Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 April 2019, 15:07 GMT

Syria: Destruction of Hama and Hums in Syria

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 October 1989
Citation / Document Symbol SYR2294
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Syria: Destruction of Hama and Hums in Syria, 1 October 1989, SYR2294, available at: [accessed 22 April 2019]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The government attack on the city of Hama occurred in the context of mounting tensions between Assad's Baath government and Muslim extremists. The February 1982 insurrection in Hama actually marked the culmination of a three-year period of violent political unrest in Syria, with attacks by Muslim fundamentalists being met by brutal government reprisals. The final showdown came in February 1982 in the city of Hama, the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood and a stronghold of Sunni Muslim puritanism. Ma'oz describes Hama as the "head of the snake" of the Muslim Brotherhood's insurrection. [ Moshe Ma'oz, Assad: The Sphinx of Damascus, (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988), p. 162.] As 12 000 government troops combed the city for Muslim Brotherhood leaders on 2 February, the latter began a general insurrection in an attempt to capture the city. By 3 February, this had reportedly resulted in the death of between 70 and 250 Baath officials. [ Ibid., p. 162; Patrick Seale, Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East, (London: IB Taurus and Co Ltd, 1988), pp. 332-33.]

                The battle in Hama lasted three weeks as government forces bombarded the city. The number of casualties remains uncertain. Government sympathizers put the number at 3 000 while critics report 20 000 and more. [ Seale, p. 334. See also Henry Degenhardt, ed. Revolutionary and Dissident Movements, (Harrow, UK: Lonman Group UK, 1988), p. 359.] One source puts the minimum number at 5 000 civilian and Muslim Brotherhood casualties, while estimates run as high as 30 000. [ The low figure is from George Delury, ed., World Encyclopedia of Political Systems and Parties: Syrian Arab Republic, (New York: Facts on File Publications, 1987), pp. 1070-71, while the high figure is from two articles by Patrick Martin, "Syria Cracks Down" and "Obscure Alawi Sect Dominates Syrian Society". The former was published in the 7 May 1986 edition of The Globe and Mail, while the latter appeared in the 9 May edition of the same newspaper. The Economist Intelligence Unit also provides a high figure. See Country Profile Syria 1987-88, p. 8. See also "Roads to Damascus," South, July 86. That reports states that "more than 20 000 died".] Amnesty International states that "estimates of the number dead on all sides ranged from 10 000 to 25 000". [ Amnesty International, Report by Amnesty International to the Government of Syria, (London: Amnesty International Publications, 1983), p. 37.]

Hama was said to represent "by far the most serious challenge to Mr. Assad's government since he assumed power." [Martin, "Syria cracks down".] The razing of Hama was ordered not only to destroy the last stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood but also to erase all remnants of Sunni puritanism which had run through the city. [ Seale, p. 334.]

Up to 1 000 individuals were reported missing after the February 1982 action in Hama. [ U.S. Department of State, Country Reports 1983, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1984), p. 1436.]

No mention of the city of Hums can be found in the sources regularly consulted by the IRBDC. However, the U.S. Department of State report for 1982 mentions the city of Homs as the site of a series of massacres in the period of 1979 to 1982. [U.S. Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982. (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983),  p. 1280.] According to this source, the massacres in Homs, Hama and Aleppo resulted in the deaths of thousands of suspected Muslim Brotherhood members.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld