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Syria: Shishakli Dictatorship
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > After Independence > Shishakli Dictatorship


On December 19, 1949, army leadership changed hands when Colonel Adib Shishakli arrested Hinnawi and accused him of conspiring with a foreign power -- Iraq -- against Syrian interests. While the army waited, civilian politicians tried to stabilize the government, and on September 4, 1950, the Constituent Assembly approved a new constitution and reconstituted itself as the Chamber of Deputies. But the leaderless civilians were unable to maintain authority. Inflation produced dissatisfaction in the cities, and hoarding, unemployment, and rioting followed. An economic dispute with the Lebanese, who were opposed to Syria's protective tariffs policy, led to the breaking of the seven-year- old economic agreement between the countries. Increasing opposition to army influence -- Shishakli demanded that the minister of national defense be his specially selected follower, Major General Fawzi Silu -- forced Shishakli's hand. On November 28, 1951, he carried out the country's third coup by arresting the cabinet ministers and appointing Silu prime minister. Shishakli exercised blatant dictatorial control, tightening his hold over the civil service and the courts and legislating by decree. On April 6, 1952, he abolished all political parties and tried to fill the vacuum by creating his own party -- the Arab Liberation Movement (ALM).

In a July 1953 referendum, Syrians approved a new constitution making Syria a presidential republic with Shishakli as president. The subsequent Chamber of Deputies was packed with ALM deputies, the other parties having boycotted the election.

Signs that Shishakli's regime would collapse appeared at the end of 1953 with student strikes and the circulation of unusually virulent pamphlets urging sedition. The major political parties, meeting at Homs in September, agreed to resist and overthrow Shishakli. Trouble developed among the Druzes, and Shishakli declared martial law. The army, infiltrated by Shishakli's opponents, staged Syria's fourth coup on February 25, 1954, and restored the 1949 government.

Data as of April 1987

Last Updated: April 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Syria was first published in 1991. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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