Around 100 peaceful protesters calling for freedom were met with police and baton-wielding security forces Thursday at Damascus University.
Students gathered outside the faculty of economics in the Baramkeh area of Damascus minutes after 3pm today calling for freedom. Dozens more students joined together with the small group as the chanting became more forceful. One female protester managed to unfurl a flag before police and security forces charged on the crowd.
A Washington Post correspondent at the scene reported students being led away by plain-clothes security forces into police and military vehicles.
“You want freedom? I’ll show you freedom after a while,” a security officer was heard telling a student who was being led away in handcuffs.
Other demonstrators were seen pinned against sidewalks and being beaten with batons. Bystanders looked on in amazement.
Panicked students fled into nearby shops and down residential alleyways. One protester, whose face was bloodied, told the Post correspondent he couldn’t find several of his friends and feared for their safety.
The university campus was closed off immediately after the protest as police searched for hiding protesters. On Thursday evening, police and army cars patrolled the university area.
Universities in Damascus have been under careful watch by the authorities since March, when protests demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad began. Entrances to all faculty buildings are under 24-hour armed guard.
Activists say more than 10,000 people have been detained since anti-government demonstrations broke out. About 1,400 people are reported to have been killed in the ensuing government crackdown.