(Zaman Al Wasl)- The dawn of April 19, 2011 witnessed one of the first massacres of the Syrian revolution. On that day, regime intelligence forces opened fire on the first sit-in in the Syrian revolution in Freedom Square in Homs.
That massacre is now but one in a series of massacres committed by the regime since the start of the revolution. The suffering of the people of Homs continues as they are forcefully displacement from their homes and land. The displacement comes under coercive agreements concluded by enemies and so called friends.
Just a few kilometers from the location of the famous sit-in, al-Waer neighborhood’s residents are being forced to leave their neighborhood and city and head to northern Syria. They board the infamous green buses with the regime and its allies charting their course to the north.
Neither the victims of the regime’s brutality nor their families ever imagined that their sacrifices would culminate in agreements that led to their displacement and uprooting from their land. The agreements though come as testament to the regime’s policies of sacrificing those who oppose it and support it to keep al-Assad on his throne.
On that day in Freedom Square, the demonstrators were killed by intelligence forces bullets or tortured to death in regime detention centers. Syrians and the people of Homs still speak of the horrors of that day’s events when hundreds of young men were taken and the fate of many remain unknown six years since the sit-in.
In an interview with Zaman al-Wasl, a dissident intelligence officer of the political intelligence in Hama spoke about the massacre. He said that orders came that day for the intelligence forces to prepare to go Homs. After midnight, they made their way to the center of Homs where tens of thousands of demonstrators were gathered.
He said the intelligence officers began by trying to end the sit-in by negotiating with some local clerics. The officers threatened and intimidated the demonstrators by shooting in the air so that some of the demonstrators, mostly women, left the square.
Even as the negotiations with the clerics were ongoing, the security forces opened fire on the demonstrators. They then chased the fleeing demonstrators through Homs’ the streets shooting at them as they ran.
The officer estimated that between 600-1,000 people were killed that day. To that number, we must add the greater number of those detained and injured who died later or whose fate remains unknown.
The intelligence officer added that the most horrific scene was at dawn when the security forces and Shabeha (regime thugs) gathered the bodies of those killed in the Square and transported them using pick-up trucks. They removed the bodies for the fire brigade to clean the signs of the crime.
To the officer’s testimony, activists add the testimony of a dissident soldier who participated in the massacre, but later managed to escape to Lebanon. In Lebanon, he gave his testimony of the events of the Clock Sit-in massacre to Human Rights Watch saying that “dozens of people were killed” that day.
The same soldier said in a television interview that the regime forces killed between 200-300 people. He estimated that the entire first and second row of protestors died as they fell when the shooting began.
Activists point out that the security forces used a bulldozer to move the martyred and wounded from the square after the massacre. They argue that the intelligence forces preparedness shows that the regime intended to commit a massacre that night to end the sit-in by force.
To commemorate the events of the sit-in, activists launched the “Immortal Sit-in” on social media networks in memory of the first sit-in in the Syrian revolution. They also published a summary of the most important events of the sit-in using videos filmed at the time.
The anniversary of the Clock Sit-in in Homs comes as a reminder of how the Syrian revolution started and of its peacefulness in the face of a brutal and violent totalitarian dictatorship.