Birthday: October 6, 1930
Died At Age: 69
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Hafez ibn 'Ali ibn Sulayman al-Assad
Born in: Qardaha, Syria
Famous as: Former President of Syria
political ideology: Political party - Ba'ath Party (Syrian faction) (since 1966), Other political affiliations - Ba'ath Party (1947–1966) Arab Ba'ath Party (1946–1947)
Spouse/Ex-: Aniseh al-Assad
father: Ali Sulayman
siblings: Ahmed al-Assad, Ibrahim al-Assad, Jamil al-Assad, Rifaat al-Assad
children: Bashar al-Assad, Bassel al-Assad, Bushra al-Assad, Maher al-Assad, Majd al-Assad
Died on: June 10, 2000
place of death: Damascus
Founder/Co-Founder: National Progressive Front
Hafez Al-Assad gained prominence as the leader of Syria for a generation spanning from 1971 until his death. He was involved in some of the most important wars and conflicts of the previous century. The authoritarian leader participated in every major event in the Middle East and was also crucially involved in many world events. He was a career military man and was eventually promoted to head of the Air Force. He participated in two coups against existing Syrian governments and finally seized complete power for himself. He then went on to create a cult of personality with total military and government rule of the economy and society. His one-party state monopolized power and allowed Assad a free reign. He rewarded members of his Allawite religion and promoted fellow members to places of authority. When challenges to his authority arose, he crushed them without hesitancy or mercy. During his rule, he counted on the Soviet Union to support his state. He tirelessly opposed the words of America and engaged in ground wars with the US allies in the Middle East such as Israel. Overall, Hafez Al-Assad led a lasting legacy as a brutal dictator that dominated all of Syria for three decades
Childhood & Early Life
Hafez Al-Assad was born on October 6th 1930 in Qardaha Syria to an Allawite family. His parents were Na'sa and Ali Sulayman al-Assad. Ali Sulayman was an Allawite noble that was stridently against the French occupation.
Al-Assad had 10 siblings including step brothers and sisters. He attended high-school in Latakia and excelled as a top student. However, he was often discriminated against as an Allawite by the Sunnis.
As a result of discrimination, he began organizing for the Allawite dominated ‘Ba'ath Party’ in 1946.
He served as President of Syrian Students for the party from 1949 to 1951.
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Hafez Al-Assad began his career studying and working in the Syrian Air Force in 1950. His family could not afford for him to attend college so he chose the Air Force which paid all of his living expenses.
He seized power as part of a coup in 1966 and took complete control of Syria within the next four years. He formed close ties with the Soviet Union and modeled the Syrian economy after the USSR's state control.
The authoritarian leader de-radicalized the Ba'ath party (similarly to next door neighbor Sadam Hussein) and eliminated all Islamic extremists in the party. As a result, Islamists rose up against his rule but were crushed by his military.
On October 6th 1973 Assad combined with his Egyptian counterparts to launch a surprise attack on Israel. The attack caused tens of thousands of casualties and recaptured some land lost in the ‘6 Day War’ fought in 1966.
However, Israel still controlled the Golan Heights at the end of the conflict, which Syria claims as its own territory.
He successfully crushed the Islamic uprising of Syria in the 1970s and early 1980s.
Assad's most important achievement was his seizure of the Syrian presidency from Salah Jidad in 1970. His rule over the next three decades dominated all aspects of Syrian culture and life.
Syria intervened in the Lebanese Civil War in 1976 on the side of the Shiites and against the Maronites and Sunnis which were supported by Israel and Egypt. The war continued for over a decade due to the continued influx of outside fighters and funds.
In February 1982, his troops surrounded the rebels in the town of Hama and mercilessly bombed the city. Experts estimate over 20,000 deaths including rebels and civilians.
Assad participated in the ‘6 Day War’, the ‘Yom Kippur War’ and the ‘Lebanon Civil War’. Each war drained resources but projected strength for the country. He formed relationships with Iran, Egypt and Hezbollah among other entities in the Arab world. While he endorsed Pan Arabism, he did not endorse the notion of a singular Arab state.
He achieved many important positions at one time including head of the ‘Syrian Ba'ath Party’, head of the Syrian armed forces, head of the Syrian government and took complete authority of the economy and foreign policy.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Aniseh Makhlouf (who was the mother of current President Bashar Al-Assad) a member of a powerful Allawite family, while still a young member of the Air Force.
The autocratic ruler had a major heart attack in November 1983 which created a succession crisis in Syria. His brother Rifaat al-Assad announced his candidacy for president at that point. However, Hafez proved that he could still lead and sidelined his brother as well as his supporters.
Hafez suffered another massive heart attack on 10th June 2000, but the President was not lucky enough to recover from the attack this time. The nation observed 40 day mourning on the leader’s death. The cremation took place three days later in Qardaha where he was buried next to his son, Bassel al-Assad.
During his tenure, Hafez established a cult of personality in which all life and economics focused on his rule. Government officials and civilians alike were under constant surveillance. No dissent was tolerated and would quickly be crushed.
Hafez Al-Assad's net worth is unclear. As a government official, his salary was relatively low. However, as the center of the cult of personality, he had access to all of Syria's resources and unlimited ability to skim government coffers. The autocrat most probably died a multi-millionaire or even billionaire