The Syrian regime has always liked to refer to every visit made by the Syrian president as “historic” but Bashar al-Assad’s visit to the Baba Amro neighborhood in the city of Homs, the epicenter of the revolution, is perhaps the only one that can actually be called as such.
All Syrians, whether loyalists or opposition, realize that this area epitomizes the revolution and his unannounced visit there delivers a message to Syrians, as well as to the entire world, that the regime will use any horse ─ be it the Trojan Horse or the horse of destruction and civil war ─ as long as it gets him where he wants.
Did Assad enjoy watching the blood of his victims mix with the rain? Did he secretly laugh as he instructed his slaves to start rehabilitating the place so that he can start destroying it again as he plays his and his father’s favorite game, the game of death?
His message was clear to both his supporters and his detractors, to both Syria and the world: he will turn all Syria into one big Baba Amro and he will be the one to laugh last.
Many have made comparisons between Assad and Nero, for the former burned down Baba Amro then went to visit it on foot surrounded with a bunch of loyalists, all cheering for him and dancing on the bodies of the dead. He wanted to prove that he is still powerful.
He is not a whole lot different from Nero who, for a whole week, played the fiddle as he enjoyed watching Rome burn in flames. Maybe history will prove that Nero set Rome on fire in order to rebuild it from scratch.
Whoever has followed Assad’s visit to Baba Amro will be hard pressed to find an excuse or any sort of justification for such an action.
Assad was stammering while he was in Baba Amro, possibly because he was aware that this neighborhood is the stronghold of the Free Syrian Army, his arch enemy. Many wondered if Assad would have the same feeling if he was ever to visit the occupied Golan Heights.
He tried to give some propaganda-like instruction to the governor of Homs, who was trying hard to hide his fear. Even the fact that he was a former general in the army did not make him any more courageous.
During Assad’s tour, destruction was conspicuous, for it looked like a deserted place with no trace of human life. This, however, did not stop the faltering governor from announcing that 90 percent of the infrastructure is completed. This did not also stop the president from stressing how important it is to start the reconstruction process. None of them looked those who escaped their tyranny in the eye and therefore none of them realized the grave mistakes he is committing.
Like the dead come back to check on the loved ones they left behind, the murderer likes to be reassured of his ability to carry out a brutal massacre. Assad walked on the ground that houses the bodies of more than 1,000 victims and suppressed this laugh of his that Syrians have always made fun of.
It seems that he was not satisfied with the fact that Baba Amro was bombed for 26 consecutive days and that 1,800 Syrians were injured.
Baba Amro never screamed when it was targeted with rockets, helicopters, and machine guns nor did it complain when it received a missile every two minutes. Baba Amro stayed strong, kept its promise to its people and its Free Army, and received death with its head raised up high. Yet, yesterday it did scream when it saw Assad coming in. “Do not make an example of me twice,” it seemed to have said.
Those who followed the visit could not stop their tears and could not overlook that feeling of humiliation mixed with staunch hatred for this man who walked on the blood of innocent people.
Close to Baba Amro, in the neighborhood of Bustan al-Dawar, stood the Um al-Zennar Church before Assad forces bombed it and left its ruins to bear witness to his brutality. The “zennar” (belt) of Virgin Mary, after which the church is called, was not able to protect the country’s oldest and most famous church and the residents of Baba Amro realized that even that belt must have shuddered at the brutality it had witnessed and had to close its tearful eyes that had already seen much more than they could take.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)