DAMASCUS, March 15 (Xinhua) — Millions of Syrian government supporters dashed through streets and main squares nationwide, to stage rallies in support of embattled President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday.
The rallies, which erupted across Syria, have witnessed low turnouts in embattled areas such as central provinces of Homs and Hama as well as northern Idlib, which have emerged as main battlegrounds between government troops and rebel forces.
In the latest series of raids on opposition strongholds in Idlib, the government succeeded in pushing the militants to leave positions. On Saturday, many people fled Idlib to surrounding villages and in some cases to neighboring Turkey.
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday morning that around 1,000 Syrian refugees, including a general in the army, fled to Turkey in the last 24 hours. “The number of Syrians currently staying in Turkey climbed to 14,700 today,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selcuk Unal said at a press conference.
The biggest rally was held at the Umayyad square in Damascus and similar marches were held all over Syrian squares to emphasize the Syrians’ loyalty and allegiance to their homeland and the Syrian leader in face of external pressures.
Dubbed as “I am a Syrian and will participate in the global march for Syria,” Thursday’s rallies saw demonstrators waving Syrian flags and posters of Assad.
“We came here today to tell everyone who hates Syria that the Syrian people love each other… these people here were not coerced into taking part in this rally, but they are here out of love to Syria,” said Majd Jaber, a Syrian demonstrator.
Another demonstrator, Fayyez Fayad, said that “we are here to show the world our love to Syria. We only care about Syria, and our goal is to reform, making a united country under one flag and one constitution.”
Earlier in the day, the government-run Tishrin government newspaper said in an article that Thursday’s rally is held by the youths to “demonstrate that they are marching steadily to embody their effective role in building the renewed Syria.”
Meanwhile, al-Thawra, another government-run daily, editorialized that “the Syrians are choosing their spring, and their steadfastness.”
Syria’s state-run news agency said that the Syrians are recalling those who were killed in a heinous massacres committed by the armed terrorist groups and that they are more adherent to their national unity because they realized that home is the target.
All Syrian streets were decorated with banners promoting for the rally. “I am a Syrian and I will participate in the universal march,” read most of the banners.
Pro-government rallies would also be held over the next two days in all squares as part of the “global march.”
The Syrian government has accused some Arab and Western countries of providing weapons and financial support to the armed groups in Syria. It said in December 2011 that “armed terrorist groups” had killed more than 2,000 army and security personnel during the unrest.
The United Nations said recently that more than 7,500 people died in Syria’s violence. In Geneva, the UN refugee agency said 230,000 Syrians have fled their homes since the beginning of the violence in Syria last year.