Among the most striking things I have witnessed in the past few days was the commemoration, on 2 February, of the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Hama, Syria, of an estimated 10,000 Syrian citizens by forces of the Hafez al-Assad regime. Syrians gathered at the Syrian Revolution Tent in Tahrir near the Arab League building (from which besuited gentlemen observed the proceedings from time to time). They sang and chanted, danced, and held a mock funeral, carrying a young man on their shoulders.
Last night as I returned from a meal, drinks and long discussion with poets in Zamalek, I heard the first news of a new massacre in Homs. At that time the number of deaths was reported as at least 200, although since then it has become clear that their is some doubt as to the number.
There is no doubt at all about the strength of the reaction. Syrian embassies have been picketed and in some cases, including Cairo, stormed by protesters. Tunisia has expelled the Syrian ambassador. The UNSC met to debate a resolution supporting the Arab League’s initiative to resolve the crisis, essentially to provide a way for Bashar al-Assad to leave power in a managed transition. The veto of that resolution by China and Russia will no doubt inflame anger even more.
I know Syria somewhat, have loved my visits there, and can completely understand why most of its citizens would take significant risks to get out from under one the world’s most repressive regimes. But I’m not going to pretend to be an expert who can predict what is going to happen now. I’m not sure anybody can really know how things will go from here.
But I fear that the astonishing bravery of Syrians in standing up to a regime they surely do not deserve will continue to be tested for many months to come.