Image 1 of 13: It was under Hafez al Assad's watch in 1982 that Hama suffered one of the most brutal
crackdowns in Arab history, with the number of deaths estimated at being well over 20,000, some placing it close to
40,000. He certainly quietened the Muslim Brotherhood once and for all in Syria it would seem.
Image 1 of 13: Hama,once the Greco-Roman Epiphania, renamed again Hama, its ancient name restored by Muslim rule, 7th century.
The river, the Orontes ('Assi' in Arabic) runs through it. Hama is known for its characteristic water mills. Visitors today are
still struck by the evidently obliterated Old City.
Image 1 of 13: Known also for its deadly 'incident', as Syrians dared to refer to it since
the massacre of 1982 that left the city a ghost town. Razed to the ground by the Syrian military with no buildings or forms of life
spared, but mowed down under a 'scorched earth' policy or 'steam-rolling' of the city.
Image 1 of 13: Meanwhile '82 in Lebanon, Sabra and Shatila, got a similar treatment when Christian Lebanese
Phalangists stomped through this Beirut Palestinian refugee camp, and, under the watch of the IDF, unleashed horrors by
wiping out all- man, woman, child, baby- leaving a path of carnage in their wake.
Image 1 of 13: The Muslim Brotherhood's, a Sunni Muslim extreme band, main stronghold was Hama. They spawned agitation against
the minority Alawite rulers, triggering the brutal ensuing punishment and suppression: so a confessional conflict
similar to Lebanon's Civil War, when such atrocities were carried out.
Image 1 of 13: Murderous Brother and Uncle, Rifaat al-Assad: The 1980s crackdown was engineered by former President Hafez al-Assad
and his brother Rifaat, former head of the notorious mukhabarat (intelligence) institution.
Image 1 of 13: Keeping 'blood' in the family: The current repressive machine includes Bashar’s own brother Maher, who heads the Republican
Guard and Syrian military wing. This mirrors the earlier historical uncle to Bashar (brother to Hafez) configuration.
Image 1 of 13: Today's Hama - this charged point of Syrian rebellion- was a slow starter, only picking up after neighbor Homs.
By early May tanks were shelling parts of the city after secret police, the military and armed thugs failed to deter 10,000 defiant
protestors declaring that 'this was not 1982'.
Image 1 of 13: Bashar's battle cry has not shifted radically from Pa's manipulative path: Junior al-Assad blames the current insurrection on
“foreign conspirators” and “terrorists.” as father claimed revolution "must be saved and defended from dissidence at all costs."
Image 1 of 13: The Orontes river rears head: The '80s round were abetted by the absence of media coverage. In July, the river
carried the corpse of Ibrahim Qashoush, who created anti-regime slurs: 'farts on you, Bashar!' His videoed
butchered throat shows that media coverage is tracking the fate of dissidents.
Image 1 of 13: Hama leads the way: "Hama! We will not let you down again," shout peaceful protesters flooding Assi square July 8th
in biggest turn out calling for the downfall of the regime. These protestors won't be stamped out: they burn bills, hang posters
calling for revolution, chant insults at the Assads.
Image 1 of 13: Eric Chevallier & Robert Ford caused a breach in Syrian secrecy by their
brazen visit to Hama, 8th July. Protestors were galvanized by the French & US ambassadors, leaving the
Syrian regime incensed by their presence in this charged city, accusing their nations of colluding with the protestors.
Image 1 of 13: History of Hama repeats itself poignantly for this boy who has lost Grandpa then, Father now. A model of the cross-generational losses that will haunt the Hama community for some time to come.
The ghosts of Hama have come back to haunt the Assad regime.
Today we find Hama once again a flash point for Syrian repression. Thirty years after its residents were massacred in one of the worst atrocities committed by an Arab regime against its own people, we look back at patterns between father and son, to glean what has changed since Hama's first 'incident' in 1982 from which a whole city has not really had closure nor healed.
This time the population of Hamam who finally entered into the slow-starting Syrian uprisingm are markedly different: "This is not 1982" is their charged chant. They are more empowered and in no uncertain terms demand the toppling of the regime, not just reform as the platform other parts of the country rallied around. This is not a confessional battlefield, and the faultlines drawn this time round are not Sunni versus Alawite, as seen in the historical Muslim Brotherhood precedent, so much as they are people versus disproportianate, and unpopular, power.
Does the regime want to deliberately arouse memories of the 1980s?
For Bashar al Assad, this city sits like a sore-point and stain from his father's brutal repression and how he plays his cards here could prove fatal for how his struggle with his own people plays out. Just earlier this month, the regime condemned a visit from US and French ambassadors to the city, as provocative and inciteful of Arab idisobedience and violence.
To the people, Hama is a symbol of resistance to the Syrian regime. For now it is stepping up and claiming this iconic honor through peaceful protests and bravery, once again suffering substantial losses, as during the 67 deaths in a June Hamma protest.