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Thousands of Syrians Stay Off Work as Combat Rages
December 11, 2011

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Things are growing more violent and more tense in Syria, as the struggle against President Bashar al-Assad now includes armed conflict and major industrial action.

During the weekend, government troops battled armed army defectors in and around the city of Busra al-Harir, near the border with Jordan. It was the latest in a series of skirmishes between the army and those who have left it to join the opposition, an action that has been taken by growing numbers in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, in Damascus, the Syrian capital, a large number of workers refused to report for work, in the largest strike since the opposition movement began in earnest in March. Opposition leaders reported that the strike had targeted much of the capital and its suburbs and surrounding provinces.

Also on strike were a large number of workers in Homs, a central city that has seen a recent increase in the number of deaths attributed to a religious dispute. The majority of Syrians belong to the Sunni sect of Islam. Assad and the government, however, belong to the Alawite sect, which believes in the competing Shia doctrine of Islam.

In recent weeks, Syria has lost the support of most of its neighbors, including 19 of the 22 members of the Arab League, which recently voted to not only suspend Syria but also slap it with economic and political sanctions. Observers from many countries have cited evidence of Syrian troops and tanks firing on unarmed civilians; Assad and his government maintain that they are fighting against insurgents armed by other countries.

The United Nations estimates the death toll since March at more than 4,000.



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