Bassel al-Assad : biography
Bassel al-Assad (Arabic: باسل الأسد, Bāssel al Assad) (23 March 1962 – 21 January 1994) was the eldest son of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and the older brother of President Bashar al-Assad.
After his death, shops, schools and public offices in Syria closed for three days, and luxury hotels suspended the sale of alcohol in respect. Bassel Assad was elevated by the state into "the martyr of the country, the martyr of the nation and the symbol for its youth." Numerous squares and streets were named after him. The new international swimming complex, various hospitals, sporting clubs and a military academy were also named after him. His statue is found in several Syrian cities, and even after his death he is often pictured on billboards with his father and brother. He is buried in Qardaha, his father's village of birth, in a large mausoleum, where Hafez al-Assad was laid to rest beside him in 2000.
Death and burial
Photo from a political poster On 21 January 1994, driving his Mercedes at high speed through fog to Damascus International Airport for a flight to Germany in the early hours of the morning, Bassel is said to have collided with a motorway roundabout without wearing a seatbelt, and he died instantly. It was reported that his cousin, Hafez Makhlouf, was with him and hospitalized with injuries after the accident. Bassel Assad's body was taken to Al Assad University Hospital. Then his body was buried in Qordaha in northern Syria where his father's body was also buried.
Assad is said to have spoken French and Russian fluently. According to leaked US diplomatic cables, he had an affair with a Lebanese woman, who later married Lebanese journalist and deputy late Gebran Tueni.
Career and succession
Although Assad had studied mechanical engineering, he chose a military career. He was commissioned in the Special Forces and later switched to the armoured corps after training in the Soviet Military Academies. He rapidly became a major and then commander of a battallion in the Republican Guard. He was also appointed head of presidential security. In addition, he launched the Syrian Computer Society in 1989, which later headed by his brother Bashar.
From a young age, Bassel Assad was groomed to succeed his father, President Hafez Assad. After Hafez Assad recovered from a serious illness in 1984, Bassel began to accompany his father in his visits.
Bassel Assad organized a highly publicized anti-corruption campaign within the regime, and frequently appeared in full military uniform at official receptions, signaling the regime's commitment to the armed forces. He was also head of Syria's computer association. In 1988, regarding his relations with his father he told Patrick Seale "we saw father at home but he was so busy that three days could go by without us exchanging a word with him. We never had breakfast or dinner together, and I don't remember ever having lunch together as a family, or maybe we only did once or twice when state affairs were involved. As a family, we used to spend a day or two in Lattakia in the summer, but then too he used to work in the office and we didn't get to see much of him."
Since his last election victory in 1991, President Hafez Assad was publicly referred to as “Abu Basil” (Father of Bassel). The Baath Party press in Syria long ago eulogised Bassel Assad as “the golden knight” due to his prowess in horsemanship. He first emerged on the national scene in 1987, when he won several equestrian medals at a regional tournament. He also had a reputation for his interest in fast cars. It was said by officials in Damascus that Bassel Assad was uncorrupted and honest. His friends and teachers describe Bassel as charismatic and commanding.
He was being introduced to European and Arab leaders at that period, and he was a close friend of the children of King Hussein of Jordan. He had been also introduced to King Fahd and then Lebanese leaders of all sects. Assad had a significant role in Lebanese affairs.
Early life and education
Bassel Assad was born on 23 March 1962. He was trained as a mechanical engineer. He was also trained in parachute-jumping.
Bassel Assad's death led to his lesser-known brother Bashar al-Assad, then undertaking postgraduate training in ophthalmology in London, assuming the mantle of President-in-waiting. Bashar Assad became President following the death of Hafez Assad on 10 June 2000. Bassel Assad's posters and his name were also used to secure a smooth transition after Hafez Assad through the slogan "Basil, the Example: Bashar, the Future."
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