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|Born||23 March 1962
|Died||21 January 1994
|Service/branch||Syrian Arab Army|
|Years of service||1983–1994|
|Unit||2nd Special Forces Regiment, 14th Airborne Division
|Commands held||42nd Special Forces Regiment
12th Armoured Battalion, Syrian Arab Republican Guard.
|Awards||Hero of the Republic
Order of Salahaddin
Bassel al-Assad (also Basil; Arabic: باسل الأسد, Bāssel al Assad; 23 March 1962 – 21 January 1994) was the eldest son of Hafez al-Assad and the older brother of the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.
It was widely expected that he would succeed his father until Bassel died in a car accident.
Early life and education
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.
Career and succession
Trained in parachute-jumping, he was commissioned in the Special Forces and later switched to the armored corps after training in the Soviet Military Academies. He rapidly became a major and then commander of a brigade in the Republican Guard. After his father recovered from a serious illness in 1984, Bassel began to accompany him.
He first emerged on the national scene in 1987, when he won several equestrian medals at a regional tournament. The Baath Party press in Syria long ago eulogised him as "the golden knight" because of his prowess in horsemanship.
He also had a reputation for his interest in fast cars. It was said by officials in Damascus that he was uncorrupted and honest. His friends and teachers describe him as charismatic and commanding.
Originally his uncle, Rifaat al-Assad was his chosen successor but attempted to replace Hafez, who was in a coma in 1984. Following the incident, Bassel was groomed to succeed his father. However, Hafiz's efforts intensified to make him to be the next president of Syria in the early 1990s.
Since his last election victory in 1991, the president was publicly referred to as "Abu Basil" (Father of Bassel). He was then being introduced to European and Arab leaders, and he was a close friend of the children of King Hussein of Jordan. He had been also introduced to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and then to Lebanese leaders of all sects.
He had a significant role in Lebanese affairs. He organized a highly publicized anti-corruption campaign within the regime and frequently appeared in full military uniform at official receptions to signal the regime's commitment to the armed forces.
Bassel is said to have spoken French and Russian fluently. According to leaked US diplomatic cables, he had a relationship with a Lebanese woman, who later married Lebanese journalist and deputy Gebran Tueni.
Death and burial
On 21 January 1994, while he was driving his Mercedes at a 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 was hospitalized with injuries after the accident. A chauffeur in the back seat was unhurt.
After his death, shops, schools and public offices in Syria closed for three days, and luxury hotels suspended the sale of alcohol in respect. He 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 named after him. The international airport in Latakia was named after him, Bassel Al Assad international airport. His statue is found in several Syrian cities, and even after his death, he is often pictured on billboards with his father and brother.
Bassel Assad's death led to his lesser-known brother, Bashar al-Assad, who was then undertaking postgraduate training in ophthalmology in London and assumed the mantle of president-in-waiting. He became President following the death of his father, 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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