Ghosts from Syria's 30 Years of Fear

(Independent-UK) Robert Fisk - The Syrian city of Tadmor, east of Damascus, known as Palmyra to Romans and tourists alike, was home to one of the regime's fearsome jails. This was the site of a massacre of Islamist prisoners - perhaps a thousand in all - by Hafez el-Assad's brother Rifaat after an assassination attempt on Hafez. According to a report, "Years of Fear" - published in Washington this month by the Transitional Justice in the Arab World Project, supported by Freedom House - as many as 17,000 Syrians may have been "disappeared" during Hafez el-Assad's rule in the early 1980s. Assad's long battle to maintain his Alawi rule against violent Islamist enemies clogged the fetid prisons of Syria with thousands of political prisoners. Then on 16 June 1979, an army captain, Ibrahim al-Yusuf, led a massacre of Alawi students at the Aleppo artillery school. A subsequent assassination attempt on Assad prompted Rifaat's Defense Brigades' assault at Tadmor in which up to a thousand Muslim Brotherhood prisoners were machine-gunned to death in their cells. The Hama uprising in February 1982, in which the old rebel-held city was virtually destroyed by tank and shell-fire, caused up to 15,000 deaths, according to the report. In the early eighties and later, up to 25,000 men went missing, swallowed into interrogation centers and prisons, the report says.

2010-06-25 09:33:30

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