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Hafez al-Assad

(1930 - 2000)

Hafez al-Assad was born in Kurdaha near Lattakia, Syria, on October 6, 1930. He obtained his High School degree in Lattakia in early forties. He showed interest in public issues during that period which witnessed the Second World War. He participated in demonstrations against the French Occupation as well as in political activities to attain independence, which was achieved on April 17th, 1946.

He was elected to the Students Committee in Lattakia and chaired the first Students Conference in Syria. At that time, as Chairman of the Committee, he led the student's movement under the banner of Al Baath Arab Socialist Party. Liberation from colonialism, Palestinian cause and other national issues were the prominent issues of his concern in late forties and early fifties.

He formally enrolled in the Baath Arab Socialist Party in 1946, and struggled under its banner against the old political forces. He joined the Military Academy in 1952 where he chose the Air force Academy from which he graduated Air force Lieutenant Pilot in early 1955. On graduating he was champion in Aerobatics.

He attended many military courses; the most important was in the former Soviet Union, as Fighter Pilot and Night & Day Fighting Pilot. He passed a course of Squadron Leader with Excellent degree in 1959. He also had excellent degree in a course of Air force Staff Officer in 1964.

He was excluded from the Armed Forces on the 2nd of December 1961 and transferred to a civil job after cessation from Egypt on September 28, 1961, due to his national stand against that separation. He was a main leader of the underground military committee (five members) that led the 8th of March revolution in 1963, initiating major contacts, both civil and military, that made the revolution a great success.

He occupied leading posts in both the Regional and National Command of the Baath Arab Socialist Party until he became General Secretary of the party and he played a major role in the success of the 23rd February Movement 1966, which put an end to the conflicts within the party.

He became Prime Minister, Minister of Defence on November 21st 1970 after leading the Correction Movement, which widely opened the party's doors to the Arab Masses. He was elected President of the Syrian Arab Republic in a referendum held on March 12, 1971.

On the May 14, 1971, the new Regional Command of the Baath Arab Socialist Party held its first meeting and elected President Hafez Al-Assad Regional Secretary of the Party. In the second half of August 1971 he was elected Secretary General of the Party during its Eleventh National Conference.

He participated in many Arab and international summit conferences, such as the Non-Allied Countries, the Islamic and Arab Summits where he had a remarkable say in the service of our national issues. Asad led the War of October 1973.

In 1976 Mr Assad had ordered Syrian troops into Lebanon, the vital buffer state between his country and Israel. Curbing Israel's power and influence was the central plank of his foreign policy.

Syria was accused of backing state terrorist acts including the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner in Lebanon. Assad also allowed many Palestinian terrorist organizations to establish bases in Damascus, and also sponsored a Syrian faction of the PLO.

An implacable foe of Israel, he refused to hold negotiations with the Jewish state until the historic 1991 Arab-Israeli summit in Madrid. Talks continued in limited bursts over the next decade

Syrian President Hafez al-Assad died in Damascus at the age of 69 on June 10, 2000. He was succeeded by his son Bashar.

Source: BICOM