17 years after the fire: Homs seen in 2017

Written by Staff Writer

There are those who claimed that the crimes of the “deserters” made them deserving of execution by firing squad. Not so. They deserved an equal and opposite punishment: The notorious Assad regime’s manual for instant death.

Over 20 years ago, Syrian authorities determined that 37 guards and “provincial guards” implicated in the riots that gripped the central city of Homs, allowing torching of countless warehouses and government buildings, had been “involved” in riots that had “led to burnings of civilian targets.” They were branded “a criminal conspiracy,” according to the official Syrian press, sentenced to death and reanimated.

Below: A 2015 photo of those executed for setting fires.

Since 1991, the regime has systematically summarily executed scores of high-ranking officers and soldiers sentenced to death by summary courts, most of them in Hama.

Typically, one act of regime violence leads to a frenzied cycle of public anger at the regime, followed by a swift breakdown of law and order.

Homs — along with Hama, Hama city, Deir al-Zor and Deir ez-Zor province — have been particularly violent and politically charged areas. The Assad regime instituted a terror tactic to eradicate its foes and force them out of the country: setting fires in government buildings, farms and hospitals.

But the violence is not just confined to the presidential compound. That’s what sparked the present violence against defection-identified guards.

The fires, some have observed, spread like wildfire, conflagrating a wide swath of the city of Homs. This was not just some feud between rival tribes, some have argued. No, there was an attempt at subversion and overthrow of the regime, according to the government.

As the government’s news agency SANA reported, over 160 government buildings were severely damaged by fire between February 4 and February 18. Many of the casualties of these attempted fires were civilian. It’s a “myth that there was no legitimate resistance to protect the public from an attempted state terror,” according to SANA.

Now, 24 of those who were eventually executed, are slated to be burned in two episodes on television screens that viewers won’t have had to pay attention to at all. What they might have seen: A truck with a man, on fire.

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