Syria could be on the brink of being accused of crimes against humanity for the ongoing brutal crackdown against civilians. 22 people were killed in Hama on Tuesday and more than 80 wounded as trooped entered the restive city. Last week, the troops had withdrawn, following which the largerst protest ever — with tens of thousands gather around the Clock Tower or “Freedom Square,” as protesters renamed it — occurred on Friday. On Saturday, the governor of Hama was sacked and government forces had reappeared. As Al Jazeera reports, Amnesty International says that Syria could be accused of crimes against humanity for a siege of Talkalakh in May, which left protesters dead in custody, torture and arbitrary detention.
Al Jazeera’s Rule Amin points out that the withdrawal of government forces from Hama — even traffic police were absent from the streets — created a “political gap” in which “People felt a vacuum and were encouraged. People took to the streets [every Friday],” and government forces did not know how to respond to the activity. Hama’s residents have sought to stop the military by blockading streets with garbage containers, burning tires wood and metal
30 years ago, Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, brutally repressed an uprising in Hama, with 10,000 to 40,000 killed. Hama’s residents are mostly Sunni and tensions between Hama and Syria’s ruling Alawite (a Shiite sect) majority have since simmered.
The Guardian reports that the ongoing unrest is Syria is taking its toll, according to diplomats in Damascus:
Despite official assurances that the economy is fine, Assad last month warned of the danger of economic collapse and state media has reported campaigns around the country to “support the Syrian pound.”
Unofficial money changers have valued the Syrian pound (SYP) at least 10% lower than the official rates. Some have been shut down by the authorities, according to local business newsletter the Syria Report.
Syrian authorities are reportedly making a one-off pay deduction for some current and former public sector employees in a move that may raise anger levels in Hama.
The average wage for government workers, the main source of employment for Syrians, is 13,000 SYP (about $274.00) a month, an amount that is barely enough to survive on, they say. Some employees report that 500 SYP (about $10.50) will be docked form their salaries next month.
With more than 1300 killed and at least 10,000 detained since March, there are signs that Russia may reverse its position about Syria, says France. France’s stance on the repression in Syria has been “tougher” than that of its Western allies:
Russia has opposed a French-led UN Security Council draft resolution, which condemns Assad’s government and urges it to adopt rapid change, but stops short of imposing sanctions or allowing military action.
Moscow has accused Western countries of exploiting the Security Council resolution that authorised limited military intervention in Libya and says it fears that could happen again in Syria.
France has also yet been unable to convince Brazil, India to vote in favor of the resolution, which needs a minimum of 11 out of 15 votes to pass.
The video below shows a rally in Hama on June 26.
This video of an Al Jazeera clip shows Hama at midday on July 5, after government forces had returned.
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