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The Corrective Movement, also referred to as the Corrective Revolution, began after a coup d'état led by Hafez al-Assad on 13 November 1970.[1] A reform program was later introduced on 16 November by Hafez al-Assad. The reforms are considered revolutionary in Syria, and they were introduced in order to sustain and improve the "nationalist socialist line" of the state and party.[2]

Assad started planning to seize power shortly after the failed Syrian military intervention in the Black September crisis in Jordan.[3] While Assad had been in de facto command of Syrian politics since 1969, Jadid and his supporters still held all the formal trappings of power.[3] After attending Nasser's funeral, Assad returned to Syria to attend the Emergency National Congress held on 30 October.[3] At the congress, Assad was condemned by Jadid and his supporters, the majority of the party delegates.[3] However, before attending the congress, Assad had ordered troops loyal to him to surround the building in which the congress was held.[3] Criticism of Assad's political position continued, but it took on a rather defeatist tone, with the majority of delegates already knowing they had lost the battle.[3] Assad and Tlass were stripped of their government posts at the congress, it, however, made little sense and had little practical influence.[3]

When the National Congress broke up on 12 November 1970, Assad ordered loyalists to arrests the leading members of Jadid's regime.[4] While many leading middle men were offered posts in Syria's embassies abroad, Jadid refused, telling Assad "If I ever take power you will be dragged through the streets until you die."[4] Assad, in response, imprisoned Jadid, and he spent the rest of his life at Mezze prison.[4] In many ways the coup was not a coup, there were no fatalities and the country remained calm.[4] The only proof to the outside world that something was going amiss was the fact that official dailies, radio- and televisions stations either stopped publishing or were off the air.[4] A Temporary Regional Command was established shortly after, and on 16 November the new regime published their first decree.[4]



Political reforms

Assad's faction, which was far smaller than the pro-Jadid faction, began recruiting Aflaqites to top positions to cement their power.[5] Assad appealed directly to Michel Aflaq sympathizers by stating "Let us rebuild together and if we fail our heads will all be on the block together".[5] An estimated 2,000 people responded to Assad's invitation, among them were party ideologist Georges Saddiqni and Shakir al-Fahham, one of the secretaries of the Ba'ath Party's founding congress in 1947.[6] However, despite trying to strengthened his hold on the party, when in a 1970 Regional Command meeting its members opposed Assad's motion of appointing a figurehead to lead the party, Assad went on establishing a separate power base away from the party.[7]

As part of his "corrective movement", Assad introduced, at the 11th National Congress, a general revision of national policy, which also included the introduction of measures to consolidate his rule. His Ba'athist predecessors had restricted control of Islam in public life and government.[8] Because the Constitution allowed only Muslims to became president,[9] Assad, unlike Jadid, presented himself as a pious Muslim. In order to gain support from the ulama—the educated Muslim class— he prayed in Sunni mosques, even though he was an Alawite. Among the measures he introduced were the raising in rank of some 2,000 religious functionaries and the appointment of an alim as minister of religious functionaries and construction of mosques. He appointed a little-known Sunni teacher, Ahmad al-Khatib, as Head of State in order to satisfy the Sunni majority.[8] Assad also appointed Sunnis to senior positions in the government, the military and the party. All of Assad's prime ministers, defense ministers and foreign ministers and a majority of his cabinet were Sunnis. In the early 1970s, he was verified as an authentic Muslim by the Sunni Mufti of Damascus and made the Hajj—the pilgrimage to Mecca. In his speeches, he often used terms such as jihad (a holy war) and shahada (martyrdom) when referring to fighting Israel.[9]

The coup turned Syria's social and political structures upside down. The Alawites, Assad's tribe, although no more than 12% of the population, came to occupy plum positions in every sector of life in Syria.[1]

Economic reforms

Assad reverted his predecessors policy of radical economic socialism, that is, an economy dominated by the state, and strengthened the private sectors role in the economy.[10] In many ways the Corrective Movement resulted in a tacit alliance between the political elite and the Damascene bourgeoise.

Foreign policy

The reforms also sought to normalize Syria's relations with the other Arab state (Syria had been isolated diplomatically during Jadid's short-lived rule).[10] Assad tried to establish working relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to establish the "so-called Cairo–Damascus–Riyadh axis" to strengthen security cooperation against Israel.[10] The cooperation agreement worked, and when Egypt and Syria failed to win the October War, Saudi Arabia and other oil producers stopped the selling of oil to the West.[10]


Among Syrians the Corrective Movement is universally known as the 16 November Day,[11] which is a national holiday[12]

When the communist regimes in the Eastern Bloc collapsed, an ideological crisis within the regime was generated.[13] However, Assad and his supporters hit back, stating that because of the "Corrective Movement under the leadership of the warrior Hafez al-Assad" the principles of economic and political pluralism, which had been introduced "by some two decades" beforehand, had already safeguarded the Syrian regime from a possible collapse.[13]

Later, on 27 January 2000, Syrian foreign minister Farouk al-Sharaa stated "I am not exaggerating when I say that the Corrective Movement, which took place in 1970 under the leadership of Hafez al-Assad ... has crystalized for the first time in modern Arab history a mature and realistic pan-Arab ideology."[14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Patrick Seale (15 June 2000). "Hafez al-Assad". Retrieved 19 March 2011.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "guardian" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Hinnebusch 2002, p. 61.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Seale 1990, p. 162.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Seale 1990, p. 164.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Seale 1990, p. 171.
  6. Seale 1990, pp. 171–172.
  7. Lefevre 2013, p. 12.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Alianak 2007, pp. 129–130.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Reich 1990, p. 55.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Freedmen 2002, p. 179.
  11. Weeden 1999, p. 42.
  12. Ayalon 1993, p. 670.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Ziser 2001, p. 47.
  14. Korany & Dessouki 2010, p. 430.


  • Alianak, Sonia (2007). Middle Eastern Leaders and Islam: A Precarious Equilibrium. Peter Lang. ISBN 9780820469249. 
  • Korany, Baghat; Dessouki, Ali (2010). The Foreign Policies of Arab States: The Challenge of Globalization. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 9774163605. 
  • Freedmen, Robert (1993). The Middle East After Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813012147. 
  • Freedmen, Robert (2002). The Middle East Enters the Twenty-first Century. University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813031109. 
  • Hinnebusch, Raymond (2001). Syria: Revolution from Above (1st ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415267793. 
  • Lefevre, Raphael (2013). Syria: Revolution from Above. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199365334. 
  • Seale, Patrick (1990). Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520069763. 
  • Reich, Bernard (1990). Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313262135. 
  • Ziser, Eyal (2001). Asad's Legacy: Syria in Transition. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. ISBN 9781850654506. 

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