Intent on stifling the voices of its people calling for democracy, Syrian government forces have attacked the civilian population of Hama, where residents participated in large, peaceful protests following Friday prayers on July 1. At least 14 protesters have died.
The city is a historic symbol of the Syrian regime’s brutality. Nearly 30 years ago, Hafez al-Assad, the current President's father, ordered a crackdown in Hama that ended with a massacre of over 20,000 of the city's residents.
The United States is deeply concerned about the treatment of peaceful protestors and civilian bystanders by Syrian security forces. Amnesty International, a non-governmental watch-dog group that tracks human rights abuses and works toward preventing them, recently issued a report documenting actions taken by Syrian government forces against the civilian population of Tell Kalakh, a town near the border with Lebanon. Amnesty International alleges that scores of men were arbitrarily arrested, tortured and at least nine died in custody. Amnesty International states that in Tell Kalakh, government forces committed atrocities that amount to crimes against humanity.
The recent raids by government forces on the city of Hama bear a striking resemblance to the attacks on Tell Kalakh, Jisr al-Shagour, Baniyas, and Deraa.
"The United States remains deeply concerned by the ongoing attacks against peaceful protesters at the hands of the Syrian government," said State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland. "The government of Syria claims it is interested in a dialogue with the opposition. Yet, its actions in cities like Hama and along the Turkish border directly undermine the credibility of its words and its initiative. Syrian security forces have once again stepped up their repression and harassment of peaceful demonstrators and opposition members.
"There is no justification, no excuse for the Syrian security forces to begin yet another crackdown, killing protesters and arresting people suspected of political opposition," said Ms. Nuland. "We urge the government of Syria to immediately halt its intimidation and arrest campaign, pull its security forces back from Hama and other cities, and allow the Syrian people to express their opinions freely so that a genuine transition to democracy can take place."
"The international community will continue to stand with the people of Syria as they seek their universal human rights."