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.