Syria underwent an era of great history and development under the empire of ‘Greater Syria’ (Bilad al-Sham). Despite Syria having no record of being an independent sovereign nation, Syria under Bilad al-Sham began to focus on developing a national identity. It developed a notion of secular Arab nationalism in which religious and ethnic minorities had their individual sovereignties protected. Syria broke apart for the basic ideals proposed by the Arab-Islamic world and sought to unify the nation as a whole. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, ‘Greater Syria’ had also reached its end but the development of Syria as a nation did not cease.
Under the French mandate, however, Syria dealt with countless obstacles ranging from political and economic uncertainty to the fragmentation of the society. According to research analyst William I. Shorrock, Syria under the control of the mandate faced strategic difficulties which resulted in numerous revolts. France had divided Syria into fragments by splitting the territory along ethnic lines and giving a specific ethnic group authority of at region. However, some religious and ethnic minorities such as the Kurds, Armenians and various Christian sects were not given any form of political unity and geographic basis as those given to the Alawites and Druze. The disharmony that was created by the mandate often stirred chaos within the Syrian congress. Instead of further developing into a prosperous nation with the aid of the French, Syria decided to break apart from the mandate and develop on its own without any western guidance.
After gaining legitimacy from the French in 1946, Syria elected its first president, Shukri al-Quwatli which gave hope for a more prosperous Syria. President al-Quwatli invested in uncultivated land near the al-jazeera plains. Due to the immense richness of the soil, Syria had a huge economic boost because of the new agricultural industry. By the mid 1950’s Syria, under President al-Quwatli developed the capitalist laissez-faire system. However, because half of Syria is a desert, only 10% of the total land receives an adequate amount of rain to support the dry farm lands, the agriculture industry provided Syria with a stabilized economy for only a short period of time. Syrian citizens believed that in order for Syria to develop as a nation, the country must seek reforms such as drive investment, human development and market expansion, but the government under al-Quwatli’s control resisted the demands of the people. Several radical middle class parties emerged together to topple their oligarchic regime and replaced it with the Ba’ath party.
The original Ba’ath party was developed to strengthen the lower class and middle class of Syria. The Ba’athist ideology was comprised of nationalist entities along with social reformism. The Ba’ath party was aware that western imperialists seek to divide Arab nations into smaller states which is one of the main goals of the Ba’ath party was to unite the Arab world together. Under the Ba’athist party, Syrians were guaranteed social welfare services, labor rights, and regulation of private business in the national interest along with agrarian reform. The Ba’athist party led Syria into adopting socialist ideas and reforms which improved the living conditions of the low and middle class.
In 1971, General Hafez al-Assad took control of the Ba’ath party and became President of Syria under an authoritarian one party regime. Two years after he took power, President Hafez al-Assad took affirmative action in the development of Syria. He continued to carry on socialist ideals and reforms in his government and in 1973, he rebuilt Syria as a whole. He created a new stronger army that was able to defend its nation from terrorist attacks. He changed the laws and gave more benefits to the poor and also built many hospitals, schools and public institutions that were needed for a growing country. Syria’s economy significantly expanded in the 1970’s from state channeled investments and foreign aid from Arab oil producers into factories, railways, dams and irrigation projects. During his time in office, President Hafez al-Assad truly did turn Syria in the power of the Middle East. With advancements politically and militarily, Syria was quite successful.
Shortly after his death in 2000, his son Bashar al-Assad took power of Syria. Bashar al-Assad did his best to meet the demands of his people, he provided free healthcare services, and free education; Syrians did not have to pay any taxes, home mortgages or car payments. President Bashar al-Assad also kept Syria a giant home for people of all religions. He protected individual sovereignties and cared for his people. Syria is a Secular state meaning Jews, Christians, Muslims and Atheists were allowed to practice their religion freely without getting ridiculed. Religious tensions between opposing religions were not very prevalent because Syrian’s are not divided by religion but are united by being Syrian.
Unfortunately, in 2011, Syria was hit hard with an influx of terror. Till this day Syria is constantly fighting radical militants that entered Syria in order to topple the Syrian government. Three years into the war, Syria is standing strong and Syrians are loyal to their beloved President and together they will fight to rebuild a new and improved Syria.