One day after President Bashar al-Assad delivered a speech touting the need for a national "dialogue," his security forces killed seven anti-government demonstrators (one of them a 13-year-old boy) in three Syrian cities Tuesday. The killings in Homs, Hama and Deir el-Zour occurred when pro- and anti-Assad demonstrators clashed in the streets and government forces opened fire on regime opponents.
More than 1,400 people have been killed and an estimated 10,000 detained since late March, when Syrians began peacefully demonstrating in favor of reform in the country, which has been ruled by the Ba'ath Party and the Assad family since 1970.
In Monday's address, Assad promised to begin a national dialogue and to form a committee to study constitutional amendments, including one that would end the Ba'ath Party's political monopoly in Syria. He indicated a willingness to implement some kind of amnesty for crimes committed prior to Monday, but offered no details. Much of the speech consisted of railing against ill-defined "conspiracies" and "vandals" who were said to be plotting against Syria.
"Assad hung his problems on foreign conspiracy theories and he accused the Syrian people of being vandalizers, armed gangs, and lawless criminals rather than respond to their legitimate demands," said Ammar Qurabi, chairman of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.
Syrian opposition groups said that on Tuesday, thousands of people were forced by the government to participate in pro-Assad demonstrations. The opposition claims authorities bused supporters in to Syrian towns where the dictatorship is unpopular.
In Homs, a witness said the security forces stepped on wounded people lying on the ground and arrested them. In Hama, they opened fire on anti-government demonstrators, killing the 13-year-old boy.
U.N. officials said that more than 10,000 people are being sheltered by Turkish authorities in refugee camps near the Syrian border.
Read more about the Assad regime's brutal repression against its own people here .