A Brief Pre-Massacre History

“My grandfather was a Muslim Brotherhood member until 1978. His diaries and stories about the history of that period is my main source along with other Muslim Brotherhood “ex-members”.”

It is hard to explain the complete chain of events that led to the Massacre of Hama without explaining the history of Syria, which needs at least 5-6 pages. However, the history of Syria is available through different sources, therefore, I will just mention the major events and how people dealt or expected the Syrian governments to deal with their issues.

After declaring unification of Syria and Egypt under the United Arab Republic on 1 February 1958, Gamal Abdel Nasser banned all Syrian parties’ activities, and nationalized all private sector companies and factories. Syria under Nasser became like a concentration camp. The once somewhat free country became subject, for the first time after independence, to totalitarianism.

The arrests, torture, and suppression lead to a military coup on 28 September 1961, which regained Syria’s “independence” as the Syrian Arab Republic instead of the Syrian Republic as it was called before the union.

Instability characterized the Syrian Arab Republic’s next 18 months until Baath Party’s coup of 8 March 1963. Baathist banned all Islamic parties. In 1970, Hafez Assad effected another coup and became the president of Syria in 1971.

Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, remained effective, and successfully organized several strikes and mass demonstration in Syria’s major cities in 1964 and 1965. During the 1970’s, Muslim Brotherhood called for strikes to topple the Baathists and Hafez Assad; a strike in Aleppo was damaging to the regime in 1978, but Hafez Assad managed to make a deal with Damascus traders and manufacturers who ended their strike, which allowed Hafez Assad regime to survive and start mass-killings in Aleppo, Idleb, and Hama.

Assad’s massacres in 1978 started an internal conflict within the Muslim Brotherhood, who rejected, back then, any kind of armed rebellion. However, a small group defected calling themselves “Al-Tali’a Al-Muqatila”, “The Frontier Line Fighters”; they started targeting government and military figures and buildings. In 1979, Many Muslim Brotherhood members ended their membership in the party. In November 1979, Muslim Brotherhood leaders distributed leaflets stating that:

“We reject all forms of despotism, out of respect for the very principles of Islam, and we don’t demand the fall of Pharaoh so that another one can take his place. Religion is not imposed by force… “

However, this did not succeed at ending neither the violence nor the defections.

Protests and strikes paralyzed nearly all Syrian cities in March 1980, but the uprising was crushed by April. On 7 July 1980, Assad regime passed a law making membership in Muslim Brotherhood punishable by death, declaring, however, a 50-day moratorium of the application of that law. Over 1200 Muslim Brotherhood members turned themselves in hoping to escape the death penalty.

Most Muslim Brotherhood members estimate al-Tali’a fighters to be around 350 at that time. Furthermore, most Muslim Brotherhood members are/were certain that some of the attacks and bombings in Syria in 1981 were not executed by al-Tali’a.

In January 1982, around 250 al-Tali’a fighters took control of some areas in Hama. Assad regime launched their military attack on Hama on 2 February 1982. Al-Tali’a fighters were able to resist the regime for 11 days; yet, the military operation in Hama lasted for 25 days, killing 40,000, and destroying most of the city. This tragedy marked the defeat of Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.


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