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Makkah: Saudi authorities swiftly dispersed hundreds of Syrian pilgrims who staged a small protest near Makkah yesterday to demand the overthrow of President Bashar Al Assad and denounce what they called the international failure to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
The protesters marched with rebel flags toward the Jamarat Bridge in Mina, east of the Saudi Arabian city of Makkah at dawn before Saudi police moved in and ordered them to disperse, a witness said.
Two police vehicles drove slowly in the direction of the protesters with sirens wailing as officers asked the crowd through loudspeakers to leave the area. The protesters swiftly dispersed and melted into thousands of other pilgrims in the area, the witness said. No one was hurt in the incident.
Responding to a question about the protest, Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al Faisal said he was not aware of the incident.
“This congregation (Haj) is not political, economic or anything else. It is for worshiping God,” he said, echoing statements made by other Saudi officials in recent days.
At yesterday’s protest, dozens of security guards already deployed in the area stood by without interfering.
“Syria lives forever in spite of you, Assad,” the protesters shouted as they streamed past a giant wall at Jamarat Bridge used for the ritual stoning of the devil, one of the main rites of the Haj.
“We don’t want Bashar, all Syrians raise your arms,” others shouted.
“We want to make our voices heard because no one seems to listen to us,” said Sabri, 27, a Syrian who lives in Saudi Arabia, as he held up the rebel black, white and green flag. “This is not a political protest. It’s more of a humanitarian demonstration because the Syrian question has become a humanitarian one.”