Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Hama Residents Plan to Renew Protests

Now the army has withdrawn, they say they will revive their anti-government protests.
By Salam Hafez
  • Hundreds people are reported to have died in Hama during the Syrian army onslaught. (Photo: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia)
    Hundreds people are reported to have died in Hama during the Syrian army onslaught. (Photo: Bernard Gagnon/Wikimedia)

Defiant activists say they plan to return to demonstrate in central Hama following a 10-day assault by Syrian troops on the city in which more than 300 people have been killed and over 1,000 arrested.

Protesters aim to gather once more in the city’s central square, the site of some of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Syria, a member of the local coordination committee told IWPR by phone.

Though the army has staged a partial withdrawal, sections of the city resemble a “ghost town”, as most residents have either escaped to neighbouring villages or remain holed up in their homes, according to the committee member, who preferred not to reveal his name.

He said that reports from the Turkish ambassador to Syria that troops had left Hama were inaccurate.

“The army is still in some districts and still firing at homes and the shabiha (regime militia) still occupy the central square of the city, killing two today,” the committee member said.

Despite the dangers, he said protesters were determined to return to the central square, but feared the regime would stage a counter-protest to create trouble.

“We will demonstrate and slowly work our way to the square, though I don’t know what will happen if [President Bashar al-Assad] brings people from villages to take part in pro-regime demonstrations,” he said.

Conditions in the city had deteriorated gravely, the activist continued.

“[The regime] cut off the electricity then stopped supplying hospitals with diesel so they couldn’t use back generators. Then they stormed them, killing or arresting the wounded,” he said. “They attacked all pharmacies and destroyed them and burnt and destroyed most public buildings.”

He said in parts of the city the army occupied they cleared revolutionary graffiti and replaced them with regime slogans.

“The army left a sign that read ‘No god but Assad and the Bath party is his book’ - they left that in the central square,” he said.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the estimated number of casualties and detentions during the army’s onslaught and renewed calls for action against the regime.

The military’s 10-day assault is said to have left more than 300 dead with over 1,000 arrested.

“The Syrian people are still being killed now,” said the observatory’s executive director Omar al-Qorabi. “We call on our Arab brothers and the international community to help us in telling Bashar to stop the killing and arrests and release the prisoners.”

Salam Hafez is IWPR Iraq editor.