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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora