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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs