Friday, December 12, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 22: 1980 to 1982 Period

When Syria’s political prisoners were still not released by the end of April 1980, “Aleppo and Hama experienced renewed demonstrations and strikes on a smaller scale in May and June” of 1980; and the Syrian opposition to Hafez Assad’s regime “now comprised both religious and secular elements,” according to Dilip Hiro’s Holy Wars. Then, according to the same book, the following happened in Syria between late June 1980 and Aug. 11, 1980:

“…On June 25 [1980]…an unsuccessful assassination attempt was made on [Hafiz] Assad in Damascus…Over the next several days the [Syrian] security forces executed more than 100 imprisoned [Muslim] Brothers. When political prisoners in Palmyra [a/k/a/ Tadhmor Palmyra] attempted a jail break, the Defense Brigade soldiers massacred between 200 and 300 of them. On July 7, 1980 [Syria’s] parliament passed a bill which made membership or even association with the Muslim Brotherhood a capital offense…On Aug. 11 [1980] all 80 inhabitants of a house in the old city of Aleppo from which a shot had been fired at [Syrian] security forces, were pulled out of their apartments and executed instantly…”

In response, Syria’s “Muslim Brotherhood leaders reassessed their tactics and strategy,” “decided to ally with smaller Islamic organizations” and helped to create “in October 1980, the Islamic Front of Syria,” according to Holy Wars; and “once fundamentalist leaders in Syria had forged the Islamic Front, hammered out a common program and charter, and reorganized their cadres, they resumed the jihad in August 1981,” with “the Combat Vanguard of Fighters now operated as commando units equipped with light arms and shoulder-held rockets,” according to the same book.

Then, as Robert Dreyfuss’s Devil’s Game: How The United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam observed, in November 1981 “a massive car bomb in Damascus killed 200 people;” and, according to the same book:

“To carry out such sophisticated operations…the Muslim Brotherhood depended on support from both Jordan and Israel. The two nations did not try very hard to keep their support secret, establishing training camps for Muslim Brotherhood fighters in Lebanon and in northern Jordan, near the Syrian border. Israel funneled support for the Muslim Brotherhood through Lebanon, part of which went to the [Israeli military-aligned] Free Lebanon Forces, a private army…run by…Major Saad Haddad.”

Armed Islamic Front fighters and their political supporters next staged a revolt in Hama in early February 1982 and for several days were successful in resisting the attempts by the security forces of the Baath regime to recapture that Syrian city. But eventually the following Assad regime response to the revolt in Hama happened:

“[Hafez] Assad dispatched 12,000 soldiers to Hama, a city of 200,000. After cordoning it off, they used helicopter gunships, tanks and artillery to defeat the insurgents. It took them two weeks to gain full control. In the process...between 5,000 and 10,000 people—including about 1,000 [Syrian] soldiers—were killed. Unlike in March 1980, the rebellion did not spread to other [Syrian] cities.”

So, according to James Gelvin’s The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs To Know, after the 1982 Armed Islamic Front revolt in Hama was crushed by Hafez Assad’s Baath regime, Syria’s Muslim “Brotherhood” redirected “its focus away from overthrowing the regime to making peace with it” between late 1982 and 2011, although “its members” were still “subject to repression inside” Syria.

(end of part 22)

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