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Hama Residents Defiant as Siege Tightens

Protest coordinator speaks of indiscriminate shelling and targeted killings as Syrian security forces advance on city.
By Abu Ghazi
  • Panoramic view of the city of Hama. (Photo: Hovic/Flickr)
    Panoramic view of the city of Hama. (Photo: Hovic/Flickr)

Some of the neighborhoods on the outskirts of Hama are still surrounded. But the main centre of the city isn’t. We have set up roadblocks and fortified them, unlike the ones the army managed to break through yesterday (31/06/11). The centre of Hama is still controlled by the people; it’s the fringe areas that are occupied, like Al-Qossor.

Demonstrations took place in different neighbourhoods today (1/8/11) with reports of some protesters killed and injured, and regime forces attempted to enter Al-Hamidiyeh and Al-Qosoor. The attacks there today, which involved shelling and heavy machine gun fire, left five dead. Their names have already been published. But the army is hesitant to engage the people directly and the shabbiha (regime sponsored militia) avoid direct contact with large groups of people.

Electricity and water are back but we are running out of blood so we have started a blood donation campaign - but we fear it won’t be enough if the attacks continue. Some districts are reporting bread shortages. The hospitals have run out of space, so a lot of the injured who need urgent medical help are being treated at home. The shops are closed and supplies to the city have been blocked.

The shelling has been indiscriminate. We buried one person today who was killed while sleeping when a rocket fell on his house. We have children in hospitals with bullet wounds as shabbiha shot at homes. They shelled mosques, attacked people with knives at Al-Malab today. The Al-Basateen neighbourhood was subjected to heavy machinegun fire this morning and snipers on the tops of building are shooting at anything that moves. This is a Ramadan massacre with over 100 dead and rising from yesterday and more to come. Funerals will take place today and for most of the week as we try and bury them.

Soldiers who go on holiday are realising what is going on and leave or go into hiding. We have had defections. But we have to be wary of the regime; yesterday a tank with a few officers pretended to be from Hooran, wanting to defect, and as soon as people approached to help they shot at them.

Since the start of the revolution, [local coordination] leaders and organisers have been in hiding. Some of us have not seen our families since the start of the protests. Every three to four days, we change location to be safe. [Ibrahim] Kashoush, the singer strongly associated with the revolution who was murdered, made the mistake of going home and that was when he was arrested. We had technological problems in the past, but the Syrian opposition abroad has provided us with the technology to bypass the Syrian censors. Also, a small group of Syrian expatriates help with technology and problem-solving.

This regime attacked a peaceful city with tanks and heavy machineguns. The people of Hama have weapons but will not use them and insist that this revolution will remain peaceful - peaceful forever.

What the army has done, tactically, is try to break into Hama, clearing the way for shabbiha to come in and do the killing, thefts and arrests. Shabbiha do not engage in direct confrontations with big groups of people.

The outskirts of Hama is swarming with them (shabbiha), they are setting up tents ahead of what we anticipate will be a widespread arrest campaign. And if they want to break into the city they can, we don’t have the capability to stop them and this protest will remain peaceful.

The longer they remain in Hama the more death and arrests we will see – the brutality will escalate. We fear what happened in Deraa, Banias and Latakia will be much worse here.

What they really want is to have Hama take up arms, because they want to use that for propaganda and run with it so that they can change popular Syrian public opinion.

Yesterday they managed to leak a video online that showed six soldiers killed by people from Hama and dumped into the Naher al-Aasi [river] but we immediately managed to disprove it by filming the alleged location and it was in Jisr al-Shugur (another Syrian town).

However, we believe there will be a miracle in Hama. People are optimistic and we feel the regime will fall during Ramadan.

We don’t want foreign interference, we will bring down this government peacefully.

Abu Ghazi is the pseudonym of a protest coordinator and the spokesman of the Hama Coordination Committee.

As told to IWPR Iraq editor Salam Hafez.

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