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After Hama…No reform in Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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After approximately 700 thousand Syrians came out to demonstrate in Hama, President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree relieving Ahmed Khaled Abdul Aziz from his duties as governor of Hama. But what is the meaning of this?

It is true that the governor of Hama was the third governor in Syria to be sacked since the outbreak of this unprecedented uprising; however the implications of this recent decision are worth highlighting. Firstly, the promises of the Damascus regime to implement reform have become hard to believe, or count upon. The Hama demonstrations, on the Friday of Departure, were widespread, and included an unprecedented number of participants, but the other distinguishing feature [of this protest] was that the people of Hama were not suppressed like those in other regions of the country. There is one simple reason for this, and that is that the security and the army did not interfere with the demonstrators [in Hama], in order to disperse and suppress them; this action is believed to have led to the dismissal of the city’s governor. In other words, the governor of Hama was not fired because there were a large numbers of dead and wounded, rather his offense was allowing peaceful demonstrations to take place [in Hama].

This is no secret. In fact the media reported, following the demonstrations in Hama, that the Syrians were not surprised by the decision to sack the governor of Hama, as this dismissal had been preceded by rumors of dissatisfaction in some official circles – particularly the security apparatus – with regards the governor’s method of handling the crisis in Hama. According to reports, the governor of Hama had earned, to a large extent, the trust of his people; granting them promises that they would be allowed to demonstrate peacefully, and pledging that the security forces would not confront them, in exchange for the people not chanting slogans that were offensive to the head of the regime, or calling for the regime to be overthrown. The governor also removed pictures and statues of the regime’s symbols from the city, so that the protestors would not destroy them.

Thus it is easy to conclude two important things here: Firstly, it is difficult to say today, following the dismissal of the governor of Hama, that the Syrian regime is keen on meeting the people’s demands, and that it will lead the reform process itself. How is that possible as long as the regime fires a man whose only fault was that he didn’t allow the security forces to kill demonstrators in the city of Hama on the Friday of Departure?

The other important thing that those concerned with Syrian affairs must understand is that the actions of the governor of Hama towards his people earned their trust which suggests that there are some Syrian officials today who are seriously re-evaluating what is happening in the country, either out of sincerely sympathizing with growing popular demands, or because they are wary of the consequences of what may happen in Syria should the regime fall, in any way. This is especially because the Syrian officials today are able to see with their own eyes what is happening to those affiliated with the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt, and how officials in Libya are now jumping ship one by one from Colonel Gaddafi, out of fear of the consequences.

Therefore, we must pay attention to these implications from the dismissal of the governor of Hama, rather than be distracted by the promises of the Damascus regime, especially as none of these promises have been yet to be implemented. Indeed rather than implement these promises [of reform], the Syrian regime has sacked a governor that protected unarmed demonstrators from the wrath of the security forces.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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