In Syria and Lebanon, there were rallies and religious services on Sunday (6 May) to commemorate Martyrs' Day.
In Syria and Lebanon, there were rallies and religious services on Sunday (6 May) to commemorate Martyrs' Day. The annual celebration marks the anniversary of an incident during World War One when the Turkish authorities ruling Syria executed a large group of Lebanese and Syrian nationalists opposed to the continuation of the four-hundred-year-old rule of the Ottoman Empire.
SYNOPSIS: In Damascus, special prayers were said in Mosques throughout the city and five minutes of silence was observed, bringing traffic to a standstill. A secret Syrian political party was formed in 1911 to fight for independence from ottoman control. Five years later, the Turkish governor of Damascus ordered the public hanging of the Lebanese and Syrian nationalists in an attempt to stop the spread of the movement.
President Hafez al-Assad attended a mass rally in Damascus' main stadium, where eight thousand school children took part in sporting and gymnastic displays. The historic linking of the struggles for independence in Lebanon and Syria has modern significance with the involvement of Syrian forces in present turmoil in Lebanon. Thirty thousand predominantly Syrian Arab peace-keeping troops moved into Lebanon in October 1976 to enforce the cease-fire ending the nineteen month long civil war. Since then there have been frequent clashes between the Syrian forces and Israeli-backed Christian militias.
While the rally was being held in Damascus, Israeli aircraft attacked Palestinian strongholds in southern Lebanon, beginning three days of fighting. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin has proposed peace talks but Lebanese Premier Selim al-Hoss has rejected the terms of the negotiations which include Syrian withdrawal from lebanon. President Assad is to meet Lebanese President Elias Sarkis in Damascus later this week to discuss the future of the Arab peace keeping force.