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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Alawi in Syria

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Date(s) Item
1516 The Turkish Empire overtook the Mameluke Empire and in doing so, obtained Syria as part of their empire.
1918 The French gained control of Greater Syria (Syria, Lebanon, and western Turkey) following the defeat of the Turks in World War I.
1922 The League of Nations recognized the French Mandate over Greater Syria.
1943 Syria became an independent state with Shukri al Kuwatley as the first president.
1946 - 1970 Syria earned a reputation as one of the most unstable countries in the region as government after government is overthrown.
1954 Col. Husni al-Zayim was overthrown. In the aftermath, the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (Ba'ath), consisting of an uneasy coalition between socialist and Arab unity camps, began to take form.
1954 - 1958 Because of their secular ideology the Ba'ath gained many supporters within the ranks of the military.
1958 - 1961 The nations of Egypt and Syria temporarily merged themselves into a single political entity.
1966 The Ba'ath overthrew the Sunni government. Some part of the Ba'ath has remained in power ever since.
1966 - 1970 The Ba'ath split into two factions. A radical civilian faction, which strongly backs Pan Arabist theology and the PLO; and a pragmatic military faction that emphasizes "Syrian objectives".
1970 The pragmatic military faction consisting mainly of Alawis from the region of Latakia and led by Hafez al-Assad seized power in a coup.
1976 Syria started to back various factions engaged in the Lebanese civil war.
1982 The Moslem Brotherhood rebelled and the military responded using large-scale violence to quiet the rebellion.
1986 The Moslem Brotherhood began a campaign of terrorism to end Ba'athist rule in Syria. The government responded by arresting large portions of the brotherhood, a practice that has only recently begun to ease slightly.
Jan 24, 1990 Three people were killed in a clash between followers of the Mustafa al-Tajir and Shafiq Fayyad, Hafez al-Assad's nephew and head of Military Intelligence.
Feb 16, 1990 The Council of Ministers moved to abolish martial law regulations that outlawed the expression of discontent with the government.
Feb 18, 1990 Thirty high ranking government employees were dismissed on the grounds that they had been disloyal to President Assad.
Feb 21, 1990 The Patriotic Front for National Salvation announced itself in Paris.
Mar 4, 1990 New courts were set up by the government to try government employees accused of corruption.
Mar 8, 1990 In a speech President Assad concurred with the finding of the Council of Ministers (February 16) and asserted that the security laws should only be applied in instances where the state is threatened by a foreign enemy.
May 22 - 23, 1990 Elections were held for the Fifth Peoples Assembly which had been expanded from 195 seats to 250 in order to make room for more political independents in the legislature. The ruling Ba'ath party maintained its ruling majority earning 54% of the seats. This was however, a drop from the 66% share they earned in 1986. Voter turnout was approximately 60%.
Mar 12, 1991 Three hundred two Palestinian political prisoners loyal to Yasser Arafat were released. It was announced that Khaled Fayoum, a pro Syrian anti-Arafat Palestinian advocate, had facilitated the releases. The release was seen as an effort by Assad to reassert his influence within the ranks of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Apr 15 - 30, 1991 Twenty high ranking military officers were arrested on the grounds that they had been disloyal to President Assad.
May 4, 1991 President Assad enacted a law the encourages private investment in Syria by granting tax breaks.
Jul 14, 1991 Assad agreed to take part in U.S. sponsored peace talks concerning the Arab Israeli conflict.
Oct 17, 1991 The first Lebanese-Syrian Supreme Council was held in Damascus. It was sponsored by President Assad.
Dec 2, 1991 Hafez el-Assad won a fourth seven year term as President of Syria. As the nominated candidate of the ruling Ba'ath party, he was the only candidate. He received 99.98% of the vote.
Dec 17, 1991 President Assad pardoned 2,864 political prisoners in jail for anti-state acts. They were mostly members of the Moslem Brotherhood. He reportedly no longer viewed the Moslem Brotherhood as a threat to Ba'athist rule. Syrian human rights organizations reported that there were 3,500 political prisoners still in custody.
Mar 12, 1992 Haffaz al-Assad was sworn in as President of Syria. In his acceptance speech he promised further economic and political reforms.
Mar 15 - 31, 1992 Six hundred political prisoners were released.
Apr 4 - 5, 1992 Seventeen Syrians were given sentences of 3-10 years. They were members of the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria. They were accused of passing out anti-Assad leaflets after the election.
Apr 27, 1992 Travel restrictions on Syrian Jews were lifted.
Jun 24, 1992 Prime Minister Mahmound Zubi and the entire cabinet resigned.
Jun 29, 1992 The entire cabinet minus Mahmound Zubi returned to the government be were assigned different cabinet positions.
Aug 27, 1992 State Security Courts began trials against 600 detainees - some of whom had already been in prison for 12 years.
Sep 22, 1992 Defense Minister Mustafa Talas was put under house arrest for allowing the President's brother, Riffat Assad, to enter Syria.
Oct 1992 A small debate emerged in the press over who was likely to succeed Assad as president. Riffat Assad, the brother of the president, was exiled in 1980 for trying to seize power from his brother. He was allowed back into the country to attend his mother's funeral. When he was not exiled again there was speculation that he was being set up to succeed Hafez el-Assad. President Assad continued to maintain that his son, Basel, who is currently the Nominal Vice President in charge of Security, would succeed him.
Feb 19, 1993 General Ali Douba, head of Syrian Military Intelligence, was relieved of his duty. He had been the counterweight when the President's brother, Riffat Assad, tried to seize power in 1980. This dismissal fueled speculation that Riffat Assad is being set up to succeed his brother as President.
Jan 21, 1994 The President's son, Basil al-Assad, was killed in a car accident. Basil had been considered heir apparent to his father. His death led to speculation about the future stability of the rule of the Alawi faction of the Ba'ath Party.
Feb 1994 It was reported that all of the Jewish minority in Syria, numbering approximately 1,250, had been issued exit visas to travel abroad in line with Syria's December 1993 promise to the United States.
Feb 22, 1994 Three prominent members of the Ba'ath Party imprisoned for opposing President Assad since 1970 were released. Some 4,500 political prisoners have been released since December 1991 with an estimates 2,000 to 5,000 still held in detention.
May 4, 1994 In Cairo, Israeli Prime Minister Rabin and PLO Chairman Arafat signed the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and Jericho, giving the Palestinians limited self-rule.
Jun 1, 1994 President Assad dismissed his long-serving Electricity Minister Kamel al-Baba and appointed in his place Mounib Saaem al Daher. Commentators claimed that this move was due to increased dissatisfaction with the government's inability to deal with power shortages.
Jul 25, 1994 Jordan and Israel signed a joint declaration in Washington ending their state of conflict. Syria criticized it as a separate deal that weakened the overall Arab negotiation position with Israel.
Aug 24, 1994 In general elections for the Syrian People's Assembly, the Ba'ath Party and its allies won 167 out of 250 seats. The remaining seats were all won by independents.
Aug 26, 1994 The Middle East Economic Digest reported that 16 senior military officers had been relieved of their positions in a move by Assad to "consolidate his power and weaken the influence of the regime's old guard."
Oct 26, 1994 Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty. Syria sharply criticized the treaty on the grounds that it weakened the overall Arab negotiation position toward Israel. Syria also objected to a part of the treaty in which Israel was to return some disputed land to Jordan but could then lease it back from Jordan.
Nov 4, 1994 The Middle East Economic Digest reported that Assad had made more changes in key security posts.
Nov 14, 1994 Prime Minister Mahmoud Zubi announced a number of major economic reforms.
Nov 16, 1994 Amnesty International called upon Syria to end its pattern of human rights abuses.
Nov 22, 1994 The European Union lifted the arms embargo against Syria that has been in force since 1986.
Jan 5, 1995 Prominent religious leader Sheikh Muhammad Said Albouti issued an unprecedented religious ruling (Fatwa) in support of a peace treaty between Syria and Israel.
Jan 6, 1995 It was announced that two former ministers, imprisoned since the early 1970s without trial for their opposition to President Assad, had been released.
Feb 5, 1995 Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres accuses Assad of holding up the Middle East peace process, as Syria-Israeli negotiations remained stalled over the issue of Israel withdrawal from the Golan Heights. (AFP)
Mar 16, 1995 Turkish security forces and Alawites in Turkey clash for four days, and at least 28 people are killed and over 100 are injured. Contact between Alawites in Turkey and Syria remain limited, however. (AFP)
Nov 5, 1995 Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
Dec 31, 1995 - Mar 31, 1996 Peace talks between Syria and Israel resume but are again suspended after Assad failed to condemn a series of Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel. Syrian officials maintained that the violence stemmed from unjust peace settlements in the region. (AFP)
Feb 1996 Iraq and Syria considered taking joint action against European companies which are helping Turkey build dams along the Euphrates. (The Economist, February 17)
May 6, 1996 President Assad was the intended target of a bomb that exploded in Damascus. The suspected bombers were Turks living in Syria. (AFP, June 11)
Jun 23, 1996 A summit of Arab leaders in the Middle East resulted in the issuing of a demand to Israel, and its new Prime Minister Netanyahu, that it pursue peace by agreeing to sacrifice land. (AFP)
Feb 1997 A British newspaper reports that President Assad had slipped into a coma for several weeks in late 1996 and early 1997 until he was revived by Russian doctors in January. These reports fuel questions about who will succeed Assad. His hospital stay had been reported to be for prostate surgery. (Reuters, February 9)
Jul 7, 1997 President Assad replaced Syria's chief of intelligence and his armed forces chief of staff (a non-Alawite) during a three-day news blackout in Syria. Western diplomats suspected this was done to insure that the advisors to Assad's successor--likely to be his son Bashar--would all be Alawites. (AFP)
Aug 1997 Reports indicate a "thaw" in the strained relationship between Iraq and Syria: Border crossing points between the two countries have been reopened for the first time since 1980, and Syrian businessmen are supplying Iraqis with economic advice. (The Economist, August 23)
Jan 1998 Cementing their recent military pact, Israel and Turkey hold joint naval exercises. This new relationship between these two traditional foes which border Syria led to heightened diplomatic efforts by Assad to secure Syria's position and security within the region. (The Economist, June 27, 1998)
Feb 9, 1998 President Assad stripped his youngest brother Rifaat of his post as one of Syria's three vice presidents. Rifaat previously had been exiled for trying to overthrow his brother after the president suffered a heart attack. (AFP)
Jul 16, 1998 President Assad visits France, marking his first state visit to a Western country in 22 years. Representatives of human rights groups and Jewish groups protested his presence and the red-carpet treatment he received in France. (AFP)
Oct 1998 Tensions between Syria and Turkey intensify. Turkey is demanding the extradition from Syria of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, as Syria continues its demands for a guarantee to water from the Euphrates River (the head of which is in Turkey). Egyptian President Mubarek is brought in to mediate between the 2 countries. (The Economist, October 10)
Oct 20, 1998 Syria agrees to not give any support to the Kurdish separatist group, PKK, and to not allow its leader, Abdullah Ocalan, into Syria. Ocalan is forced to leave Syria as a result and is later arrested. (The Economist, October 24)
Dec 1, 1998 The outlawed Syrian opposition group Moslem Brotherhood dismissed the upcoming Syrian elections as a sham intended to maintain Assad's status quo. (AFP)
Dec 3, 1998 Assad's ruling coalition, the National Progressive Front, retained power following Syrian legislative elections. (AFP)
Feb 10, 1999 President Hafez al-Assad wins a fifth seven-year term as president, winning 99.98% of the 9 million votes cast in a national referendum. Assad was the sole candidate for president. (Kaleidoscope)
Jun 19 - 19, 2000 Bashar Al-Assad, the Alawite son of former Ba'ath party leader Hafez Al-Assad, assumed his father's post. The Irish Times, 6/19/2000, "Bashar Takes Father's Party Post Today"


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Information current as of July 16, 2010