Wadah Khanfar: Syria Between Two Massacres ... Hama's Memory Endures

Wadah Khanfar was the director general of the al-Jazeera network.

While Russia and China were using their veto to abort a UN security council resolution against the Syrian regime, the news of a massacre in Homs came thick and fast. In an unprecedented escalation, the Syrian regime sought to exploit the international hesitancy to have a bloody showdown with its opposition.

This came after Syrians had observed for the first time in 30 years the anniversary of the massacre carried out in Hama in February 1982. It is regarded as one of the most gruesome events in Syria's modern history. On that occasion, former president Hafiz al-Assad decimated most of the city of Hama with aerial bombings and tanks. About 30,000 inhabitants perished, while a similar number were detained, tortured and many killed in prisons. All this occurred in the shadow of the cold war and with the cover of the Soviet Union, which was then allied to Hafiz al-Assad's regime.

Last Friday, Syrian protesters rallied under the slogan "forgive us Hama, we apologise"; a clear reference to the abject silence that has overshadowed that massacre throughout the last three decades. Although Hama was an ever-present bleeding wound in the Syrian popular conscience, and a humiliating disgrace that shook their souls, people were prohibited from remembering or mentioning it throughout the entire period of Hafiz al-Assad's rule. When his son assumed power in 2000, many were optimistic that he would at least give some consideration to the victims or reveal the fate of the thousands who were swallowed up in the prisons. But the young president chose to follow in his father's footsteps; he perpetrated another massacre in Hama and many others in Homs and other Syrian cities and towns. However, this time Bashar al-Assad has miscalculated. The Syrian revolution, which has so far sacrificed more than 7,000 dead, will not end unless the regime is overthrown...




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