— Activists are defying media blackouts and secret-police roundups to send a message to the world: "There is no turning back in Syria."
In a Skype interview Thursday, one man who used the name Alexander Page to protect his identity and said he was in Damascus spoke with msnbc.com about the mood in Syria's capital after weeks of unrest in which hundreds have been reported killed.
Msnbc.com could not confirm the man’s identity or that he was in Syria. A Syrian rights group forwarded the man's contact information to msnbc.com on Thursday.
Despite sanctions from Europe and the United States, President Bashar Assad, 45, appears determined to end the two-month-old uprising, which seeks reform and an end to his authoritarian rule. On Thursday, his forces pushed deeper into the nation’s south with tanks in efforts to quell the protests.
Page said he was married with a family and worked and lived in Damascus. He said he was taking part in daily protests, making sure to record marches and activities in the nation’s capital on video.
“It is really tense here,” he said, speaking in British-inflected English. “People are talking about the international community and that there should be more pressure on the Syria regime.”
At least 2,000 people have been detained over the past two weeks, with a total of around 8,000 since the Syrian government launched its crackdown, a Western diplomat said. The official, who demanded anonymity to share assessments of the unrest in Syria, said Western nations believed that between 600 and 800 people have been killed so far.
Page was detained for three days in March after security officials caught him videotaping, he said.
He said he was deprived of sleep during his jailing and then released.
“When a protest goes off in Damascus, there are undercover police who use force against demonstrators. They detain people: women, children, men — there is no difference to the police,” Page said.
Organizers of marches across Syria were calling for more demonstrations Friday despite the military operations and arrest raids meant to pre-empt the rallies.
“No one wants to be detained, no one wants to be killed,” Page said. “What the Syrian people know now is that we go back, it's going to be worse than ever. It's going to be crazy."
He said phone lines are often down and rolling blackouts occur daily.
“We are staying in touch with others online, staying connected online,” he said.
“Syria is not Egypt or what Libya is now,” he said. "People in Syria want change but are worried about the consequence of change. ... There is no turning back in Syria."