Hafez Al-Assad rose to fame as Syria’s leader for a decade, from 1971 till his death. He was a participant in several of the preceding century’s most important wars and battles. The autocratic leader was present at every important event in the Middle East, as well as a number of global ones. He was a professional military guy who rose through the ranks to become the head of the Air Force. He took involved in two coups against existing Syrian regimes before assuming ultimate control. He then went on to establish a personality cult with complete military and government control over the economy and society. His one-party state monopolized authority, allowing Assad to rule with impunity. Members of his Allawite religion were rewarded, while others were promoted to positions of authority. When threats to his authority occurred, he dealt with them swiftly and mercilessly. During his reign, he relied on the Soviet Union for help. He was a staunch opponent of America’s words and fought ground warfare with US allies in the Middle East, such as Israel. Overall, Hafez Al-Assad left an indelible mark as a cruel tyrant who ruled Syria for three decades.
Childhood and Adolescence
Hafez Al-Assad was born to an Allawite family in Qardaha, Syria, on October 6, 1930. Na’sa and Ali Sulayman al-Assad were his parents. Ali Sulayman was an Allawite aristocrat who opposed the French occupation vehemently.
Al-Assad was one of ten children, including stepbrothers and sisters. He excelled in high school in Latakia, where he was a good student. The Sunnis, on the other hand, frequently discriminated against him as an Allawite.
In 1946, he began organizing for the Allawite-dominated ‘Ba’ath Party’ as a response of discrimination.
From 1949 to 1951, he was the party’s President of Syrian Students.
Career of Hafez al-Assad
In 1950, Hafez Al-Assad began his career as a student and member of the Syrian Air Force. Because his family couldn’t afford for him to go to college, he joined the Air Force, which covered all of his living expenses.
In 1966, he seized power as part of a coup, and within four years, he had entire control of Syria. He developed tight connections with the Soviet Union, and the Syrian economy was modeled after the Soviet Union’s state rule.
The dictatorial leader de-radicalized the Ba’ath party (much like Sadam Hussein next door) and expelled all Islamic extremists from the party. As a result, Islamists rose up against his government, but his troops defeated them.
Assad collaborated with his Egyptian counterparts to mount a surprise attack on Israel on October 6, 1973. The attack killed tens of thousands of people and reclaimed land lost during the 1966 ‘6 Day War.’
The Golan Heights, which Syria claims as its own territory, were still under Israeli control at the end of the conflict.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Assad successfully suppressed Syria’s Islamic uprising.
The takeover of the Syrian presidency from Salah Jidad in 1970 was Assad’s most significant success. His dominance dominated all aspects of Syrian culture and society for the next three decades.
Syria sided with the Shiites in the Lebanese Civil War in 1976, pitting them against the Maronites and Sunnis, who were backed by Israel and Egypt. Due to the constant influx of outside warriors and finances, the conflict lasted more than a decade.
His soldiers surrounded the insurgents in Hama in February 1982 and blasted the city severely. Experts believe that approximately 20,000 people have died in the conflict, including both rebels and civilians.
Major Projects of Hafez al-Assad
Assad took part in the “6-Day War,” “Yom Kippur War,” and “Lebanon Civil War.” Each conflict depleted resources while boosting the country’s strength. He established contacts with Iran, Egypt, and Hezbollah, among other Arab countries. While he supported Pan Arabism, he was opposed to the idea of a single Arab state.
He held a number of significant posts at the same time, including leader of the ‘Syrian Ba’ath Party,’ head of the Syrian armed forces, head of the Syrian government, and total control over the economy and foreign policy.
Personal History and Legacy
While still a young member of the Air Force, he married Aniseh Makhlouf (mother of current President Bashar Al-Assad), a member of a powerful Allawite family.
In November 1983, the authoritarian monarch suffered a serious heart attack, causing a succession crisis in Syria. Rifaat al-Assad, his brother, announced his presidential candidacy at that time. Hafez, on the other hand, demonstrated that he could still lead by dismissing both his brother and his supporters.
On the 10th of June 2000, Hafez suffered another major heart attack, but this time he did not survive. Following the leader’s death, the country conducted a 40-day period of mourning. Three days later, he was cremated and buried alongside his son, Bassel al-Assad, in Qardaha.
During his reign, Hafez built a cult of personality in which his rule was central to all aspects of life and economics. Both government officials and civilians were constantly monitored. Dissension was not allowed and would be crushed immediately.
Estimated Net Worth
The net worth of Hafez Al-Assad is unknown. His pay as a government employee was relatively low. He did, however, have complete access to all of Syria’s resources and unrestricted ability to plunder government coffers as the center of the cult of personality. The despot was most likely a multi-millionaire or even a billionaire when he died.