From Hafez to Bashar

Hafez al-Assad joins the Baath Party as a student activist.

Unable to afford medical studies, Hafez enrolls in Homs Military Academy and graduates as a pilot.

A group of Syrian Baathist officers exiled to Egypt during the countries’ union—including Hafez—form a military committee with the intention of eventually seizing power in Syria.

March 8, 1963
Originally planned by the military committee for March 7, the coup was delayed 24 hours after its plans were discovered. But that didn’t stop the Baath Party from sweeping into power the following day. Hafez later becomes commander of the Air Force.

A series of failed internal coups leaves the Syrian government in constant flux until Hafez is installed as minister of defense in 1966, making him the second-most-powerful man in the country.

With the military on his side, Hafez overthrows his colleagues in the military committee in two coups en route to securing power.

Hafez becomes the leader of the Baath Party by arresting its previous leaders and assumes the presidency shortly after his endorsement by Syria’s Air Force.

Hafez teams with Egypt and a number of other countries to launch the Yom Kippur war against Israel. Although Israel would eventually seize territory in the Golan Heights previously claimed by Syria, Hafez declares himself victorious.

In an escalation of the government’s conflict with Sunni Muslims, Hafez orders a series of crackdowns on the group, including the siege of Aleppo, which killed more than 100 people, and the Hama massacre, which left between 30,000 Syrians dead.

January 1994
Hafez’s first son and the presumed inheritor of the presidency, Basil, crashes his car on the way to Damascus International Airport and dies instantly.

January 1994
Hafez’s second son, Bashar, training as an ophthalmologist in England, receives news of his brother’s death and is ordered to return to Syria.

June 2000
After years of declining health, Hafez dies of a heart attack and is later buried with his son Basil in al-Qardaha. Although he hadn’t previously harbored any political ambitions, Bashar is immediately touted as a potential reformer as he succeeds his father as president, commander in chief of the Army, and leader of the Baath Party.

December 2000
Bashar marries British-born Syrian Asma al-Akhras, whom he met while studying in England.

The Arab Spring breaks out across the Middle East and quickly extends into Syria, starting a prolonged civil war in the country between the Assad regime and rebels determined to overthrow his government.