The 1981 Hama massacre
was an incident in which over 300 residents of Hama
, were killed by government security forces.
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.
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
As a revenge action, government units deployed into Hama and launched house-to-house searches, sealing off neighborhoods as street fighting erupted.
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
or at least 350, plus 600 injured, according to authors Olivier Carré
and Gérard Michaud
chosen randomly among the male population over the age of 14.
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
while Human Rights Watch
identified Syrian Special Forces and the Syrian Arab Army
's 47th Brigade.