Syrian activists said protesters will intensify demonstrations demanding the end of President Bashar al-Assad's rule during Ramadan, taking advantage of more people gathering in mosques during the Islamic month of fasting.
"The protesters in Syria are planning on having much bigger demonstrations in Ramadan because people stay up late during the month and more people go to mosques," Syrian human rights and political activist Ammar al-Qurabi told Reuters.
Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar marked with fasting and prayer, will start on Aug. 1. Large protests are expected nightly as Syrians filter into the streets after evening prayers.
The authorities have so far been silent about the prospect of more frequent protests during the fasting month. One Damascus resident told Reuters the police presence around mosques had increased recently and was expected to rise during Ramadan.
"Each day of Ramadan will be like a Friday. It will be like thirty Fridays, one after the other," Mohamed, a 26-year-old law student who takes to the street every Friday, the Muslim day of rest and prayer, which has become the main opportunity for protesters to gather.
"Every day in Ramadan will see small protests during the day and huge sit-ins at night. We're organising for a big push during Ramadan to get people out on the streets," he added.
Activists and anti-Assad residents hope that Ramadan will act as a catalyst to embolden the pro-democracy movement, which started in March.
"Ramadan is a game changer," a Western diplomat in Damascus told Reuters.
But some Syrians said they are fearful that Ramadan will see an escalation in the violent backlash from the government which will see the Ramadan protests as bigger threat to Assad's rule.
Assad has responded to demonstrations with a mixture of force and promises of reforms. He granted citizenship to tens of thousands of Kurds, lifted the draconian state of emergency, freed hundreds of prisoners and called for a national dialogue.
But at the same time, he has sent his troops and tanks to numerous cities and towns to crush protests, and thousands have been arrested.
Syrian human rights groups say at least 1,400 have been killed since protests started. Authorities blame "armed terrorist groups" with Islamist links for the current unrest and say at least 500 policemen and soldiers have been killed.
Ammar, a 35-year old supermarket owner in Damascus, said people have started stocking up on nonperishable food as they are afraid of an escalation in civil unrest during Ramadan with larger numbers of protesters expected on the streets.
"People are buying very large quantities of beans, oil, rice and sugar," he said. "If anything serious happens, I will have to close my shop."
During Ramadan, religious establishments, charities and the wealthy typically organise large free meals for the poor to break the fast. But activists say there are fewer announced this year as the government tries to prevent any public gatherings which could turn into a protest.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 25 Temmuz 2011, 18:06