Thursday, February 23, 2012

30 years ago: Syria’s government faces a rebellion

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

Those who think that civil unrest in Syria is just a recent development may be interested to know that the same thing was happening exactly 30 years ago. However, as recently as 1982, the Internet was unknown outside limited circles of insiders--and social media and YouTube were many years in the future; the fax machine hadn't yet been invented; and there was an almost complete paucity of cable television networks (CNN had been on the air only since 1980, and viewership was limited). As a result, civil unrest in Syria was largely ignored in the rest of the world; I don't remember hearing about it at the time, and I wasn't aware of the 1982 events until recently, when looking for events of the year in the 1983 World Almanac and Book of Facts. As taken from that source:

On February 2, 1982, a revolt against the government of Syria began in the city of Hama. The rebellion apparently originated with tensions between Sunni Muslims, who comprised 65% of the city’s population, and the minority Alawite sect, who dominated the government and army. The rebellion wasn’t widely reported until February 10, when it was also reported that about 8,000 soldiers were laying siege to Hama and had levelled part of it with tanks and artillery. Diplomatic sources indicated that there may have been as many as 360 military casualties and more than 1,000 civilian casualties in Hama. Syrian officials, however, denied that there even was an uprising.

On February 11, Syrian Information Officer Ahmed Iskander Ahmed, announced that Hama had indeed been cut off from the rest of the country, but that the reason was that the government was conducting a campaign of searching for weapons. The target of the search was the Muslim Brotherhood, which opposed the government of President Hafez al-Assad. By February 14, the main highway running through Hama had been reopened, and troops were carrying mop-up activities. By February 18, much of the old city of Hama had been reduced to rubble, and as many as 12,000 troops were seeking members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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