Last Updated: Thu Aug 04, 2011 12:42 pm (KSA) 09:42 am (GMT)

Sarah Sfeir / Mediterranean Views: Hafez, Saddam and Bashar

Damaged Hama in 1982. (File Photo)
Damaged Hama in 1982. (File Photo)

The situation in Syria is lamentable and unacceptable. What happened in the country in recent days has reminded us of a previous era, which we thought and hoped was forever gone! A previous era where we can recall Hafez Al Assad, Saddam Hussein and many other Arab dictators, drifting the Arab world towards barbaric, backward regimes.

Twenty years ago, Hafez Al Assad, was Syria’s face of terror, he was known for his brutality and harshness. My parents still recall the massacre of Tadmor prison, Jisr Al Shughour and the horrifying massacre of Hama. “Hama’s massacre was one of the cruelest massacres in the Middle East!” recalls mom. The Syrian army, under the orders of Hafez Al Assad, of course, conducted a scorched earth policy against Hama in order to repress a revolution by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of Al Assad. More than 30,000 people were killed.

Back in 1979, people were wondering if Saddam Hussein (the fifth President of Iraq) was the new Hafez Al Assad. Hafez took power in Syria in 1970 under the same Baath party that Hussein led in Iraq. The comparison is now totally justified, and people were totally right. Saddam Hussein murdered as many as a million of his people, mainly with chemical gas and poison weapon.

In 2000, Bashar Al Assad, took power after the death of his father, when the Syrian government amended the constitution to lower the qualifying age to be president to 34 years old, making Bashar eligible. And of course he won by running unopposed as political opposition is illegitimate in Syria (that is democracy in Syria!). People couldn't believe their ears when they heard his presidential speech about reforms, opposition, and freedom of speech. They had been waiting so long for such a moderate leader. Little did they know.
A few months ago, after the revolution started in Syria, people were wondering if Bashar will act as his father did in Syria in the 80s and 90s. This weekend’s massacres were the answers to their questions.

In Arabic “assad” means lion and ironically enough, we have a proverb that says “hatha al Shebel men thalika al Assad,” meaning that “this lion cub comes from that old Lion,” or in plain English, like father like son. The recent events have clearly shown that the son has surpassed the father and I can only hope that tomorrow, when I open my eyes, a new dawn would have risen on Syria and all the blood drops would have turned into white blossoming jasmine flowers.

(Sarah Sfeir, who holds an MBA from USEK University in Lebanon, is a Ph.D. candidate in translation. She can be reached at:

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