(The Massacre of Hama section will be my try of – This Day in History – to describe what happened in Hama thirty years ago)
Hama the great, as referred to in the bible – Amos 6:2 Pass ye unto Calneh, and see; and from thence go ye to Hamath the great – was according to biblical stories the only city that “God” returned to and was able to recognize. Nobody believes that God could have recognized Hama after February 1982.
The Norias, waterwheels, were built by a loving king to deliver water to the distant castle of his beloved princess. The great landmarks of the great city of Hama were a symbol of love. Neither love nor god was able to prevent the tragedy that was overlooked by the world.
Hama was under siege for four weeks; Assad forces sealed all exits, and started a full military operation using air force and infantry. They killed entire families – pregnant women, elderly citizens, children – they just didn’t stop at anything. The whole operation was executed by Hafez’s brother; Rifaat.
USA and France overlooked the massacre after the Assad regime managed to strike a deal with them regarding some French and American citizen in Lebanon. Rifaat, the criminal that killed tens of thousands on behalf of his brother, lives now in London, UK.
Not only did Hafez Assad and his regime kill and arrest nearly half of the population of Hama, but also they destroyed more than 70% of the city. Archeological buildings, neighborhoods, mosques, churches, and official buildings were literally wiped out of the face of the earth during the four-week military operation that started on 2 February 1982.
Statistics are merely an estimation of the number of casualties in any area. When the Massacre of Hama 1982 happened, Hafez Assad regime managed to blackout all media coverage before massacring the people of my city. You will find this sentence everywhere, “there are no accurate statistics about the casualties in Hama”. There will never be!
Those deaths, to me as a Hama native, are not just numbers on some statistic. They are people whom I had known, or should have known. I was in Saudi Arabia when it happened. The Massacre affected our lives in ways I didn’t understand then as I was only seven, but later, and exactly in 1994, I came to a full comprehension of what was going on my father’s mind and heart a year after the Massacre.
“Statistics” say that 40,000 were killed, 60,000 disappeared, and 30,000 arrested. In a city of a population estimated to be between 200,000 and 250,000 back then, “genocide” seems like an understatement.
Stories from the survivors hardly got out. Even the understated phrase of “the events of Hama” was punishable by law. Children at school under Hafez’s Baathist regime were forced to chant, “Our mission is to capture and kill the Muslim Brotherhood criminals”. People of Hama were forced to see their homes and shops handed to pro-Assad citizens who were brought in just before they allowed the foreign media into the city.
A friend of mine grew up in his grandparent’s house. He used to talk about a hole in his room’s wall. It was caused by gunfire during an Assad forces’ raid on the house. “I was always afraid that a demon might come out of this whole and kidnap me”, he said. As a child, he didn’t even know what caused that hole, but he felt the fear in his grandmother’s eyes when he asked her about it.
Another friend was the only survivor of his family. According to his aunt, she came to the house two days after Assad forces murdered his entire family to find him in a closet in one of the rooms, barely breathing. He was raised in his uncle’s house in Damascus, but he was only allowed to say that he “was orphaned at the age of 3 months”. Bashar’s regime arrested him on April, and we haven’t heard about him since.
We, like all Hama natives, lost many relatives, however, not in the immediate family. My grandmother died a year after the massacre, but my father couldn’t attend her funeral because of the restrictions the regime enforced upon my grandfather. I remember seeing him lying face down after work. My mother told us many times to leave him alone. We all love our mothers, but what I know now is that he had a special bond with his, and because of the regime, he couldn’t be at her funeral.
Eleven years after that, the same regime and the same criminal had me in the exact same position. My passport renewal was delayed for 48 hours and I missed my father’s funeral. I couldn’t say my final goodbye to him.
Now, the same regime but another criminal forced me to leave Syria, leaving behind a cancer patient mother. Her condition is bad, but while the doctors told us that she might die before the end of 2011, she is still alive. However, the fear of losing her and not being able to say a final goodbye to her is always there – in my usual nightmares.
In Hama, there are hundreds of thousands of similar stories. In Syria, there are hundreds of thousands of similar stories… and counting!
The unborn that were killed should have turned 30 this year. For them, for all of the 130,000 victims of the Assad’s massacre in Hama in 1982, and for more than 7000 civilians killed by Bashar’s Regime, Syrians should topple the regime!