Joyce Karam writes: “What are you talking about, 7000…No,no. We killed 38,000”, those were the words of former Syrian General Rifaat Assad in1982 as recounted by Thomas Friedman in his book “From Beirut to Jerusalem”. Rifaat, who is now in exile, was exulting about the number of Syrians his forces killed in Hama 34 years ago, quashing a rebellion against his brother’s dictatorship and setting the stage to what has followed.
The ghosts of Hama today hover all over Syria, cementing the pillars of the Assad doctrine to rule by fear and hold on to power at any cost even if it means surrendering the country to devastation, radicalization and ultimate death. From father to uncle to son, the Assad playbook has not changed, copying the narrative of Hama to Homs, Douma, Ghouta, Idlib, Daraa and Aleppo, and in the process leaving behind more than 250 thousands dead, millions displaced, and a society in shambles.
The 3-week assault on Hama in 1982 has laid the ground for how the Assad regime reacts to any signs of rebellion later. Not coincidentally, the same horror tactics utilized in Hama in 1982 with Assad the father were replicated by the son across Syria following the 2011 uprising.
In a chilling report by Amnesty International in 2012, survivors of the Hama massacre give their account of what happened, describing images of the dead splintered in the streets, left to be eaten by dogs and as a red flag for those whose lives were spared. Snipers were on the roofs, neighborhoods were razed and one survivor recalls the the attack on Mas’oud Mosque, where “some 60 men were killed before the security forces cut off their fingers and placed them along the mosque’s walls.” She tells Amnesty “for around two years after the massacre, no one dared remove the fingers. They were so frightened.” [Continue reading…]