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Syrians Call For Freedom

Demonstrators of Kurd origin march after Friday prayers in Qamishli, Syria, April 15, 2011.

Pro-democracy demonstrations continue in Syria despite efforts by the Syrian government to stop them

Pro-democracy demonstrations continue in Syria despite efforts by the Syrian government to stop them.

Those efforts range from promises by officials to lift the draconian emergency law that has been in place for more than 40 years; suddenly granting citizenship to hundreds of thousands of stateless Kurds who have been the target of gross persecution by the regime; and the formation of a new cabinet under the continuing leadership of Bashar al-Assad.

But the Assad government has also responded with horrific violence to the anti-government protests that began last month in the southern city of Daraa and have since spread to other towns and cities, including Douma, Baniyas, Damascus and Aleppo.

That violent response includes beating and firing upon peaceful protestors with live ammunition -- leaving more than one hundred dead; stopping medical personnel from ministering to the wounded; rounding up anti-government dissidents, detaining and torturing them; using equipment from Iran to crush and control crowds; and, reportedly, shooting Syrian soldiers who refused to obey orders to fire upon demonstrators.

In a statement, President Barack Obama strongly condemned "the abhorrent violence" committed by the Syrian government. "I call upon the Syrian authorities to refrain from any further violence against peaceful protestors," said President Obama. "Furthermore, the arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of prisoners that has been reported must end now, and the free flow of information must be permitted so that there can be independent verification of events on the ground.

"Throughout this time of upheaval," Mr.Obama stated, "the American people have heard the voices of the Syrian people, who have demonstrated extraordinary courage and dignity and deserve a government that is responsive to their aspirations. Syrians have called for the freedoms that individuals around the world should enjoy: the freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; and a government that is transparent and free of corruption. These rights are universal, and," said President Obama, "they must be respected in Syria. . . .It is time for the Syrian government to stop repressing its citizens and to listen to the voices of the Syrian people."