Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Syria: 30 years on, Hama survivors recount the horror

Amnesty International

28 February 2012

"The Syrian military assault on Homs is now in its fourth week with no sign of abating, prompting memories in nearby Hama of mass killings 30 years ago.

Three decades ago, Syrian troops under the government of Hafez al-Assad – father of current President Bashar al-Assad – unleashed a bloody 27-day assault on Hama.

It followed an ambush of soldiers by members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and attacks on officials and alleged “collaborators”.

The final death toll may have reached 25,000, from both sides.

Some 6,000 to 8,000 soldiers were dispatched to Hama in February 1982, according to news reports and information received by Amnesty International.

Old parts of the city were bombed from the air and shelled in order to allow the entry of troops and tanks along the narrow streets.

The ancient Hadra neighbourhood was apparently razed to the ground by tanks during the first four days of fighting....

No longer isolated

While the survivors’ descriptions of military tactics are similar to those being used in Homs and other cities today, the sense of isolation felt by Hama’s residents in 1982 has diminished.

“Now the people have learnt the lies and crimes of the regime – we know how the political security works now,” said Ayad Khatab, who is originally from Hama but now lives abroad.

Hama is no longer isolated; there is solidarity between different cities. This raises the morale not just in Hama, but all over Syria … they have no fear anymore.”

‘Mohamed’, an activist from Hama who spoke with Amnesty International on condition of anonymity, said that the lack of independent media coverage of events in 1982 resulted in fewer military defections.

But with more eyewitness accounts and video footage leaving Syrian cities via the internet, mobile phones and satellite communications, the tide has changed.

“The biggest difference is that in 1982 Hama was totally destroyed and the villages nearby found out only a week later,” Mohamed told Amnesty International....."

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