The ‘day of rage’ called for by anti-government protesters in Syria for the 5 February failed to materialise, as only a handful of demonstrators turned out on the streets.

In the wake of events in Tunisia and Egypt, outside opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, used online social networking sites to call for protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule on 5 February.

Despite a week-long online campaign, anti-Assad groups did not follow the example of their Arab counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia. Reports from Syria state that only about 20 demonstrators took to the streets to protest against the country’s ruler, and they were quickly dispersed by police and the government’s security forces.

One explanation for the lack of activity is that most of the online groups that called for the protests were believed to be created by Syrians abroad. Security forces were also quick to halt any signs of organised demonstrations.

Strong foreign policy is another perceived reason for the lack of protests against Al-Assad’s rule. Syria’s strong stance on Israel, and refusal to bow to US demands, is popular with Syrians, and is seen as a reason for lack of dissent at Al-Assad’s authoritarian rule.

Al-Assad took over the presidency after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000. His father had been president since 1971.