Arabic: ikhwān ‘al-muslimīn
Syrian Islamist organization started by Syrian students returning from studies in Egypt in the 1930s, where they were confronted with the ideology of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the original Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood of Syria lasted until 1982 when heavy government actions were successful in destroying the organization. Two years earlier, a split had occurred, and many moderate members cooperated with smaller Islamic groups to form the Islamic Front of Syria.
At first, the aim of the Brotherhood was limited and sought to end the French mandate and to work for socio-political reform in Syria according to the principles of Islam.
But when the French left in 1946, and the state of Israel was founded 2 years later, the Brotherhood was politicized and radicalized and gained many new members.
Towards its end, the Brotherhood was at its largest. In 1978, the total number of members was around 30,000. In the early 1980s, after the dissolution of the Brotherhood, more than 1,300 Brothers were in prison. Over the years, perhaps as many as 30,000 Brothers were killed in the conflicts with Assad’s government.
1930’s: Syrian students return home from Egypt, inspired by the ideology of Hassan al-Banna. Many start their own Muslim Brotherhood branches.
1935: The Brotherhood branch of Aleppo is set up, which becomes the organization’s headquarters.
1944: The headquarters of the Brotherhood is moved to Damascus.
Late 1940’s: The Brotherhood is politicized due to the establishment of the state of Israel.
1954: Many Brothers escape from Egypt after the Brotherhood is banned here. This strengthens the Brothers, but also makes them more radical, as they call for moral reform in the country’s politics.
1958: As Syria joins Egypt in the United Arab Republic (UAR), the Syrian Brotherhood is banned just as it was in Egypt. It continues its work underground, however.
1961 December: Syria leaves the UAR, and in parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood wins 10 seats.
1963 March: Following the Ba’th coup, the Brotherhood is banned together with all political opposition parties.
1967: Following the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War, the Brotherhood split into moderates and radicals who declared jihad on the Ba’th party leadership.
1971: Brotherhood opposition grows even stronger when Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite, became president. The Brothers considered the Alawites infidels, and by this opposition, they gained many new members.
1974: As the Shi’i theologian, Imam Musa s-Sadr, declares that the Alawites are Shi’ites, and Assad undertakes an umra, the Brotherhood opposition calms down. This apparent peace does not, however, last long.
1976 July: Assad proves to be a powerful politician more than a Muslim politician, and intervenes in the Lebanese Civil War on the Maronite Christian side. This angers the Brothers, and once again jihad is declared against the regime. This conflict lasts for 6 years, and is the last between the Brothers and the state, resulting in the effective dissolution of the Brotherhood.
1979: Brotherhood activists succeed in killing 83 Alawite cadets at the Aleppo artillery school. Assad responds first by letting a higher number of Sunnis into the national command of the party as well as the cabinet.
— The Brotherhood calls strikes in Aleppo and Hama, which paralyzes the two cities. Even if Assad tries to give in to some demands by releasing prisoners, sacking unpopular provincial governors, and increasing the import of consumer goods, the strikes continue.
— Troops are dispatched to the two cities, 5,000 people are arrested, and the strikes come to an end.
1980 June 25: An assassination attempt on Assad. Under the influence of Assad, the parliament makes membership in or association with the Brotherhood a capital offense. Troops are sent into several cities to track down and imprison or execute brothers.
— Moderates split from the main Brotherhood, and join forces with smaller Islamic groups in order to form the Islamic Front of Syria.
1982 February: Between 10,000 and 25,000 people are killed in Hama or executed by government troops, in a desperate search to eradicate Brotherhood activity. This is the last that anyone hears of the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria.