Syria’s new PM’s violent past
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Syrian opposition has responded angrily to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tasking Riyad Hijab with forming the new Syrian government, appointing him as the new Syrian Prime Minister under presidential decree 194. At the time that the Syrian revolution began, the new Syrian prime minister was the Governor of Latakia Governorate, whilst he also headed a security committee whose mission was to monitor events in Latakia and the surrounding area. According to opposition political activists, this security committee was responsible for suppressing peaceful demonstrators, whilst it also ordered a number of massacres that occurred in Latakia.
Hijab appeared in a video in late March last year addressing protesters in the Saliba neighborhood of Latakia, promising to improve their daily lives and guaranteeing them jobs, however activists have stressed that all such promises were “lies and attempts to buy time to carry out a security campaign against the protesters and end the revolution in the city.”
For his part, Adnan, a member of the Latakia Revolutionary Coordination Committee, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Riyad Hijab was responsible for the massacres that occurred in the city of Latakia, one of which took place in the neighborhood of Sakantori, whilst another took place in Saliba.” He stressed that Hijab “headed the security committee that was giving orders to carry out these massacres against the residents of the city, and his appointment as prime minister is a new insult to the lives of the martyrs.”
Whilst Adel, an opposition political activists in Jabla in the governorate of Latakia, revealed that “Hijab came to Jabla in the beginning of the [revolutionary] events and spoke with the coordinators of the demonstrations in the city as well as the city elders, he tried to entice the people with jobs in return for stopping the protests against the ruling regime, however the answer was clear, namely that the city residents want to topple the regime.”
He added “after Hijab left, the security apparatus carried out the first raid on Jabla, and this was followed by more raids, arrests, and suppression.”
Adel stressed that al-Assad’s appointment of Hijab as Syria’s new prime minister is a reflection of the escalatory message given by al-Assad during his recent speech before parliament. He said “this man [Hijab] is being appointed to lead the forthcoming stage, which al-Assad confirmed will see more massacres, bloodshed and killing against the demonstrators calling for freedom and who are committed to toppling the Syrian regime.”
Hijab was born in Deir Ezzor in 1966; he is married with four children. He has a PhD in agricultural engineering and has been a member of the ruling Baathist party since 1998. He served as head of the Deir Ezzor branch of the Baathist party between 2004 and 2008. Al-Assad appointed Hijab Governor of Quneitra Governorate in 2008, whilst he was appointed Governor of Latakia Governorate in 2011. He was also appointed Minister of Agriculture in the same year.
Hijab is said to enjoy close ties with Assistant Regional Security of the Baathist Party, Muhammad Said Bekheitan, which is believed to be one of the reasons why al-Assad appointed him as his new prime minister.
The government of Muhammad Naji al-Otari announced its resignation on 29 March, 2011. Al-Assad then appointed Adel Safar to form a new government, which was formed on 14 April, 2011, and was the third government of the Bashar al-Assad regime. This government was made up of 30 ministers, 15 of whom were members of the al-Otari government. Presidential decree 194 of 2012 appointed Riyad Hijab as the new Syrian Prime Minister and tasked him with forming a new government. This comes approximately one month following the 7 May parliamentary elections, which were held under a revised constitution that allowed for new political parties to be established.