Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is going on in Hama?

Makeshift roadblock on a Hama street (Screen captures from a YouTube video, July 5, 2011)

Bassam al-Kadi is a Syrian journalist and writer. He is also Supervisor of the Syrian Women Observatory. He is in Syria and has been critical of both the regime and the opposition since the current events started in March of 2011. He wrote an article in Arabic today on his website with the title: "Realities of what's happening in Hama .. Will we be liberated from thugs of the regime and thugs of the opposition?!". In this article he is again critical of both the regime and the opposition, and he paints in it a picture of the situation in Hama before today's events. This is a picture you will not hear about in most mainstream Arab or Western media. Here is a translation to English of an excerpt from al-Kadi's article:

Hama has suffered during the past three weeks (at least) from lawlessness and near-complete absence of the entire state and its organs, and from control by groups of armed teenagers and criminals [-], who really erected roadblacks and expropriated the city. Each criminal of them became the king of his own dunghill, where he could stop anyone to ask to see their ID card, with all the open possibilities that such a behavior entails ..
Leaders in the government even have become under house arrest in one way or another because of not being able to wander in the city, and some of them were not even able to leave their home to go to work!
A lot of employees who live outside city limits were advised against (and sometimes prevented from) trying to access their work in the city.
Criminals fought in the streets with each other because of differences, some of which were quite frivulous, while others were related to schemes aimed to paralyze the city by imposing a strike on every shop and every business.
Gunmen armed with pistols, rifles and even (medium) machine guns wandered on foot or on motorcycles and spread panic everywhere in the city, which has been abandoned by much of its people. The vast majority of them left, not because they were afraid that tanks would storm the city, as some have circulated, but to escape the danger of the streets which has become a threat to life every moment.
Government buildings were burned and things in them were looted using trucks. Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances were also looted and became "spoils of the revolutionaries" and they used them to wander around with their weapons declaring their obvious victory..
Thousands of Molotov bombs were manufactured, and weapons were distributed in a few places in public. 
This picture is some of the reality shortly before armored vehicles (certainly not tanks, for those who care to enjoy the least amount of credibility, as this is an important military difference) belonging to the Syrian army, began an attempt to enter the city at dawn today. 
And we say an "attempt to enter" because the madness of Syria's intellectuals and their satellite TV channels made it seem as if the army had already entered the city, its every street and every neighborhood. The reality on the ground however says that the armored vehicles did not go beyond some squares in the city, because they faced an armed resistence, repeat: armed. This made a determination to enter the city akin to taking a decision to accept the results of a disaster, in every sense of the word, that would spare no one neither in Hama, nor anywhere else in Syria. 
This description does not diminish one iota the fact that the fall of some 100 victims in Hama today is a distaster in itself. But that disaster is just a walk in the park compared to what the realistic results would have been, if the decision was taken to enter all of Hama. 
At the same time, it was the same madness that prompted them [i.e. the intellectuals and their satellite TV channels mentioned above] to fabricate the incidence of a split in the army in Hama, in which the defectors joined the ranks of protesters. The reality is that some of these armored vehicles were trapped by people from every direction, so they could not progress nor retreat without risking to run over thousands in their way. So, the crew played a game to get out of the situation by showing that they joined the people. Then they asked them to make room for them to move. And once the way was open, the armored vehicles turned back and returned to join their colleagues in the army. 
 If you know Arabic, you can read the entire article here