A 'Swap Deal'! Long-Exiled Rifaat Al Assad Back in Syria. What's The Story?

Published October 11th, 2021 - 09:08 GMT
Rifaat al-Assad
Rifaat al-Assad during an interview with AP in his office in Marbella, southern Spain, May 27 2005. [Photo: AFP]

ALBAWABA – Rifaat Al Assad is back in Damascus off course at the courtesy of the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad who allowed his uncle to return after 36 years in exile in Paris. But there is more than meets the eye.

According to press reports Rifaat Al Assad had to go back or face a four-year jail sentence which a French Court of Appeal upheld against the man who fled Syria in 1984 after a claimed coup attempt against his brother Hafez Al Assad who ruled Syria from 1971 till 2000 according to AFP. The plot thickens and becomes interesting, raising questions about why he was allowed to settle in France. 

But this is somewhat confusing because up until then he was very much related to the Baath regime which his brother led. Rifaat had put down will all his bloody might the so-called Hama Uprising of 1982. He was called the “Butcher of Hama” and known for his ferocity. Has was mainly a Sunni area. In Syrian politics the sectarian card was always embedded as the Assad rulers were from the Alwaite minority.

According to the Syrian Al Watan  Rifaat Al Assad had landed in Damascus last Thursday. However, he will play no role in Syria’s public life and will be treated like an ordinary citizen like just any other. The Syrian president spelt this fact out and thus at 84 Rifaat will likely spend his days in a subdued manner. 

One post mocks at the recent “swap” off. He spent the last 40 years in France living in prosperity after he oppressed the Syrian people through heading the Defence Brigades and no complaint was ever filed against him but in the last years he was accused of money laundry and other administrative issues. As for the massacres, the French justice did not address him.

On the Hama massacre the Anadolu news agency points out the carnage took place on 2-28 February 1982 with the slaughter of 20,000 civilians. Relying on witness accounts the agency reports “in an operation led by al-Assad’s brother, Rifaat al-Assad, Hama city was cordoned off and bombed before troops stormed in to slaughter civilians.”

Another social post put it this way: They allowed him to run so they could get their hands on his finances which he stole from the Syrian people for the interests of France.

The AFP adds Rifaat Al Assad was allowed to leave France without his belongings which the Paris court also confiscated. He had real estate in France estimated at $106 million with Paris town houses, a stud farm and 40 apartments. This excludes his property portfolio in Spain estimated at around 695 million euros all of which were also confiscated in 2017. So in Damascus he may really live as an ordinary citizen.


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