Beirut, June 9 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News – 9th Jun, 2020 ) :Bashar al-Assad’s rise to power after three decades of his father’s iron-fisted rule raised hope of democratic opening. But 20 years later, Syria is isolated and war-ravaged.
Crumbling under a stinging economic downturn, Western sanctions and nine years of war, Syria today is a far cry from the vision Assad projected when he was propelled to the presidency a month after his father Hafez died on June 10, 2000.
“There was a good deal of anxiety in the early stages, as Syria hadn’t experienced a peaceful transition of power in decades and Hafez al-Assad was all many people knew,” said Faysal Itani of the Center for Global Policy.
But “soon this all subsided as Bashar settled in and projected this aura of modernity, youth, and openness”.
Sworn in at the age of 34, the London-trained ophthalmologist exuded the aura of a reformer who could fundamentally alter Syrian politics through economic liberalisation and a limited opening to the West.
His ascension to the presidency, a year after Jordan and Morocco crowned new kings, added to the impression that a tide of change was sweeping the region.
For a brief period after he was voted in through a single-candidate poll, Syria saw a surge in political debate and activism, after almost 40 years of emergency law.
This burst in political activity was inconceivable under the rule of Hafez, whose forces notoriously carried out a 1982 massacre in Hama following an Islamist uprising.
“Bashar was a very different character from the other prominent figures in the regime,” said Syria expert Daniel Neep.
He was only second in line until his older brother Bassel died in a 1994 car accident.
“In a country that had not seen any significant political or economic opening for over a decade, Bashar’s ascension to the presidency appeared to signal the promise of long-overdue reform,” said Neep, assistant professor at Georgetown University.