Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A People's History of Syria--Part 15: 1953 to 1954 Period

On July 4, 1953, “representatives of all” Syrian political “parties and groups hostile to Syrian military dictator Shishakli met secretly” and “put their signatures to a National Pact which was, in effect, a pledge to bring the” Syrian “dictator down,” according to Patrick Seale’s The Struggle For Syria.

But on July. 10, 1953, Shishakli was still elected president of the Syrian republic, following “a referendum in which a new Syrian constitution was approved by a large majority (primarily because the opposition parties boycotted the referendum and the fact that Shishakli supporters `stuffed’ the ballot boxes),” according to David Lesch’s Syria and The United States; and on Oct. 9, 1953 general elections were held for the Syrian parliament which were described “as being held…with the rigging of voters.” And, as a result, “Shishakli felt secure enough in his position to allow a certain amount of freedom of the press and initiate democratic reform” so that “anti-Shishakli criticism surfaced in certain sections of the” Syrian “press, in pamphlets distributed throughout the country, and at organized meetings,” according to the same book.

Anti-Shishakli student protests then soon broke out in Aleppo in early December 1953. As Syria and The United States recalled:

“The growing opposition to Shishakli manifested itself in December 1953, when there occurred violent student demonstrations against the regime in Damascus and Aleppo. The Syrian University was closed down in January 1954 for fear of further disturbances. The opposition press attacked the regime for its dealings with the Zionists and the `creators of the Zionist state,’ the United States and Britain…”

But on Feb. 25, 1954, Shishakli (who had previously deposited his money in a foreign bank account) was overthrown in a military coup and allowed to go into exile. As Syria and The United States observed:

“The Syrian president [Shishakli] was overthrown by a group of…officers, led by Colonel `Adnan al-Malki, in a bloodless coup on Feb. 25, 1954. This section of the army had become dissatisfied with Shishakli’s arbitrary dismissals and transfers, as well as the totalitarian manner in which he was running the military and civilian bureaucracies…Some of the officers had family ties with the civilian politicians who were ordered arrested by Shishakli at the end of January…in his attempt to crackdown on the opposition.”

After the Feb. 25, 1954 Syrian military coup that overthrew the undemocratic Shishakli regime, according to the same book, the following then happened in Syria:

“Agreement was reached among the leaders of the political parties to revert to the constitution of 1950, dissolve the Shishakli parliament, and install Hashim al-Atassi, as president, a position from which he had been removed by Shishakli in December of 1951. A right-wing coalition government of Nationalists and Populists was formed on March 1 [1954] led by Prime Minister Sabri al-Assali, and the holding of parliamentary elections was promised.”

But according to Syria and The United States, this “Assali coalition” government “was weak and divided, and in reality, subservient to the pro-Baathist army faction led by Colonel ‘Adnan al-Maliki, who led the coup against Shishakli;” and, “the Baath” was associated “with various elements of the Syrian army, which would soon become the final political arbiter in the country.” So on June 19, 1954 the “Assali regime in Syria was replaced” by a non-partisan government led by Said al-Ghazzi,” according to the same book; and in September 1954 members of Syria’s parliament were chosen by Syrian voters in a free, democratic election.

(end of part 15)

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