Adonis Diaries

Archive for July 20th, 2011

Revisiting the siege of Hama (Syria, 1982):  Who is Robert Fisk?

There is a deep purpose for this essay, besides the obvious account of Robert Fisk on the siege of the city of Hama in 1982, during the reign of the dictator father Hafez al Assad.

In February 18, 1982, Robert Fisk dispatched his eye-witness account on the siege of Hama to the Times. I am basing this story on the Arabic version of Fisk’s book “Afflictions of a Nation”.  I will relate the story in the first person:

On February 17, I headed to Aleppo to visit a couple of Irish friends.  The taxi driver was not allowed to go through Hama and he had to make a detour around Hama city limits.  On my way back, two young Syrian soldiers, barely 19 of age, asked to have a lift to their unit in Hama. I learned from my long stay in Lebanon that the presence of a Syrian soldier in the car can open the way to prohibited places.

One of the soldier said: “The siege and the fighting is on its 17th day, and there are no indication that it will abate anytime soon.”  Brown fumes were spouting from building as tanks T 62 shelled the buildings. A Syrian soldier brought us hot tea, and I noticed that most soldiers had red eyes from lack of sleep. A few of them headed to sleep on the dirt road by the tank.  The secret service agents were everywhere, especially keeping close tab on the soldiers behaviors. My taxi driver was feeling scared and insisted on resuming our trip back to Damascus.

A policeman got a hike in our car, a young peasant girl, and a mother holding her baby. I offered a chocolate bar to the toddler, but the mother snatched it from me and ate it, to the cry of the baby.  The women were tired and particularly hungry from a week-long search of lost relatives in Hama.  Scores of black dressed women were vacating Hama.  An officer joined the ride and said: “A few of my soldiers joined the insurrection. We have been literally fighting underground.  You won’t believe that underground hospitals are fully equipped.  The insurgents have missiles. We tried to arrest a fighting girl, and she blew herself up, killing 20 soldiers.”

As I arrived in Damascus, I was walking to the ministry of information:  minister Iskandar Ahmad Iskandar had invited the foreign press for a meeting.  Before I reach the building, a ton of explosives tore down the ministry. The Syrian radio had announced that I had never been to Hama.  When I met the minister Iskandar a few months later he told me: “I never listen to the Syrian radio. Robert, I never said that you are a liar. This dialogue is between two friends.

No foreign press reporters ever entered Hama, and their account of 10,000 killed during the siege is an over-estimation.  When I visited Hama in 1983, the old quarter of city was completely bulldozed and a vast parking lot taking the place of the narrow streets and old historic building and fortresses.” (end of account)

There is this Syrian painter named Khaled al Khani who is in Paris for a month. Khaled was 7 years of age during the Hama attacks in 1982.  He recalls that the security services grabbed his father working at the hospital; they gauged one of his father’s eyes and then killed him and left the body outside the hospital to rot.

In June 3, 2011, Hama demonstrated and the security services killed 60 citizens.  The mayor struck a deal with the regime.  The deal was for all internal security services to retreat beyond city limits, for the city to take charge of the dismantlement the bronze bust of late Hafez al Assad, in return of the demonstrators not to engage in sit-in and to stay away from public buildings.

In July 1st, a mass demonstration pressured the regime to revise its decisions.  The mayor was sacked and hundred of tanks are cordoning off the city of Hama, and hundreds of families left the city in anticipation of harder days.   The singer Ibrahim Kashoush was found slaughtered by the Assy River because his song said: “It is time for you Bashar to leave.  We prefer to die than be humiliated…” Water and electricity are frequently cut-off and bread is scarce.  But the regime is refraining from entering the city:  The “foreign enemies” might have an excellent excuse to destroying the headquarters of the internal security forces under the pretense: “Hama will not be massacred again. Not on our watch…”

Since 1980, Syria was experiencing Moslem fundamentalist revival, due to the victory of Iran Islamic revolution in 1979, and the growing Islamic resistance to the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.  The Syrian Moslem Brotherhood organization was receiving arms and ammunition from its Turkish counterpart, the Islamic militia of Alp Erslan.

In 1980, the Syrian salafists were demanding that Syria adopt Islam religious laws or shariat.  They plastered their leaflets at night, beginning with “Bism Allah el rahman el rahim” , and signed “The leaders of Islamic revolution in Syria”.  The secret service agents would remove the leaflets at day break. These Islamists claimed responsibility for blowing up the headquarters of the army and air-force intelligence centers,  the Soviet intelligence building in Damascus, and many official centers.

For two years, late Hafez al Assad appointed recognized people of Hama to key positions and waited for the proper timing to enter Hama.  In February 1982, the insurrection in Hama was a full-fledged resistance. Foreign aid workers, living in this poor city of Hama, have been feeling the coming terrors for a while:  The Islamists engaged in a wave of assassinations within Hama, particularly Baath high officials, along with their wives and children within their homes.  Hama is the most inland strategic place of Syria, smack in the center of all major urban cities.  The Syrian army and tanks had cordoned off all entrance to Hama.

There is this consistent trend, and direct links of the timing of Israel “preemptive wars” on Lebanon:  They are planned after internal troubles are fomented in Syria.  About six months before each preemptive war on Lebanon, Israel foment serious political upheavals in Syria, hoping that destabilization might provoke a civil war in Syria.

Unlike Lebanon, a war on Syria requires serious excuses: Syria enjoys the support of a couple of veto power States in the UN, and strong tacit international and regional agreement for a war on Syria must be satisfied.  Consequently, since civil wars in Syria were never forthcoming, Israel tried to draw Syria into a war by attacking Lebanon.  Israel has been longing to destroy Syria’s infrastructure and industrial base since the 1973 war.  Syria refrained from intervening directly in Israel preemptive wars on Lebanon.

For example, in 1977, Israel expected a civil war in Syria to take place as Hafez Assad decided to fight the Palestinian Resistance Movement (PLO) in Lebanon.  The Moslem Sunnis in Syria did not succumb to this temptation, and Israel attacked Lebanon in 1978 and occupied lands.

In February 1982, the Syrian Moslem Brotherhood organization started a civil insurrection in Hama:  It failed. Thus, Israel invaded Lebanon in June  1982.  Syria could not even send reinforcement to its army positioned in Lebanon.  The 17,000 Syrian soldiers in Lebanon had to fend-off Israel invasion in Lebanon with what they had, before retreating to the Bekaa Valley.

In April 2005, Israel expected a civil war in Syria after the assassination of Lebanon ex-Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri:  The dictatorial regime of the son Bashar al Assad recovered from this concerted international assault.  Consequently, Israel launched its preemptive war on Lebanon in June 2006.  The war lasted 33 days, and Syria refused to be drawn in.  All that Syria did was receiving thousands of Lebanese refugees, and keeping its borders opened for the flow of goods.

After this failed preemptive war in 2006, and the strategic defeat of Israel by Hezbollah, Israel has been coaxing Syria to engage a limited war on Israel.  For example, air attacking a supposedly atomic facility in Deir el Zour, and assassinating high Syrian officials…  Currently, Syria is in big internal difficulties.  Is it a coincidence that Israel has been frequently threatening to attack Hezbollah in the last three months?

Israel hopes for instigating a civil war in Syria, otherwise, Israel is preparing for another preemptive war against Lebanon this September, for many political reasons, among other reasons the voting in the UN this September for the establishment of a Palestinian State…Israel is again wishing Syria to engage in military actions this time around, on the ground that the weakened Syrian regime thinks of boosting its shrinking popularity…Obviously, this clannish regime of the Assad family is not going to be drawn in a war with Israel.  The thousands Syrian tanks are engaged to cordoning off dozens of cities and major towns…

And Lebanon had to suffer all the consequences of this international and regional tag of war.

Note 1: Robert Fisk is one of the famous journalist reporters who covered Lebanon civil war.  He was the correspondent of the British “Times” in the Middle-East till 1987.  He is currently the correspondent of the British daily “The Independent”.  Fisk wrote two books on the Irish civil war and conflicts, and a book on Lebanon’s civil war “Afflictions of a Nation”.

Note 2:  The Zionist lobby in England took to the street denouncing the accurate accounts of Fisk in the Times: “The Times is the new Arabic secret weapon”

Note 3: Fisk reported that Israel invasion of Lebanon in 1982 was the beginning of the shattering of Israel’s image in the eyes of world community:  Foreign reporters and press declined accepting Israel accounts as accurate or credible.  The foreign press have witnessed the atrocities and countless violations of human rights of the Israeli soldiers and officers against civilians in Lebanon.




July 2011

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