Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat - The al-Assad regime, whether we are talking about
the regime of Hafez al-Assad the father, or Bashar al-Assad the son, has a
brutal history of violence and massacres which stretches back more than 40
Dozens of massacres which resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of
Syrian citizens have occurred over the years, most prominently the Hama
massacre of 1982 and the Tadmor Prison massacre of 1980, amongst others.
This is a phenomenon that has come to the fore once more following the
outbreak of the Syrian revolution more than one year ago, and we have seen
many massacres being carried out since that time.
Amnesty International issued a report on the first anniversary of the Syrian
revolution which revealed that torture and mistreatment against the Syrian
opposition had reached "unprecedented levels" and represented a "systematic
attack" on civilians. In a report entitled "I wanted to die: Syria's torture
survivors speak out", Amnesty International revealed that "people are almost
invariably beaten and otherwise tortured and ill-treated during arrest,
often during the subsequent transportation to detention centres, and
routinely upon arrival at the detention centres and afterwards" adding that
"among the victims are children aged under 18." As for why the Syrian
authorities are carrying out such practices, the Amnesty International
report claimed that "the torture and other ill-treatment appear intended to
punish, to intimidate, to coerce "confessions" and perhaps to send a warning
to others as to what they may expect should they also be arrested."
Human Rights Watch issued a report in July 2010 entitled "A Wasted Decade:
Human Rights in Syria during Bashar al-Assad's First Ten Years in Power",
stressing that "Bashar al-Assad inherited a country with a legacy of abusive
practices, but to date he has not taken any concrete steps to acknowledge
and address these abuses or shed light on the fate of thousands of people
who have disappeared since the 1980s."
Comparing the massacres that took place during the era of Hafez al-Assad, to
those currently taking place during the Bashar al-Assad era, the leader of
the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Riad Al-Shaqfa, told Asharq Al-Awsat
that "he [Bashar al-Assad] is truly his father's son.they [Hafez and Bashar
al-Assad] are of the same type. They have the same attitude.to killing,
massacres and crimes. This is a regime of monsters pretending to be humans."
He added "what al-Assad the father did over decades is being carried out by
al-Assad the son today, and Tadmor and Saidnaya prisons are witnesses to
this fact. All of the massacres that were carried out by the regime against
the Syrian people during the revolution reflect this."
The following are just a few examples of the massacres that have been
carried out by al-Assad regime forces over the past 40 years.
The Hama massacre:
The Hama massacre began on 2 February 1982 when Syrian military units began
a campaign against the city, following accusations that the city was
sheltering Muslim Brotherhood affiliated gunmen. The Hafez al-Assad regime
eventually pursued a "scorched earth" operation against the city, shelling
it for several weeks, before sending in troops and tanks. Many Hama
residents were killed or arrested during this period; human rights
organizations called for an international investigation into the events of
the Hama massacre and for those responsible for this to be held to account.
Reports indicate that between 20 and 40 thousand Hama residents were killed
over a period of more than three weeks, whilst approximately 15 thousand
people were later arrested and have since completely disappeared, their fate
remains unknown today, more than 20 years later. The Syrian security and
military forces also destroyed numerous buildings, including mosques and
churches, which led to a huge displacement of Hama residents.
The Hamas massacre has been described as perhaps "the single deadliest act
by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East."
The Syrian armed forces in Hama were led by Rifaat al-Assad, the younger
brother of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad.
Tadmor Prison massacre:
The Tadmor Prison massacre took place on 2 February 1980. This was perhaps
the second bloodiest massacre to have occurred during the Hafez al-Assad
era, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of prisons, the majority of whom
were members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This incident remains shrouded in secrecy, and so the exact death toll
remains unknown, although reports indicate that this between 600 and 1,000
prisoners were killed. The massacre was reportedly in retaliation to a
failed assassination attempt against Hafez al-Assad. Reports indicate that
Syrian security forces, also under the direct supervision of Rifaat
al-Assad, entered the prison and massacred unarmed prisoners in their cells.
Information indicates that the bodies of the prisoners were then transferred
to pre-prepared mass graves in a valley east of Tadmor - indicating that
this massacre was well-planned, and not the result of prison riots, as
claimed by some regime supporters.
According to "Human Rights Watch", "commandos from the Defense Brigade under
the command of Rifaat al-Assad, Hafez al-Assad's brother, killed an
estimated 1,000 unarmed inmates, mostly Islamists, at Tadmor military
prison, in retaliation for a failed assassination attempt against Hafez
al-Assad." The "Human Rights Watch" report also asserts that "the names of
those killed were never made public."
One year later, Jordan arrested two figures with ties to the Tadmor prison
massacre for involvement in a plot to assassinate former Jordanian Prime
Minister Mudar Badran. The two Syrian figures, members of Rifaat al-Assad's
paramilitary "Defense Companies" reportedly gave details of the Tadmor
prison massacre; there was an international outcry for the Syrian
authorities to investigate and reveal what truly occurred at Tadmor military
prison; however the Hafez al-Assad regime refused.
Faraj Beraqdar, a Syrian poet who spent five-years in Tadmor, described the
prison as "the kingdom of death and madness."
A number of massacres have occurred in Aleppo, most prominently the Eid
al-Adha massacre of 11 August, 1980, during which around 100 Aleppo citizens
were killed. In addition to this, more than 110 people were killed near the
Aleppo castle the next day, whilst other reports put the death toll as high
The Hafez al-Assad regime also carried out massacres in Idlib, most
prominently in Jisr Ash-Shughur - a center of the anti-Assad uprising in
2011 - where around 100 citizens were killed in 1980.
Massacres during the Syrian revolution:
Bashar al-Assad has been no less brutal than his father, Hafez al-Assad,
with regards to using violence to crack down on dissent and opposition, and
a number of terrible massacres have taken place in Syria in recent years,
particularly following the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 9,113 people have
been killed since the beginning of the Syrian revolution; 6,645 civilians,
1,997 members of the Syrian security forces and 471 rebels.
Most recently, the Syria Observatory revealed that 23 mutilated corpses were
found near the city of Idlib in northwest Syria; Idlib had been a center for
the anti-regime protests but was seized by Syrian forces this week. Reports
indicate that the victims were blindfolded and handcuffed before being
executed. This is similar to a previous "massacre" of dozens of women and
children in the flashpoint city of Homs last week.
However perhaps the greatest "massacre" to have occurred during the Syrian
uprising was the al-Assad regime's targeting of Homs. The Baba Amr district
of Homs was seized by the Syrian opposition, in particular the Free Syrian
Army [FSA], who managed to hold on to this district for approximately one
month, before being pushed back by al-Assad's relentless killing machine.
Al-Assad regime forces shelled the Baba Amr district for weeks, inflicting
heavy civilian damages. Opposition sources reported that more than 217 Homs
residents alone were killed on 2 February, 2012, after intensification in
the bombardment campaign. Reports indicated that 36 houses were completely
destroyed, whilst the district hospital was also targeted. During this
period, casualties in Homs often ranged into the hundreds every day, before
the Syrian military eventually managed to regain control of the city in
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported that 68 bodies were
uncovered between the villages of Ram al-Enz and Ghajariyeh; the bodies were
taken to the central hospital in Homs. Post-mortem examinations reveal that
many of the victims were executed, either being gunned down or killed with
"cutting" weapons. The Local Coordination Committee also reported that it
had discovered the bodies of 64 men; hypothesizing that the victims were
civilians who tried to flee the battle raging in Homs and who were abducted
and executed by pro-government militia.
There have also been allegations of rapes and sexual assaults being
committed by al-Assad regime forces. These accusations have served to
increase the number of Syrian citizens fleeing the country and seeking
refuge elsewhere, most prominently in Turkey.
Following the recapture of Homs earlier this month, the battle turned to
Idlib, which in turn fell to al-Assad regime forces after three days of
sustained tank, machine-gun and artillery fire. The al-Assad regime forces
carried out another massacre here, opening fire on unarmed Idlib residents
outside the city's al-Bilal mosque, resulting in the deaths of approximately
This massacre occurred just one day after 17 civilians, mostly women and
children, were burned or hacked to death in the Karm el-Zeytoun district of
Therefore it is clear that Bashar al-Assad is following in his father's
footsteps with regards to massacres and violence, and he even managed to
celebrate the Hama massacre of 1982 with one of his own. 4 February 2012 was
one of the bloodiest days of the revolution, resulting in around 340 deaths.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, "Jawad", a revolutionary activist in the city
of Homs, described what happened on 4 February 2012 - the anniversary of the
Hama massacre - as a "disaster", revealing that the al-Assad forces carried
out a sustained bombardment of Homs throughout the day. He also revealed
that this bombardment campaign had destroyed homes with families in them,
whilst attempts to recover dead bodies were also targeted and attacked by
al-Assad regime forces.
There have been too many incidents of violence and massacres committed by
the al-Assad regime forces since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution to
mention, from Hama to Homs, Idlib to Deraa, and even Damascus. It is clear
that Bashar al-Assad is following in his father's footsteps and that he is
prepared to do anything to cling to power. However despite this history of
violence in the al-Assad's Syria, whether we are talking about al-Assad the
father or al-Assad the son, the Syrian people are steadfast in their desire
for freedom and dignity; this unimaginable violence has not prevented them
from taking to the street, day after day, to demand change.
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Received on Sun Mar 18 2012 - 18:37:01 EDT