River runs red in #Syria
Residents in the central Syrian city of Hama have defiantly painted roads red and staged a general strike in memory of a massacre carried out by the regime there 30 years ago.
The Syrian opposition had called for demonstrations throughout the country to remember up to 40,000 people who were killed in Hama in 1982.
Rallies were also held elsewhere in Syria, including in the capital Damascus and in the central province of Homs.
In Hama itself footage posted on the internet showed the city’s Orontes River tinged red after paint was spilled into it.
“Our memory was awakened by the crimes that are happening now. It is the same oppression, same torture, same style of killing,” said activist Yasser al-Hamawi, who is from the city but now lives elsewhere.
“It is being repeated now even if on a smaller measure, people will not forget or forgive.”
Hama has become a symbol of defiance during the 11-month uprising against president Bashar al-Assad’s rule.
Residents, fearing reprisals, had until now not been able to mark the massacre.
By they reported that the city was paralysed on Thursday.
Schools and shops were closed and employees stayed at home.
Activists says a heavy government security presence, including snipers deployed throughout the city, prevented them from holding demonstrations to recall the day when forces loyal to then-president Hafez al-Assad attacked Hama.
“We did not mark it the way we wanted. The heavy security prevented us from protesting but at least now we can talk about it and it is acknowledged,” activist Mohamed abu al-Kheir said from the city.
The internet footage also showed graffiti which residents said dotted walls in the city, reading: “Hafez died and Hama did not, Bashar will die and Hama will never die.”
The elder Assad was fighting an Islamist uprising in which the banned Muslim Brotherhood and its armed wing, the Fighting Vanguard, made a last stand in Hama.
For Sunni Islamist Syrians, Hama is synonymous with an assault on their religion by Mr Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect which they deem heretical.
Thirty years later, his son is struggling to crush a revolt that began with mass demonstrations and now features an armed insurgency, which Bashar al-Assad calls an Islamist fifth column funded and directed from abroad.
The Brotherhood is playing a prominent role in the drive to topple Mr Assad in the present uprising - in which the United Nations says more than 5,000 people have been killed.
In a separate development, diplomats say a new draft of a UN Security Council resolution aimed at stopping the violence in Syria contains concessions to Russia.
Russia has consistently opposed any foreign intervention in Syria.