Monday, July 11, 2011

Hama's rise is regime's recurring nightmare

Nearly 30 years after a massacre in the Syrian city, the ghosts of Hama have come back to haunt the Assad regime.

Hugh Macleod and Annasofie Flamand

"Nearly 30 years after its residents were massacred in one of the worst atrocities committed by an Arab regime against its own people, the ghosts of Hama have returned to haunt the Assad family dictatorship.

With security forces withdrawn after killing at least 67 protestors on June 3, Hama is in the hands of its people, a rebel stronghold in northern Syria where residents burn their bills, hang giant posters calling for revolution, raucously chant insults at President Bashar al-Assad and where on July 8 the largest ever protest calling for the downfall of the regime was held before the eyes of the US and French ambassadors.

"Since 1963, when the Baath party came to power, we have had corruption, an unjust legal system and no freedom of speech. In all Hama's history the city has been a tangible example of resistance to injustice in Syria," said a local activist, one of an estimated half a million people, the huge majority of the city's residents, who flooded into the central Assi Square and surrounding areas last Friday.

"Today with the support it is receiving from all over the country, Hama is becoming a role model for peaceful demonstrations. We are protesting here for all of Syria."....

But in their month free from the oppression of the security forces, Hama's residents had transformed their city into a place of open revolt. [That will certainly distress Hassan Nasrallah.]

Activists reported seeing residents burning electricity and water bills declaring: "We will not pay for the bullets you shoot us with." Shops closed, workers went on strike and locals began directing traffic in the absence of any police. Only pharmacies and groceries were left open.

Protesters also forced the closure of government offices, in effect taking the running of the city out of the state's hands. "The people of Hama are taking control of the city," said one demonstrator....."

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