3:27pm

Thu May 3, 2012
Middle East

Syrian Government Forces Storm University Campus

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 9:43 am

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now to the Syria, where in the city of Aleppo today, government troops stormed dormitories at the main university. This after students turned out for mass protests yesterday. At least three students were killed during the raid. Dozens, if not hundreds, more were arrested. U.N. observers are currently in Syria to monitor whether the government and its opponents are complying with a peace plan. And that peace plan is supposed to allow for nonviolent protests. NPR's Kelly McEvers tells us more about what happened in Aleppo.

KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: It started at midday yesterday, when students all over the campus of Aleppo University began protesting.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Up till now, protests at the university had been regular but small. This one was different. Thousands of students gathered in four different spots around campus to chant slogans against the Syrian regime. Syrian security forces showed up almost immediately and tried to disperse protesters with teargas and TASERs.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

MCEVERS: This video shows frantic students trying to flee. Witnesses say some students threw rocks at security forces. The students ended up back in their dorms, a series of high-rise, apartment-style buildings. They continued protesting there. At some point, pro-regime students attacked the anti-regime students. And later that night, security forces showed up again, this time with guns.

(SOUNDBITE OF GUNFIRE)

MCEVERS: Witnesses say security forces shot at the buildings, then at the people. They say they went from room to room, rounding people up, stripping and beating some of them. Aleppo is Syria's biggest city and has long been thought of as a bastion of support for the Syrian regime. It's home to wealthy merchant families who stand to lose a lot if the regime falls. At the university are students from all over Syria, particularly from nearby cities like Idlib, cities that have risen up against the regime with mass protests and armed resistance. Many of these students stay in the dorms.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

MCEVERS: This video shows the aftermath of the raid. Dorm rooms have been ransacked. Windows are broken. But still, the students went out to protest again today.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

MCEVERS: Now, the University of Aleppo has been closed until further notice. Students were told to evacuate their dorm rooms. The final video of the day shows students standing in front of the university's main gate, stranded with their suitcases and bundles of clothes. As one student told us, this will stop our campus protests for now, but it will only make us want to protest more in the future. Kelly McEvers, NPR News, Beirut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.

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