Damascus, speaking anonymously, told Borzou Daragahi and Alexandra Sandels, reporting for the Los Angeles Times
. "And that is the challenge for the opposition--they have to opt out of fearful propaganda and show that they are unified. But I think we've seen very little sectarian violence among ordinary citizens. Syria is not an extremist country."