News / Middle East

Half a Million Syrians Protest in Hama

An image taken from footage uploaded on YouTube shows Syrian anti-government protesters flooding the streets of the central city of Hama, July 8, 2011, to demand the fall of the regime President Bashar al-Assad
An image taken from footage uploaded on YouTube shows Syrian anti-government protesters flooding the streets of the central city of Hama, July 8, 2011, to demand the fall of the regime President Bashar al-Assad

Multimedia

Audio

Nearly half a million anti-government protesters filled the streets of the volatile Syrian city of Hama Friday. Two senior foreign envoys visited in a show of solidarity.  Rights activists say Syrian security forces were tempered by the outside presence in Hama but were attacking people in other cities.

Their chanting echoed across the city. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians poured into the streets of Hama Friday, calling once again for an end to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, this time in one of the largest gatherings in the four-month uprising.

VOA's Susan Yackee speaks with Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, about how the Arab Spring is evolving:

Just one day earlier, there had been fears of a brutal military crackdown in Hama, with the Syrian army surrounding the city with tanks and thousands of people fleeing.

The situation brought back memories of 1982, when President Assad's late father oversaw a massacre in the city to silence a rebellion there.

But a U. S.-based rights activist, who asked not to be named, told VOA that the arrival of the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who was later joined by the French ambassador, changed everything.

Related video: Behind the Wall - Syria




"I think the American ambassador to go today to Hama, I think he prevented a brutal and bloody day in Hama because in the last three days, let's say on Tuesday and Wednesday, more than 28 people were killed in Hama and we were anticipating much more actually today [Friday] because the security forces were preparing themselves to go into the city," she said.

Half a Million Syrians Protest in Hama
Half a Million Syrians Protest in Hama

People in Hama were happy that the foreign envoys visited the city. The Syrian activist said they threw flowers on the U.S. ambassador's car and gave him videos documenting human rights violations by Syrian security forces.

The Syrian foreign ministry, however, slammed the U.S. official's decision to travel to Hama as "clear evidence" of a U.S. attempt to increase tension and destabilize Syria. The government accused the ambassador of going to the city without advance permission.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland denied that. "Our embassy in Damascus did inform the Syrian government, in this case the ministry of defense, that we planned to have a delegation go to Hama in advance," she said. "They had to go through a Syrian government military checkpoint, and they were allowed to pass. So the notion that this was somehow a surprise to the Syrian government or was in violation of their will doesn't make any sense."

Rights activists say Syrian security forces continued cracking down on civilians in other cities Friday, making arrests and shooting and killing some protesters.

"They don't care about their own people," she said. "They are just caring about staying in power, and they don't care how many people they are killing. More than 1,700 people [have been] killed so far in Syria. This is documented by name - dates and names. No one knows the exact number because human rights organizations are not allowed in Syria."

The activist said the suspension of water and electricity service in many cities is seen as another human rights issue, and one more reason why the Syrian people expect the international community to do more to pressure the Assad government.

But the International Crisis Group's Peter Harling, fresh from a trip to Syria, said the situation is complicated. "I think there is not much the international community can do in practice in the Syrian case, and sadly so. I think the Syrian protest is very much on its own and has yet to reach the critical mass which would demonstrate once and for all that the regime is illegitimate," he said.

Harling said the situation in Syria is much different from the uprising in Libya, where rebels have stronger international support, both military and humanitarian.

"Syria is seen as far more sensitive, far more complex, because it's at the crossroads of a number of strategic issues: the Arab-Israeli conflict, the struggle for power in Lebanon, the Iranian influence in the Arab world, the internecine Arab struggle for power," said Harling.  "So the notion that the regime would fall, I think, is appealing to some, but there is also the fear that it would lead to a breakup of Syrian society, which is very complex in its makeup."

Whatever the international response, Syrians are making clear they are not ready to stop fighting.

A rights activist in Damascus, who also wishes to remain anonymous, told VOA Friday that the demonstrations are spreading. She said the Syrian people will continue protesting peacefully for their freedom.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid