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A bodyguard was killed and the president was injured. Then the next year a bomb went off at the prime minister’s office, killing nearly two dozen people. This called for war, and the president’s younger brother, Rifaat, was in charge of it. The city of Hama, about 200 km (125 miles) north of Damascus, was a stronghold of fanatic fundamentalist Muslims (primarily the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood), so that’s where the government hit. Troops first attempted to ferret out the well-armed radicals, but were trapped and massacred.

In recent years the government has been trying to clean up its image and many political prisoners have been released. The government will now also tell the US Embassy whether or not a certain person is in prison and give the details of conviction, health status, etc. But there are still thousands in jail, many of whom have never had a trial. Those that get tried in the State Security Courts are doomed before the trial starts because they cannot consult with an attorney or their families and the courts do not operate in any internationally acceptable manner.

This is the language Christ spoke, and it is still spoken today in and around Maalula. It is also used in the liturgy of the Syrian Orthodox Church. Aram prospered for hundreds of years, and completes the separate history of western Syria. Maalula, a mostly Christian village north of Damascus. There is both a monastery and a convent here, and the Syrian Orthodox Church, which uses the ancient Aramaic langauge in its liturgy, began here. Visitors at a cave chapel at Maalula. Overview of Land and History 23 The East At the same time the Phoenicians were thriving, the ancient Sumerians (of what is now southern Iraq) spread northwestward into what is now eastern Syria and northern Iraq, eventually occupying most of the land between and around the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers.

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