1981 Hama massacre

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1981 Hama massacre
Part of Islamist uprising in Syria
LocationSyria Hama, Syria
DateApril 1981
TargetMuslim Brotherhood
Attack type
Deaths350 - 400
PerpetratorsHafez al-Assad, Rifaat al-Assad

The 1981 Hama massacre was an incident in which over 300 residents of Hama, Syria, were killed by government security forces.


From 1976 to 1982, Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, fought the Ba'ath Party-controlled government of Syria in what has been called a "long campaign of terror".[1] In July 1980, the ratification of Law No. 49 made membership in the Muslim Brotherhood a capital offense.[2] Middle East Watch (part of Human Rights Watch) called the period between 1976 and 1982 "The Great Repression."[3] According to Middle East Watch,

Opposition exploded in the late 1970s, touched off by Assad's military intervention in Lebanon in 1976. Public discontent fed on many grievances, rampant inflation, a housing crisis deepened by refugees from Lebanon, official corruption, security forces from which no one felt safe, and the domination of the 'Alawis. Over four years unrest spread to every sector of Syrian society, and by the beginning of 1980 it seemed possible the regime would be overthrown.[3]

The massacre[edit]

The 1981 Hama massacre occurred after a failed attack around 21–22 April 1981 by armed Islamist guerrillas (reports identify a security checkpoint or a spring festival) near an Alawite village near Hama.[4][5][6] As a revenge action, government units deployed into Hama and launched house-to-house searches, sealing off neighborhoods as street fighting erupted.[4] A curfew was imposed and Syrian Army troops entered the city. Between Thursday 23 April 1981 and Sunday 26 April 1981, security forces killed scores to hundreds of residents - between 150 and "several hundred", according to The Washington Post,[5] or at least 350, plus 600 injured, according to authors Olivier Carré and Gérard Michaud[4] chosen randomly among the male population over the age of 14.[7] The killings were carried out by the government's "Protection Brigades" (a palace guard commanded by the president's brother Rifaat al-Assad, and Syrian Special Forces commanded by General Ali Haidar, an Alawite and Assad aide, according to the Post,[5] while Human Rights Watch identified Syrian Special Forces and the Syrian Arab Army's 47th Brigade.[6]

The Washington Post described the incident as "believed to have been the bloodiest retribution so far in President Hafez Assad's two-year crackdown on opponents to his rule".[5]


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Seale, Patrick. 1989. Asad, the Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press,p.335.
  2. ^ Human Rights Watch 1996
  3. ^ a b Middle East Watch. Syria Unmasked: The Suppression of Human Rights by the Assad Regime. New Haven: Yale UP, 1991, p.8.
  4. ^ a b c Middle East Watch. Syria Unmasked: The Suppression of Human Rights by the Assad Regime. New Haven: Yale UP, 1991, pp. 17-18.
  5. ^ a b c d Syrian Troops Massacre Scores Of Assad's Foes, Washington Post June 25, 1981
  6. ^ a b James A. Paul Human Rights in Syria Human Rights Watch, 1990, p.20-21
  7. ^ Carré, Olivier and Gérard Michaud. Les Frères musulmans: Egypte et Syrie (1928–1982). Paris: Gallimard, 1983: p. 148-151.