Massacre in Syria brings protest, reflection 30 years later

Hama

Syrians took to the streets Friday to commemorate the 1982 massacre in Hama. The bloody day has a historical resonance for Syrians now rebelling against the rule of President Bashar Assad: Thirty years ago an uprising in Hama was brutally crushed on the orders of his father, Hafez. Tens of thousands of people were killed. Entire neighborhoods were leveled.

Afterward, the Baath Party government rebuilt the city to send an unsubtle message. A banner on the new town hall said, “The Baath is a popular party that comes from the heart of the people,” reporter Judith Miller wrote. A hefty statue of Hafez Assad was erected .

Now Syrian opposition activists are invoking Hama as they protest for increased freedoms and an end to Bashar Assad's rule. They sprayed this slogan on a famous Syrian landmark: "Hafez died, and Hama didn't. Bashar will die, and Hama won't," the Associated Press reports.

The BBC interviews two men who lived through the crackdown, while WNYC interviews a former member of the Syrian security forces who witnessed the violence and now speaks out against the Assad regime:

Al Jazeera has an impassioned blog from Larbi Sadiki, who writes that "Hama today is burying the Assads alive." In Foreign Policy Magazine, David Kenner weighed in months ago, saying that the media revolution that has taken place since 1982 could be stopping another massacre of the same scale. The Council on Foreign Relations brings on guest blogger Robert Danin to reflect on the event:

Bashar’s father adopted such an extreme measure after symbolic concessions and five years of combating insurgents -– perhaps we just haven’t seen Bashar’s worst yet.

Is Bashar willing and able to emulate his father? Does he command enough loyalty from the military to conduct such a massacre today, and if so, has he missed his opportunity to maneuver because of increasingly intense international scrutiny? Hopefully there are enough differences between Bashar and his father to prevent a repeat of history.

And Syrian opposition activists have posted this YouTube video of two boys at the time reportedly talking about the Hama massacre. (Warning: This video does not have graphic images, but the content is disturbing.)

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A combination of reproduction pictures shows portraits of people allegedly killed during the 1982 Hama massacre on a Facebook page entitled "Hama," described as a page run by independent citizens of the central Syrian city. Credit: Reproduction / Joseph Eid / Agence France-Presse

 
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