- Pathfinder

Reply To: Several leaders are mentioned in Lecture 2. Pick one of the leaders who impacted Syrian history and discuss how their leadership qualities, or lack thereof, influenced the course of Syrian history.

Joshua Johnson

Michel Aflaq was a Syrian leader who influenced Syrian history tremendously. Aflaq was born a Syrian Christian in Damascus. His life’s work was dedicated to Arab nationalism, the idea that Arabs should have their own state which reflects Arab values, culture, and language. Aflaq joined with Qustantin Zuraiq, another Arab Orthodox Christian, to advocate for an Arab state. While Zuraiq, even from a Christian perspective, publicly advocated for Islam and indicated that an Arab state needed Islam to survive, Aflaq ended up leaving Christianity and converting to Islam. From his fellow friend that he met at the Sorbonne, Salah Al-Bitar, the two ended up founding the the Arab Ihya (Arab Revitalization) movement, which became the Ba’ath (Renaissance) Party. This endeavour was a response to French occupation and the annexation of land by the hand of the Turks. The Ba’ath party was clearly anti-imperialist, bourgeois, and wanted workers and peasants to take on leadership roles and overthrow the rules; in short, it was a socialist-inspired movement. The Party took over on March 8, 1963, and seized power in a coup. The Ba’ath Party is now the party of the incumbent Assad family, first Hafez al-Assad in 1971, and his son Bashar al-Assad in 2000. Without Michel Aflaq, the current situation in Syria, for better or for worse, would be impossibly different. Therefore, this strong figure is indispensable for Syrian and Middle Eastern history, and his strength as a pan-Arab leader cannot be gainsaid.