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

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs