Events in Syria, where pro-democracy protests have been continuing since the middle of March this year, have taken an especially ugly turn. In the city of Hama, which has formed the centre of the campaign for democratic rights launched by thousands of citizens, soldiers gunned more than 100 peaceful demonstrators on Sunday July 31. The stains left by their blood still mark the streets. Over a 140 died across the country in what has been the most deadly day so far in the pro-democracy struggle in Syria.
A country unaccustomed to such violence has been left shocked. So has the rest of the world. Angry condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad’s act has come in from US President Barack Obama and from other capitals around the world. It is now clear that the Syrian government has dropped its early pretense of civilised behaviour and promise that reforms would come. Instead, like the other dictators of the Middle East, whose people have in recent months risen up against them, it has opted for brute repression. Assad should of course note these tactics have not worked in other places. What is especially alarming is the silence from across the Arab world. Syria’s neighbours seem to have done very little to rebuke Assad. The criticism for his actions has come mainly from the West. This adds to the problems of the Syrian people, who seek nothing more than increased democratic rights and a greater say over their own destiny. This it seems, is to be denied to them if the ruling regime has its way.
It seems certain that the protests will continue. They have gained too much momentum to be brought to a halt now. We can only hope that sense will prevail in Damascus and a realisation dawns that force cannot stop people with commitment and a new vision for the future of their ancient country. The tragedy is that there was no one to snatch the guns away from the hands of the soldiers, who know no other way to deal with people who have risen up in a common front and will now not be stopped no matter how many bullets are fired, or how many bodies come crashing to the ground.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.
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