Filmmaker: Suhaib Abu Doulah
Since its independence from France in 1946, Syria has been rocked by periods of political instability.
As the colonial hold of the great powers began to fade and the region witnessed a wave of Arab nationalism, Syria shifted through a succession of military coups.
But in 1970, Hafez al-Assad, an ambitious minister of defence, seized control. Rising from a humble background in western Syria, he was to rule the country for 30 years.
His was an autocratic one-party state in which any dissent was ruthlessly suppressed. Following the death of Hafez in 2000, father was succeeded by son – Bashar al-Assad took the reigns and a dynasty was born.
In 2011, with the region in revolt, the al-Assad regime was challenged. The result is an ongoing civil war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of casualties and has displaced millions.
This two-part documentary on the history of modern Syria provides deeper context to the war and charts the rise of the Baath party and the emergence of the Assad political dynasty.
Bedevilled by instability, Syria was to become a totalitarian state.
Interviews with Syrian analysts, political figures and former army officers, intercut with archive, tell the story of Hafez al-Assad’s iron rule and his suppression of religious revivalism and popular will in the past. Yet these powerful grassroots and communal forces could not be stifled indefinitely.
“Unity was undoubtedly the aspiration of all Arab nations. An entire generation lived the ideology of Arab nationalism,” explains Najib al-Ghadban of Arkansas University. “All Arabs have the right to express their hope of a single, unified state. There was nothing wrong with the idea but its implementation was wrong.”
Syria: The Reckoning tells the story of the past and brings it right up to the present to provide deeper historical context to the events of today as war continues to rage in Syria with the unleashing of many of the forces which had been previously repressed.
“The Baath party agreed to the annulment of freedom in Syria. It allowed the country to be ruled by a regime that didn’t allow freedom and banned the formation of parties. This led to splits in the Arab Socialist Baath Party,” says Dafi al-Jamaani, a former Baath party leader.