The brave Syrians arrayed against the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assaddoubtless had a premonition of what was to come. They gave their Friday protest on July 29 a name: “Your Silence Is Killing Us.” It was said that they had in mind Aleppo and Damascus, which had stood largely aloof from the rebellion while the cities of Homs and Hama paid dearly for their defiance. But the protesters made no secret that they had the Arab League in mind as well; at home and in Cairo, the domicile of the Arab League, they had carried coffins with the name of the league scribbled on them. And they would have been right to include powers beyond the Arab world, for the regime in Damascus has killed with abandon, without incurring a heavy price.
On the Sunday after, the regime struck. This was the day before the holy month of Ramadan, and the cruel rulers were preparing for a month of agitation. Scores were killed across the country. The Syrian League for Human Rights estimates at least 120 people were killed, the bloodiest day since the uprising began five months earlier. In an ominous foreshadowing of what was to come, in the early hours of dawn the Army and the security forces entered Hama, and the dispatches from that rebellious city reported bodies scattered in the streets. For several weeks it had been thought that the city was off limits because of the burden of the bloody history between Hama and the regime. It was there in 1982 that Hafez Assad, father of Bashar, marked his regime with its defining cruelty—and sectarianism. Hailing from the minority Alawi community, he was merciless in a war against a predominantly Sunni city, the principal home of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had dragged this city of artisans and shopkeepers into a struggle it could not win. The insurgents made their stand in the warrens of the Old City, and no mercy was shown them. Somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 perished, and thousands disappeared. Practically every family in Hama has a vendetta of its own against the dictatorship.