TIMELINES: What dictator became president of Syria on March 12, 1971?

March 12, 2012 Updated: September 29, 2015

Monday, March 12, 2012


March 12, 1971, after taking over power in a coup, Hafez Assad becomes president of Syria, beginning a long history of brutal suppression in the country. As a member of the Ba’ath Party, Assad’s socialist regime, supported by the Soviet Union, ruthlessly eliminates dissenters with an aggressive campaign of suppression including arrests, torture, and execution. In 1982, the regime cracks down on an Islamic rebellion in Hama resulting in the deaths of 20,000 people and near destruction of the city. During his rule, Assad consolidates power and upon his death in 2000, his son Bashar Assad takes over the presidency, continuing his father’s tradition of intolerance.


Today, more than a year after protests opposing Bashar Assad’s regime began, the government’s violent crackdown on the opposition persists, even as world leaders call for Assad to step down and debate how to resolve the situation on Syria. Last week, in an effort to broker a diplomatic solution to the violence, the United Nations sent former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as its envoy to meet with Assad in Syria to seek a cease-fire. Amid failing hopes for a diplomatic solution, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) made the most aggressive call for action yet, advocating for U.S.-led airstrikes to help the Syrian opposition.