Uppdate for Swedish speakers: Svenskspråkiga rekommenderas varmt att läsa de sedvanligt utmärkta rapporterna från SvD:s Bitte Hammargren. Hon har lyckats ta sig in på de hårt bevakade sjukhussalarna i Turkiet, pratat med skadade syrier som vårdas där och levererat skildringar helt i nivå med Guardians.
If Srebrenica is the one post WWII-massacre that most Europeans can relate to, Hama could perhaps be described as an Arab equivalent.
In February 1982 the former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad sent out his younger brother Rifaat (nowadays living in Mayfair, London, according to wikipedia) to quell an uprising in the town Hama. At least ten thousand men, women and children were killed when the town was wiped out by artilley in what has later been called the Hama massacre. The move was so brutal that when Hafez al-Assad passed away and left the presidency to the son that had originally not been gromed for the position, many thought that anything would be better than the previous era. (Just as they have been told would be the case in countries such as Morocco, Libya, Egypt andJordan. And perhaps also was the case in Oman back in the 70’s).
So far the death toll of Syria, that has steadily been increasing over the passed months, does not number in the ten thousands. But there still has been echoes of history. Also this time the president (now Bashir al-Assad) is reported to have sent his younger brother (this time called Maher) to quell an uprising. And although the town is not called Hama (that also has experienced brutal crackdowns recently) it is also a place where massacres are known.
In 1980 the regime struck down on Jisr al-Shugh. And in the last days, 31 years later, it did it again.
It was known what was about to take place. A blood bath had been promised, and a siege, and hundreds had fled to Turkey or the surrounding mountains. Now the refugees in Turkey number in the thousands and truly heartbreaking eye-wittnes accounts have emerged. The Guardian has collected some. Below are a few quotes but do take some time to read the full story.
When Ghaddafi was knocking on Benghazi’s door earlier this spring and all hope seemed to be out for Eastern Libya, I wrote this blog post on the risk for a new Sarajevo. The target was to bring up how there could not be another Rwanda, where everyone knew what was going on, nobody interfered, and everyone afterwords claimed not to have known the full extent of the massacres.
Suprisingly enough, maybe in the spirit still of the Arab spring, NATO, The UN and the Arab League for once agreed on something. In Syria they have not, while unarmed people continue asking for democracy and the bodies keep piling up.
Read the Guardian article:
Samir’s body was riddled with bullets, which have taken a terrible toll. He is bleeding internally and is racked with infection. He may not survive the coming days. “The gunfire was from everywhere,” he said, lying in a hospital bed in Antakya in Turkey. “So many people fell. It was a massacre.”
“We had been campaigning for freedom, for our rights, just like everyone else. They say we had weapons. Believe me, if we had I would have been the first to use one.”
Abu Tahar, 29, an ambulance driver from Jisr al-Shughour, was being treated for gunshot wounds to his back. He had arrived at the garden last Sunday to help the wounded. “Bullets were raining from everywhere,” he said. “It was chaos.”
“Earlier in the week we had been told not to go to pick up the wounded. They wanted them to die there. Anyone who tried was shot, his body falling on top of the other victim. That is what happened to me.
They have done what we feared they would do. The difference is that the world now knows. They will kill us all if they can. There are many people still in the mountains too scared to move. This is a crisis and they need help.”