The Children of Hafez al-Assad

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There is something really strange about the children of Hafez al-Assad.

The older son Basil al-Assad, who died in a car crash in January of 1994, was known for his acrimonious anger and uncontrollable disposition. He was involved personally in tortures as part of his education to subjugate the masses to his own iron-fist rule as heir to the Syrian throne. In Syria, his mourning was utterly superficial as many Syrians rejoiced in his demise.

The youngest son, Majd, who died under mysterious conditions, had a very troubled life and showed many signs of instability starting as a child. He probably was the only Assad in the family one can pity, but then we know so little about him because he was kept a secret for a very long time. He died in December of 2009 at the age of 43.

Maher al-Assad is a savage man with a keen propensity to kill in large numbers. In this video taken in July of 2008, we see Maher al-Assad inspecting and filming the massacre at Sednaya prison as one more trophy for his museum of horrors. His troops, during the last 6 months, were responsible for killing, kidnapping, and burying in mass graves hundreds of Syrians, including the torture and killing of 13-year old Hamza al-Khateeb.

Then you have Baschar, the “reformer” according to many in Washington who decidedly attempted to play the odds on him and were quite patient with him. They reasoned, if we have three “gone bad” sons, the odds are the fourth one is sane and reasonable.

As it turned out, with the exception of Majd, all three brothers are as violent as they come. The same people who supported this tall young man with blue eyes standing by his lovely wife so well put together are shocked at the skeleton in his closet. They are in fact speechless. Thanks to the hundreds of Syrian youths risking their lives on a daily basis to open Assad’s closet and to Amb. Ford in Damascus, whose bold initiatives rarely seen by State Department Officials, they have helped many to understand the Assad regime in ways Assad’s propaganda churned 24 hours to hide.

It was difficult for many to come to grip with Baschar’s real world because he was  able to hide his barbaric tendencies under a veil of rationalism and pragmatism. Baschar and his cronies were good at playing the “stability card”, which does not take into account the Syrian people or their future, but they did not manage the ancillary elements to maintain that stability (i.e. wrapping the Syrian Flag around the Mullahs in Iran, arming Hezbollah to the teeth, supporting terror in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, etc..). It was a mistake of gargantuan proportions.

At the end, it all unraveled because Baschar is not Hafez. What would Hafez have done when US troops entered Iraq? What would he have done when Iran came calling? What would he have done when Hezbollah became uncontrollable? What would he have done to help or stymie Hamas in Gaza? We will never know but given his record of survival, definitely not what his son did.


  • Don Cox 13 years ago

    Compare the sons of Hafez with the sons of Saddam. Or other brutal tyrants throughout history.

    Men with brutal, tyrannical fathers are unlikely to grow up calm and reasonable.

    • You are absolutely correct. They train them in their own image to continue the tradition of violence and oppression. We will probably hear many stories about Qaddafi’s sons once the new transitional government has time to comb the trove of paperwork left behind.

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