|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 Battallion, Syrian Arab Republican Guard.
|Awards||Hero of the Republic
Order of Salahaddin
Bassel al-Assad (Arabic: باسل الأسد, Bāssel al Assad; 23 March 1962 – 21 January 1994) was the eldest son of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and the older brother of President Bashar al-Assad. He was widely expected to succeed his father had it not been for his own death in a car accident.
Early life and education
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."
Career and succession
Trained in parachute-jumping, Assad 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 Hafez Assad recovered from a serious illness in 1984, Bassel began to accompany his father in his visits.
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 Bassel Assad as "the golden knight" due to his prowess in horsemanship. Bassel 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 President Hafez Assad's younger brother Rifaat al-Assad was his chosen successor, but he unsuccessfully attempted to replace him when Hafez was in a coma in 1984. Following this incident, Bassel Assad was groomed to succeed his father. However, elder Assad's efforts intensified to make him to be the next president of Syria in the early 1990s. Since his last election victory in 1991, President Hafez Assad was publicly referred to as "Abu Basil" (Father of Bassel). 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. 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.
Bassel 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 Gebran Tueni.
Death and burial
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. A chauffeur in the back seat was unhurt. Bassel Assad's body was taken to Al Assad University Hospital. Then his body was buried in Qardaha in northern Syria where his father's body was also later buried.
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, a military academy, and an airport 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.
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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