Oxford University has advised all ten students still in Syria to return to the UK, in light of growing protests against President Bashar Al-Assad’s eleven year rule.
The recommendations come after the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advised all British Nationals to leave Syria unless having “a pressing need to remain” after the bloodiest week so far in the violent unrest which has rocked the country.
One third-year student who returned home on Friday claimed that, although he had experienced none of the protests directly, “fifteen minutes away [in Harasta] there were protesters being arrested and someone was shot by the security forces.”
The suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, has become a focus of the opposition protests during the past week.
“The key thing as well is that the number of people dying [in Syria] is far greater than the news reports,” the student, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
First year PPE student, Morgan Norris-Grey, who went to Syria with his family for 12 days at the end of March, said that he saw government-sponsored protests in Hama, Latakia and Damascus.
He explained, “I wasn’t in the vicinity of the main sites of anti-government protests at that time, but perhaps dissenters in other areas didn’t yet have the confidence to come out on the streets.
“The pro-government protests did however seem to be orchestrated to some degree, with school children and students provided with posters and given the day off school.”
Human rights groups have reported that the number of deaths caused by the clamp-down on anti-government protests has risen to 500.
In Syria’s south, 200 members of the ruling Baath party are also alleged to have resigned.
A spokesperson for Oxford University Press Office confirmed that all students in Syria would be home by this Thursday.