Abdel Halim Khaddam’s speech on the anniversary of March 8- 2009

publisher: وكالات Agencies

Publishing date: 2009-03-08


Comrades of the Ba’ath Party in the civilian and military sectors: On the anniversary of the significant historical events that impact the lives and future of nations, there is talk about the repercussions of those events and their effects on the lives of citizens and the trajectory of the country.

The March 8th movement in 1963 was one of the major events that occurred in Syria during the twentieth century, deeply affecting the reality of the country and its future. Its effects will persist until another event occurs that opens the way to a new path, saving Syria from its ordeal and restoring freedom, vitality, and standing to the Syrian people, contributing to the rise and prosperity of Syria.

Discussing the March 8th movement after forty-six years should not be based on the atmosphere of that day but rather on what the event produced in terms of a profound impact on the country’s situation and the fate of the party and its course.

The goal is not to criticize or condemn those who carried out that movement or contributed to it because what they embarked on was driven by grand aspirations to build a new society and a strong state capable of achieving those aspirations. However, they failed to take into account the reality of the country or the significant harm that these aspirations could cause due to the inclination of certain groups to power, becoming prisoners of it. Some of those leaders were assassinated, some died in prison, and others were executed or died with a sense of bitterness and regret. The weakness, decay, backwardness, poverty, and fear that the country has reached under a regime where repression was its tool and corruption was its behavior call for reflection, review, and frank discussion. This is not only for the generations that lived through the events and outcomes of the March movement but also for the generations that followed so they can know the facts and realities, not through what the regime’s pens have written.

The goals of those who carried out the March movement were to build a society based on justice and equality, away from all forms of injustice and suffering, and a strong state to protect the homeland. Those leaders were characterized by integrity and stayed clear of anything that would harm their reputation, the party’s reputation, or the country’s reputation. However, they made significant mistakes in the path of achieving their goals.


The first and major mistake acknowledged by the party at that time was seizing power and replacing the party’s ideology, which was fundamentally based on two principles, freedom, and democracy, with a comprehensive revolutionary ideology unrelated to the country’s reality. This created a deep gap between the party and the people.

The party was the first victim of that change in its ideology, as it underwent a series of changes in its leadership through the use of force, making the party a captive of power. The second mistake committed by the party’s leadership at that time was its decision to consider the army an ideological or party army. This meant allegiance to the fundamental party in joining the armed forces. This decision led to the dismissal of hundreds of competent officers, and it completed a series of decisions liquidating the army in previous stages, starting with the coup of Hafez al-Zaim, then the coup of Adib al-Shishakli, and the coup against him. This was evident in the stage of unity with Egypt, followed by the dismissal of large numbers of Ba’athist officers and their friends. After that came the stage of separation, with further dismissals. Thus, the army lost the cream of its officers, and all these purges played a role in the defeat of June 1967, as well as in the failure to achieve the goals of the October 1973 war. This was evident in the enemy’s occupation of new territories, and it did not withdraw from them until the signing of the disengagement agreement, which placed the Golan Heights in Israel’s freezer.

The decision to politicize and ideologize the army was a wrong decision with its results because it deprived the armed forces of their national duties and structure. In later stages, it turned into a tool to protect the regime and the ruling family, weakening the country’s defense.


Following the June 1967 defeat, a new crisis emerged within the party and the state, focusing on how to face the defeat and liberate the Golan Heights. This led to the emergence of two currents within the party. The first, led by the party’s central leadership, held a radical revolutionary vision in domestic, Arab, and international arenas. The second current, led by General Hafez al-Assad, a member of the central leadership and the Minister of Defense, adopted a vision that emphasized the need to reconsider domestic and Arab policies. It aimed to achieve a breakthrough domestically by restoring national unity since the aggression was on the homeland, and it was the duty of the leadership to create conditions for citizens to contribute to defending their country and liberating their land. This current also called for achieving Arab solidarity as the responsibility of confronting the Arab-Israeli conflict was a comprehensive Arab responsibility.

The situation within the party and the state worsened between 1967 and November 1970. The decisive moment came on November 16, 1970, when an interim leadership was formed, led by Defense Minister General Hafez al-Assad. He made the decision to imprison members of the central and national leaderships. Only those on the brink of death were released, and the rest were freed after the death of Brigadier Salah Jadid.

These comrades spent more than twenty years in prison without trial or investigation. President Hafez al-Assad turned a deaf ear when members of the leadership raised the issue of the imprisoned leadership.

Undoubtedly, the seizure of power resulted in an unfamiliar foundation within the party: the use of force to seize power from others, bypassing all party rules and traditions. The new leaders in each stage spoke in the name of the party, declaring their struggle to achieve their goals while bypassing the party and its systems and values.


The aspirations of many in the party, both leaders and members, were for the March Movement to correct the major mistakes made in the previous stages between March 8, 1963, and November 16, 1970. Foremost among these was the desire to restore Syrian people’s freedom, strengthen national unity, establish a state of institutions within a democratic framework, unleash political freedom, achieve Arab solidarity, and liberate the Golan Heights.

In the first three years, the Progressive National Front was formed, a constitution was drafted for the country, and constitutional institutions were established. A new election law was introduced.

The major mistake made by President Hafez al-Assad was the complete monopoly of power and the establishment of constitutional institutions rendered impotent with figures that operated under presidential directives.

You all know, comrades, how parliamentary elections were conducted, and the parliament became a farcical stage, leading citizens to abstain from participating in the elections. At the same time, the cabinet transformed into an apparatus that executed the president’s directives or the requests of his relatives through the prime minister or ministers.

You all know, comrades, how corruption turned into a tool of power to dominate wealth and money.

The second major mistake committed by President Hafez al-Assad was allowing his family members to interfere in state affairs and governance apparatuses, engaging in corruption. They were the first to unleash the corruption epidemic in the country.


Let us question the status of the party and its position in the regime. Let us question the position of the National Front.

Does the party leadership lead the state and society?

You all know, comrades, that the party leadership at the central and branch levels is formed by the decision of the head of the regime and security apparatuses, making the party operate outside its scope. The new leaders in each stage spoke in the name of the party, declaring their struggle to achieve their goals while bypassing the party and its systems and values.

You all know, comrades, about this reality that led most party members to boycott party meetings.

The formation of the National Front seemed like a positive phenomenon, a step toward launching political freedom. However, what happened was that regime apparatuses worked to dismantle the Front’s parties. The major four main parties turned into a group of parties seeking the regime’s approval and that of its security apparatuses. This resulted in cutting ties between these parties and their bases and supporters.

President Hafez al-Assad replaced the political system with the security system, releasing his grip on the country, instilling fear among Ba’athists and Front parties first and then among citizens. Most of those working in these institutions became counterparts of the president’s family in practicing corruption and extorting citizens’ breaths, at a time when crimes of all kinds increased – robbery, theft, forgery, bribery, and drug trafficking. It is striking that the conditions of the Syrian people worsened, and their suffering increased. This is evident through the spread of poverty and hunger, unemployment, rising prices, lowered living standards, and economic development stagnation.


Since its establishment, the aspirations of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party have been to liberate Palestine. Today, however, we see that a significant part of Syrian territory is occupied by Israel.

The party’s aspirations included achieving Arab unity, yet today we witness a state of disintegration in national unity under this regime, coupled with a dangerous sectarian tension and a major national problem involving a segment of our people, namely the Kurdish community. This is due to the regime’s oppression, injustice, and arbitrariness.

Are you, comrades, satisfied with what is happening in the country?

Are you satisfied with the corruption that is corroding the state and stealing the bread from the mouths of citizens?

Are you satisfied with that group of regime relatives and the offspring of some officials who use their power to amass wealth, owning hundreds of millions while you find no job opportunities?

Comrades in the military, are you satisfied with the conditions of the armed forces that the regime has deprived of its national role, controlled by members of the ruling family? Can’t you see how the regime replaced the professional military with authoritarian control over the armed forces, using some to instill fear in others?


Anyone who imagines that this regime is susceptible to reform or development is mistaken. It has transformed into a structure from which only tyranny and corruption emerge.

Your national and party responsibility obliges you to contribute, along with all the forces of the people, to achieve change and free the country from a regime that Syria has never known in its long history, a regime marked more by corruption and tyranny.

Only change and the construction of a civil democratic state can allow Syria to rise, progress, and prosper. This will enable its people to liberate their land and reclaim their role in the advancement of the Arab nation.

Suppression, injustice, tyranny, and corruption are factors that lead to defeat, backwardness, and weakness. Freedom, justice, and equality within the framework of national unity produce security, stability, tranquility, and the liberation of the land.

Long live Syria, and long live the struggle of its people for freedom and the end of tyranny, establishing a civil democratic state.