Constitutional Demonstrations in Syria 1973

[ 1973 ]

In March 1973, the Permanent Constitution went into effect, further strengthening Assad's already formidable presidential authority. However, the Assad regime was not without underlying tension. This tension stemmed from sectarian differences between the majority Sunni Muslims and the minority Alawis; but it had much wider implications, not the least of which were political. The immediate focus of the opposition to the regime was the demand by Sunni Muslims that Islam be declared the state religion in the constitution. The draft constitution that was adopted by the People's Council at the end of January 1973 had no provision to that effect. Viewing the constitution as the product of an Alawi-dominated, secular, Baathist ruling elite, Sunni militants staged a series of riots in February 1973 in conservative and predominantly Sunni cities such as Hamah and Homs. A number of demonstrators were killed and wounded in clashes between the troops and demonstrators. As a result of these demonstrations, the Assad regime had the draft charter amended to include a provision that the president of Syria must be a Muslim. Implicit in this amendment was a declaration that Alawis are Muslims--a formula not accepted by many Sunni Muslims. The draft was approved in a popular referendum held in mid-March for formal promulgation. Assad's compromise, coupled with the government's effective security measures, calmed the situation, but sporadic demonstrations continued through April 1973.

Related Conflicts

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