Michael Massman and Danny Cruser
Following nearly 400 years of Ottoman
Rule, the Arabic Kingdom of Syria as
This lasted only a few months, as French
troops soon occupied Syria following action
by the League of Nations to put the country
under French Mandate
WWII lead to the beginnings of a transition
of power, and in 1946, internal pressures
led the French troops to leave the country
Power left in the hands of a republican
government that had been formed under
Rapid economic development in post-
Series of military coups from 1949 to
1951. Colonel Adib Shishakli seize
power in 1951, overthrown in 1954 coup
Emergence of Arab Nationalist and
Socialist elements lead to a 1958 merge
with Egypt to create the United Arab
After a military coup in 1961, the UAR broke
about and Syria was reestablished as the SAR
Another series of coups lead to the
establishment of National Council of the
Revolutionary Command by the Arab Socialist
Resurrection Party (Ba’ath Party)
Plans for a federation type unification with
Egypt and Iraq were proposed but didn’t go
anywhere. President Amin Hafiz establish
several institutions commonly found in
Coups occurred within the Ba’ath party in 1966
Minister of Defense who led the 1970
coup to become prime minister.
Quickly created governing infrastructure
in order to consolidate power.
Formed legislature, elected president,
and, in 1973, a new constitution that
allowed for the first parliamentary
elections since 1962
Has faced internal criticism before, often quickly
1970’s – fundamentalist Sunni Muslims
Rejected basic values of secular Ba’ath program
1976-1982 – Muslim Brotherhood headed an armed
In 1982, government acted out against oppostion,
destroying parts of the city of Hama and killing
After that, anti-regime activity has been very limited
From 1990 involvement with first Gulf War, change in
relations with the Middle East and West
In 2000, Hafiz Al-Asad died. The
parliament amended to constitution to
allow Bashar to run.
Bashar won an unopposed referendum
with 97.29% of the vote, reelected in
2007 with 97.6%.
Little to none political reform, limited
Limited cooperation with US post 9/11
deteriorated with the onset of Iraq War
US impose sanctions, freeze certain
Key issues with US and Middle East
Neighbors included Iraq War, Lebanon,
Beginning in 2009, US began to engage
Syria, Ambassador returned
Constitution grants Ba’ath Party many of the
leadership functions of the state.
No official religion (Ba’ath party emphasizes
socialism, secularism) but president must be Muslim.
Islamic jurisprudence is the basis for much of the
legal system. Also influenced by French and
Ottoman legal systems.
Constitution offers many protections but Emergency
Law, which suspends these, has been in effect since
Asad is a member of a minority Shi’a sect; most
Syrians are Sunnis.
Military and security services have strong economic
and political influence.
Described by the US State Department
as “an authoritarian regime that exhibits
only the forms of a democratic system.”
Citizens have the right to vote for the
president and parliaments, but can’t
oppose or change their government.
Regime’s continuing strength due, in
part, to the “army’s continued loyalty and
the effectiveness of [the] large security
Syria is a middle-income, developing
country. PPP/c $2314.94 in 1990 to
$5107.93 in 2010. 12% below poverty
Approx. ½ of economy is based on
agriculture and oil, with the rest being
based on industry, tourism, etc.
Major challenges to growth
Current unemployment estimated
between 10 and 14 %
Polity Score of -7
as “Not Free”
Press laws limit
15 March – Protests began after a group of school boys were
arrested for writing antigovernment graffiti.
16 March - “Silent” protests over the arrests
18 March - Demonstrations in Dera’a demanding political freedom
and an end to corruption in Syria.
20 March - People continue to demand an end to Syria’s long-
running emergency law banning political opposition. Crowds set fire
to headquarters of the Ba’ath Party in Dera’a.
23 March - Reports of Syrian forces killing six people in an attack
on protesters in Dera’a, and later the same day opening fire on
hundreds of youths marching in solidarity. Faysal Kalthum, regional
governor of Dera’a, sacked by President Asad.
24 March - President Assad’s advisers say the president has
ordered the formation of a committee to raise living standards and
study scrapping the emergency law.
25 March - More protests at funeral processions. Many arrested,
but believed to have been released
26 March - Clashes between security forces and protesters in the coastal city of
Latakia kill another 12, according to Syria's state news agency. President Asad
deploys the army there the next day. In an attempt to placate protesters, Asad
frees 260 prisoners, and 16 more the next day.
27 March - Army increases its presence in Dera’a.
28 March - Security forces fire into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in
Dera’a. Reports of pro-government rallies taking place across the country.
Amnesty International cites unconfirmed reports saying 37 more people had
been killed since 25 March in protests in Damascus, Latakia, Dera’a and
29 March - Resignation of government following weeks of protests. President
Assad appoints former government head Naji al-Otari as the new caretaker prime
30 March - President Asad delivers a speech for the first time since the protests
began, but does not announce any major reforms.
31 March - Asad orders an investigation into protest deaths in Dera’a and
Latakia. The Syrian state news agency says a panel will study and prepare
"legislation, including protecting the nation's security and the citizen's dignity…
paving the way for lifting the emergency law" by 25 April.
1 April - Up to eight people are killed after government forces use live
ammunition against protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma.
3 April - President Assad appoints Adel Safar, minister of agriculture in
the last cabinet, to form a new government.
4 April - Mohammad Khaled al-Hannus appointed governor of Dera’a.
8 April - Security forces open fire on protesters across Syria killing as
many as 26 people, mostly in Dera’a.
10 April - Reports of shooting, many injuries and 200 arrests in the
coastal town of Baniyas, 300km northwest of Damascus, following
clashes in the area.
11 April - Some 500 Damascus university students call for more
political freedom. According to the Syrian Human Rights League,
opposition figure, writer and journalist Fayez Sara, was arrested, as
well as bloggers, activists and young opposition supporters. According
to Human Rights Watch, there are reports of beatings and torture inside
1. Is Syria's situation more similar to that of Egypt or that of Libya? Why?
2. How does the lack of freedom of press affect the protests?
3. Do cultural differences affect the credible commitment problem? How
4. What will happen if emergency law concessions are not made by April
5. How does the resource curse affect Syria?
6. Are these protests spurred more by economic unrest or by the want for
democracy? Or both?
7. How has Syria’s unique religious situation impacted current events?