In new protest, Syrian women block main highway

BEIRUT (AP) — Thousands of Syrian women and children holding white flags and olive branches blocked a main coastal highway Wednesday, demanding authorities release detainees picked up during a crackdown on opponents of President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime, witnesses said.

The crowd — unusual because it was dominated by women and young children — demanded the release of hundreds of men who have been rounded up in the northeastern villages of Bayda and Beit Jnad and surrounding areas in recent days.

“We will not be humiliated!” the crowd shouted Wednesday, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. They were gathering along the main road between the coastal cities of Tartous and Banias.

Protests erupted in Syria almost one month ago and have been growing steadily, with tens of thousands of people calling for sweeping reforms. More than 200 people have been killed during nearly four weeks of unrest, said Syria’s leading pro-democracy group, the Damascus Declaration.

In an apparent attempt to calm the women’s demonstration, authorities released about 100 of the detainees and brought them to the area where the protesters had gathered, prompting cheers and ululations, a witness said.

But the protester, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals, said the sit-in will continue until all the men are released.

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