Shooting Erupts in Hama Before Arab Visit

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mariam Karouny

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Men pray next to the coffins of people killed at security sites on Friday in two car bomb attacks, at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus December 24,2011 in this handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. The United Nations expressed grave concern about twin suicide car bombings in Damascus and condemned the attacks that killed 44 people and lent a grim new face to the uprising in Syria.

REUTERS/Sana/Handout

BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least seven people were wounded on Wednesday in the Syrian city of Hama when security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse a protest against President Bashar al-Assad, just a day before a visit by Arab peace monitors, a rights group said.

Live pictures on al Jazeera television showed gunfire and black smoke rising above a street in Hama as dozens of protesters chanted: “Where are the Arab monitors?”

Arab League monitors checking if Syria is ending its violent crackdown on popular unrest are due to visit Hama on Thursday. In its footage, al Jazeera showed one man bleeding from the neck as others shouted in the background.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the protesters were heading towards Orontes square in the city centre for a sit-in at the symbolic location where demonstrations were crushed earlier this year.

Security forces were not visible in the Jazeera footage. Unarmed protesters, some masked, were heard shouting “Assad forces are shooting us.” The protesters then began chanting: “Freedom for ever” and “We will have our revenge on you Bashar.”

Reuters could not verify the details as Syria has banned most foreign media from the country.

Hama, 240 km (150 miles) north of Damascus, has particular resonance for Syrians. The city was the site of the biggest massacre in the country’s modern history.

Troops overran Hama in 1982 to put down the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which made its last stand there. Up to 30,000 people were killed, many of them killed in an army bombardment or executed in the streets by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s’ father, the late Hafez al-Assad. Parts of its old city were razed to the ground.

Twenty-nine years later Hama demonstrators demanding the overthrow of Bashar still revile the memory of his father, who died in 2000 after ruling Syria for three decades.

FREEDOM CALL

In the Jazeera footage, the protesters began cursing Hafez’s soul immediately after the gunfire was heard, before rushing to hide in alleyways.

A few looked out to shout a defiant freedom call before disappearing into hiding again. The shooting intensified, then one man shouted out that snipers were now operating in the area. Dozens of men squeezed themselves in an alley, chanting anti-Assad slogans.

“There is no turning back from the revolution,” they shouted.

Hama was among the hardest hit cities in an escalation of military attacks against urban centers where anti-Assad protests had been held.

In August, tanks attacked Hama for ten days, provoking Arab and Western outrage, after weeks of protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Orontes Square. Authorities said the operation was necessary to cleanse the city of “terrorists” according to the wishes of Hama inhabitants.

On Wednesday, part of an Arab League team went to a flashpoint area in the city of Homs but some of their planned tour was blocked when gunfire erupted, activists said.

Residents of Homs’s Baba Amr neighborhood initially refused to cooperate when the monitors arrived with an army escort and the team withdrew. But activists said a smaller group of monitors returned without the officer and were escorted by residents and activists on a tour of the turbulent district.

But the monitors could not enter an area where residents said they believed detainees were being hidden because gunfire erupted. It was not clear where the shooting came from.

“Residents were accompanying the team to the area to show them where they believe detainees are being held when suddenly there was gunfire near the checkpoint,” said Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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A Thirst for Blood

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

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There is a fine line that separates man from mere beast. This week that line was crossed by the armed rebels on the hunt for deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi as they stumbled upon him held up in a storm drain in his hometown of Sirte. The events surrounding his death are as rough as the various video footage of his demise. Each video, shot from different cell phones, tells its own story. Some show Gadhafi being shot in the arm while others show him being beaten. Yet another shows him being dragged across the ground, his clothes in disarray, after he was apparently sodomized.  And the most notable reveals a gunshot wound to his head.

The question is not whether or not Gadhafi deserved to pay for his vast array crimes that stretched clear around the globe for decades. The answer is very clear in that regard, Gadhafi indeed deserved to be punished for his reign of terror. The question that begs to be answered is whether or not armed militia had the right to take matters into their own hands denying one of the world’s worst dictators the very basic of human rights, a trial in a court of law. Now many will argue that Gadhafi was not human in the way that he treated his own people with disdain and disregard for the sanctity of human life. In all respects Gadhafi was the judge, jury and executioner in Libya. However, hasn’t the very premise that made the ‘Arab Spring’ so inspirational to the world been forever tainted in a gushing of crimson blood?

It only got worse as Libyans danced in the streets with joy upon hearing of Gadhafi’s wholesale execution as scores followed his bloodied body to a nearby shopping mall where it was put on display. Men, women and children lined up and waited to catch a glimpse of Gadhafi’s gruesome corpse while taking even more cell phone video footage to share with the rest of the world.

Instead of stooping to Gadhafi’s merciless level, it might have been better to have hauled him off, alive, to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stand trial for his crimes against humanity. A great number of Gadhafi’s victims would have been given the opportunity to speak out against the dictator who dogged them for years and humiliate him in an international arena. Gadhafi was all about appearances and it would have caused him greater suffering to be publicly disgraced than merely shot in the head. Gadhafi meticulously tortured and enslaved his people without even showing the slightest bit of remorse. How fitting it would have been to see him stripped of all his self-given powers and forced to spend his remaining days confined to a minuscule jail cell. And while Gadhafi’s suffering was over in a mere matter of minutes, the people whose lives he scarred have a long road of healing to undertake.

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