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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Showdown in Syria: An Examination of Islamist Repression and Rebellion in 1982 Hama
by VanderVeen, Mark A., M.A., The American University of Paris (France), 2009, 78; 10305869
Abstract (Summary)

The Syrian regime under Hafiz al-Asad staged one of the most dramatic political transformations in modern Middle East history, establishing a model of stability out of post-colonial political chaos. This stability, however, was paid for with blood. Asad’s first decade in power was frequently challenged by armed opposition from the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood opposed to his secular rule—hostility which was met with an equally aggressive counterinsurgency campaign. The culmination of the increasingly violent conflict appeared in the city of Hama in 1982, where a full-blown uprising designed to spark a national revolt was crushed by a brutal massacre that took thousands of lives and destroyed a significant portion of one of Syria’s largest cities. This thesis contextualizes the conflict, highlighting the socioeconomic, political, and religious conditions that set the stage for this showdown to take place in Hama. It concludes that, while socioeconomic conditions were a major source of discontent felt by the coalition in Hama that opposed the Asad regime, political exclusion was instrumental in violently mobilizing that dissatisfaction, which manifested itself under an Islamic banner due to the historically embedded religious zeal of the city. Hama became a symbolic target for Asad, who was desperate to consolidate power and determined to maintain Syrian stability under his secular regime.

The Hama episode was a unique case in which—contrary to conventional wisdom—repression actually worked, extending the rule of an authoritarian regime rather than instigating protracted conflict by a disillusioned populace. This thesis uses insights from the theoretical discourse on repression and rebellion to examine the reasons why the Hama suppression was successful. It finds that key to the success were the regime’s capacity and will to sacrifice its own citizens; legitimacy resources bolstered by its ability to stabilize the country; and the failure of the opposition to prove its exigency by offering a palatable alternative to the Asad regime.

Keywords: Hama, Syria; Muslim Brotherhood; repression; rebellion; political Islam

Indexing (document details)
School: The American University of Paris (France)
School Location: France
Source: MAI 56/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Islamic Studies, Middle Eastern Studies
Keywords: Hama, Muslim Brotherhood, Political Islam, Rebellion, Repression, Syria
Publication Number: 10305869
ISBN: 978-1-369-49433-4
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