Syrian Massacre in Hama Sparks More EU Sanctions

Syria’s concerted military intervention against peacefully protesting crowds at the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan has resulted in dozens of deaths, especially in the city of Hama, with about 100 dead in the past two days.

The European Union responded to this provocation by upping sanctions against Damascus.

During Ramadan, devout Muslims refrain from drinking or eating anything from dawn until sunset. They break the fast after the sunset prayers, and then when the black of night has completely fallen, they pray the evening prayer. After that they might perform supererogatory prayers, tarawih. Those men who pray daily prayers in groups at the mosque are thus available in the evening for mobilization as protesters at after-tarawih rallies. Because it is very hot in August, many Muslims stay up late during Ramadan, and the place becomes a region of night owls. During a time of widespread popular uprising, the Baathist regime of President Bashar al-Asad deeply fears that evening worship will turn into night-time protests of some size and durability. (During the July Tahrir Square movement in Cairo, aside from Friday afternoon the really big crowds sometimes gathered at midnight).

On the other hand, during Ramadan people often feel weak and have headaches, and in the evenings often visit family members, so that Egypt’s protesters called off their rallies during the fasting month. The Syrian government’s fears of Ramadan uprisings may have been overblown, and it may have erred in responding so violently to peaceful protests.

In neighboring Turkey, where the Justice and Development Party had attempted to improve relations with Damascus during the past decade, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan denounced the killings in Hama, and anger is said to be growing among the Turkish public at the harshness of the repression.

Italy on Tuesday became the first European country to withdraw its ambassador, in protest at the death toll.

Aljazeera English reports:

6 Responses

  1. Professor Cole,

    Do we know if the sanctions are having a positive or negative effect on the Syrian regime yet, or is it too early to tell?

    I only ask because from my studies of sanctions, it seems to be they mostly have a political rather than economic purpose, and their effectiveness tends to depend on how both effects interact and stick to their target societies. Using the Iraq example, I (think) the standard story now is that US sanctions against Saddam actually strengthened his regime in the 90s. Even though resources in Iraq as a whole went down, the poor become wholly dependent on Saddam for their livelihood with what little was left. Further, the sanctions amplified growing sectarianism resulting from the 1991 intifada since the poor were largely Shia, and Saddam favored the Sunni in handouts (Yes, that’s a gross over-simplification of sectarianism from my understanding prior to 2003 in Iraq, but hopefully it’s not too off…).

  2. Sorry for the banality, but tanks are heavy armed vehicles. Systematic usage of tanks suggests that Syrian rebels are not just hooligans, they are armed with automatic weapons. No, I can’t believe this is kids’ intifadah.

    • Usage of tanks no more suggests their necessity against armed citizens than it does that the tyrannical regime is cruel, going for overkill, cowardly, and / or unintelligent. Ironically, it was the brutal torture and disfigurement of children that galanized a cowed population to shake the fetters of fear and rise against the evil mafia running their country.

      • I know, neither Iraqi, nor Libyan example can prevent the enthusiasts from supporting the Syrian freedom fighters like Sadr or Younis.

  3. On this one issue, I give US foreign policy – and Hillary Clinton kudos – for coming out strongly against the atrocities. By comparison, Erdogan’s relatively muted – and very late – “condemnation” of the murders going on under Assad are disappointing. Russia & China are MIA, though that’s to be expected. The bigger scandal is the silence over much of the Arab world about what’s taking place in Syria. (Hezbollah’s hypocritical statements take the cake.)

    • Geography and History actually matter

      Ankara is 425m from Damascus, Turkey & Syria share a 510m land border and Syria was an Ottoman Turk colony between 1516 and 1920.

      And Turkey has a 330m border with Syria’s friend and ally Iran.

      Its easy to pontificate when you’re an ocean and 9500km distant with little historical connection. Not to mention that Clintoon represents the worlds biggest economy that’s armed to the teeth with everything from M16’s to nuclear tipped ICBM’s.

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