The death of the butcher

At the Avicenne Hospital near the French capital, Paris, an 85-year-old man died on Tuesday morning, June 27. His death actually meant the end of a bloody chapter in the Middle East. This man, who has committed crimes against humanity in this life that he has not accounted for, is General Mustafa Tlas. He was Hafiz Assad's close friend, minister of defense and right arm during his ruling; he also shared all his sins.

On May 11, 1932 Mustafa Tlas, who was born as the son of a Sunni family in Rastan, near Humus, became a member of the Ba'ath Party in 1947. In 1963 he was appointed commander in charge of the central part of the country after actively participating in the coup which the Ba'ath had seized power of in Syria. Tlas, who supported Assad in the party struggle that he pushed for in 1970, was brought to the defense ministry in 1972 and remained in this position for 32 years until 2004. Mustafa Tlas, played an active role in the bloody suppression of the Syrian opposition during the events of 1980 and 1982, was influential at first when Bashar Assad was on the presidential seat in 2000. Tlas retired once he ensured Assad had received the consent of the army and bureaucracy, and had brought his son Menaf into an prominent position.
Shortly after the Arab spring raids in Syria, in spring 2011, Mustafa Tlas went to Paris, the capital of France, and settled down with his daughter. Tlas's sons, Menaf and Firas, openly opposed the regime, and Menaf Tlas earned a great reputation in the Western (and Turkish) press, speaking about his childhood friend Bashar Assad. Moreover, Menaf Tlas was even referred to as "the new leader of Syria" after Assad. His name is still referred to as the "transition period president."
The fact that the Tlas family, together with the Baath partnership, is identified with blood and tears, in the minds of a significant part of the Syrians and Menaf Tlas is identified as a leader, proves that a serious solution to Syrian affairs is not really wanted. Just as Mustafa Tlas himself is not repentant about his sins in the presence of the public, it is not clear to what extent he can withdraw from himself from the regime. Especially since Menaf Tlas, in a recent interview, said "My father was not responsible for the Hama events in 1982."

* * *

Mustafa Tlas was one of the few Sunni Muslims who could climb to the top of the, Iranian-backed, Nusayri minority government in Syria. Tlas, who operated with the mindset that he was a secular Ba'ath soldier, agreed very well with Hafız Assad and became symbolic as a practitioner of military oppression against Sunnis. Other Sunni actors (especially Faruk el Shara and Abdulhalim Haddam) identified with the Ba'th but were not able to stand out and gain the kind of affluence that Tlas had. 

Tlas's story was, in a way, a story of how the Assad regime was holding on in Syria. A Sunni mufti (Sheikh Ahmed Kuftaru, who served between 1964 and 2004), a Sunni charismatic scholar (Said Ramazan al Bûtî, the greatest supporter of the Assad family who was killed in Damascus in 2013) and a large number of Sunni businessmen and merchants benefited from the regime that carried soldiers like Mustafa Tlas to the top and formed a sociological base within Syria. Thus, the popular uprisings and political uprisings at various periods were rapidly marginalized and suppressed. Even when the regime used the most brutal military methods (at least 40,000 people were killed in the Hama Massacre in 1982), Ba'th's Sunni supporters favored the Assad administration. Said Ramazan al Bûtî, for example, defined the rebellion that started in Hama as "terror and misdeed," and provided the necessary theoretical and religious support for the regime. It is already known that Bhuti looked at the Muslim Brotherhood from this perspective since his early college years in Egypt.

When the popular uprising broke out in Syria, in 2011, very few people could see the sociological structures the regime was standing on. It is true that the misconception that Assad, who had "only a minority of 10 percent" and therefore "didn’t have the people’s support," would “be overthrown in a week” was widespread as society did not perceive the sociological and religious infrastructure. We watched and continue to watch the rest of this painful story unfold. 

* * *

Since the 1940s, there are two main reasons for tension in the Arab world: Israel and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood (and its derivatives) was often the source of real conflicts, while Israel was more of an "external enemy" for domestic public opinion. Not only in Syria, but in the recent history of Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, and Yemen ... there will be shaky quarrels soon roughly because of so-called 'political Islam'. The main reason we are witnessing the Qatar blockade is the serious support given by the Doha government. The countries that launch and support the blockade do not hide it.

The history of the Middle East must also be written in this respect, that is, in terms of the course of the relations of Islamic movements and political powers. Thus, we will be able to recognize the actors who struggle against the sociological or religious class to which we are belonging, as well as in the example of the Mustafa Tlas, both of which we can see clearly the line that these movements follow in the period.

+