On April 22, 1955, a charismatic young Syrian army officer was gunned down on a football field. The assassination of Adnan al-Malki brought about the one of the first political crackdowns in Syria’s history. The Malki Affairs and its aftermath shed light on one of the country’s earliest shifts towards authoritarianism along a sharp turn towards anti-western sentiment.
The first sign that Pax Syriana was coming to an end was the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005. Demonstrations against Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution and the West were held in defiance in Damascus. State-organized rallies across the capital illustrated the regime’s discontent with the political blowback that followed the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Part of this discontent was exhibited through the widespread display among the crowds of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party’s (SSNP) flags along Adnan al-Malki Boulevard. The black flags emblazoned with the red hurricane device signaled the official return of Pan-Syrian nationalism in the country where it was banned since the 1955 assassination of the boulevard’s namesake, who was the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Syrian army and a rising star in Syrian politics.
Malki’s assassination rocked Syria and brought about a harsh crack down on the SSNP that ultimately eradicated them from Syrian politics for fifty years. It was also a major political spectacle that marked a turning point in the country’s brief return to democracy back to a long era of authoritarianism under the Baath.