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Hafez al-Assad, Rifaat al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad
Hafez (AKA 'The Sphinx', AKA 'The Lion of Damascus') is the older brother of Rifaat (AKA 'Butcher of Hama') and the father of Bashar.
Kill tally: Up to 25,000 killed in Hama during a siege of the city in February 1982. (Estimates of the number killed vary from 5,000 to 25,000. It is likely that the real figure is somewhere near the lower end of the estimates.) Thousands killed during the uprisings of 2011-2012.
Background: Human occupation of ancient or 'Greater' Syria (the lands now recognised as Jordan, Israel,Lebanon, Palestine and Syria) can be traced back at least 11 thousand years, to 9000 BC. Evidence of the region's first cities dates to around 4000 BC.
Over the following centuries, Greater Syria falls under the control of successive powers (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) and becomes a cultural and religious melting pot, with Judaism, Christianity and Islam all having an influence. In 1516 the region becomes a province of the Ottoman Empire.
Ottoman rule nears its end at the start of the First World War, a time which is also marked by the rise of the Syrian independence movement.
The British seize on this desire for independence to further their war effort. Arabs are encouraged to revolt against the Ottomans. In return, the British pledge support for the establishment of an independent Arab state following the war.
However, the British renege on their pledge and Greater Syria is carved up among European powers. The Frenchare given control over Lebanon and Syria. The British take Jordan and Palestine. Provision is made of the establishment of a Jewish state within Palestine.
By 15 April 1946 the French are finally gone. Syria celebrates its independence on April 17.
Syria now enters a prolonged period of instability. Coup is followed by counter-coup and regional allegiances shift as sectarian, religious and military factions within the country via for influence. More background.
Mini biography: Hafez al-Assad is born on 6 October 1930, in the village of al-Qurdaha, 200 km northwest of Damascus, in the Syrian province of Latakia. He is the ninth of his parent's 11 children.
The al-Assad family are poor but well-respected peasants. They are members of the Numaylatillah clan and Matawirah tribe within the Alawite sect (a branch of Shia Islam). The Alawites are the largest of the minorities in Syria, comprising about 12% of the population.
The al-Assad's original family name is said to have been al-Wahash, meaning "beast" in Arabic. This name was changed at some stage (and perhaps by Hafez) to al-Assad, meaning "lion".
Hafez receives his secondary education at a school in Latakia on the coast. In 1952 he is admitted to the Air Force College in Aleppo, graduating in 1955 as a lieutenant pilot.
In 1957 he travels to the Soviet Union to learn how to fly MIG-15s and MIG-17s.
Hafez marries Anissa Makhloof. The couple have four sons (Basil, Bashar, Majid and Maher) and a daughter (Bushra).
Rifaat al-Assad is born in 1937, also in al-Qurdaha. He is the younger brother of Hafez and the youngest of the family's 11 children.
Though he studies political science and economics at Damascus University, Rifaat opts for a career in the military. He trains at the Homs Military Academy and joins the army in 1963.
Rifaat will polygamously marry four wives: Amirah (a cousin from al-Qurdaha), Aneesi (a cousin of Hafez's wife), Raja Barakat (a member of the Sunni establishment) and Lina al-Khayyir (a member of one of the most prominent Alawite families in Syria).
1946 - Syria gains independence on 17 April.
1948 - The State of Israel is formally proclaimed on 14 May 1948. Arab military forces, including Syria, invade the following day. The invasion fails. A cease-fire is declared in 1949. Israel is left occupying more territory than originally granted by the United Nations.
1949 - The first of Syria's coups occurs on 30 March. The first counter-coup occurs less than five months later on 14 August. Further coups follow on 19 December 1949, 28 November 1951 and 25 February 1954.
In this atmosphere of political instability, left-wing influences, including the Baath Party (Arab Socialist Resurrection) and the Syrian Communist Party begin to gain ascendancy.
Baath is a pan-Arab movement committed to socialism, Arab nationalism and secularism. By the end of 1957 the party, along with the communists and other left-wing factions, controls the government.
Hafez Assad is an early member of the party, joining in 1946, soon after it is formed. Rifaat joins the party in 1952.
In order to preserve its power, Baath turns to Egyptian President Gamal Abdul-Nasser, asking for a union between Syria and Egypt.
1958 - Syria and Egypt formally join as the United Arab Republic (UAR) on 1 February.
However, the plan backfires. The Baath Party is marginalised and Syria subordinated by the dominance of Nasser and Egypt.
During this period, Hafez is stationed in Egypt. Along with other Syrian officers, he begins to plan for the overthrow of the administration in Damascus and the dissolution of the union with Egypt.
1961 - On 28 September a military coup is staged in Damascus. Syria secedes from the UAR and reestablishes itself as the Syrian Arab Republic. The pattern of coup and counter-coup resumes and becomes increasingly violent.
Hafez is temporarily removed from the Air Force on 2 December and posted in the Ministry of Sea Transportation. Along with other members of the Baath Party, he begins to plan for a coup to restore the party to power.
1963 - The Baath Party takes control of government following a coup on 8 March. However, the party is not unified. Factions favouring pan-Arab unity and Syrian "regionalism" continuously jostle for power, leading to the formation and dissolution of successive governments.
The regionalists favour implementing the Baath Party's social program of land reform and nationalisation within Syria. They also advocate closer ties with theSoviet Union. Hafez is aligned with the regionalists.Baath declares a state or emergency soon after taking power. The state of emergency enables the government to suppress dissent and control
Country: Japan, China.
Kill tally: 200,000-350,000 Chinese killed during the 'Rape of Nanking'.
Background: The final collapse of the Chinese Imperial Government at the start of the 20th Century brings a 30-year period of instability to China during which the Guomindang (Nationalist Party), headed by Chiang Kai-shek, battle the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), headed by Mao Tse-Tung, for ultimate control.
Across the East China Sea, Japan becomes progressively more nationalistic and militaristic, seeing in China an opportunity to expand on territory occupied in Manchuria (now Dongbei Pingyuan, north of Korea) and Shandong Province (across the Yellow Sea from Korea) after the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and during the First World War.
The Japanese military is steeped in the tradition of unquestioning loyalty to the emperor. Commands from superior officers are regarded as equivalent to commands from the emperor himself. Military leaders have direct access to the emperor and the authority to transmit his pronouncements directly to the troops. The emperor is considered divine and the seat of ultimate power. More background.
Mini biography: Born on 2 October 1887 in Kyoto, Japan. He is a member of the Japanese imperial family and uncle-in-law to Emperor Hirohito.
1908 - He graduates from the Japanese military academy and is commissioned into the army as a sub-lieutenant.
1920-23 - He travels to France to further his military studies.
1927-29 - Japanese troops are sent to China to obstruct attempts by the Guomindang to unify the country. In June 1928 officers in the Kwantung (Guandong) Army, the Japanese Army unit stationed in Manchuria, begin an unauthorised campaign to precipitate a war with China. Both the Japanese high command and the Chinese refuse to take the bait.
1930 - Asaka is promoted to the rank of major-general and appointed an instructor at the Japanese military staff college.
1931 - In September conspirators in the Kwantung Army stage the 'Manchurian Incident', blowing up a section of track on the South Manchuria Railway then blaming Chinese saboteurs.
With the Japanese Government powerless to intervene, the Kwantung Army mobilises, taking nearby Mukden (now Shenyang) then, in January 1932, attacking Shanghai, south of their territory in Shandong Province.
A truce is called in March 1932. The Japanese then establish the puppet state of Manchukuo, centred on Manchuria and headed by the last Chinese emperor, Puyi.
1932 - The Japanese military effectively takes control of the Japanese Government in May when the prime minister is assassinated. Manchukuo is formally recognised by the military-controlled regime.
1933 - Asaka is promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general in August. In 1934 he is made commander of the First Imperial Guards.
1936 - Following a military insurrection by Japanese troops in February Asaka presses his nephew-in-law the emperor to appoint a new government that is acceptable to the rebels. The government agrees to increase defence spending and boost naval construction. Japan is arming for war.In November Japan and
AKA 'Conducator' (Leader), AKA 'Red Dog'.
Kill tally: About 300,000 Romanian Jews and up to 500,000 Romanian soldiers.
Background: Romania achieves full independence from the Ottoman Empire on 3 March 1878. In March 1881 the Romanian parliament proclaims the country a kingdom. Led by King Carol I, Romania's first constitutional monarch, the new nation is deeply nationalistic and determined to maintain its freedom. However, the ethnically Romanian regions of Transylvania to the west, and Bukovina and Bessarabia to the north and east remain outside the state, with Transylvania staying under the sway of Hungry and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Meanwhile, Romania's Jewish population begins to expand rapidly during the 19th Century, mainly as a result of immigration. By 1899 the population has grown to 269,000. By 1939 it is estimated at 760,000, making Romania's Jewish community the third largest in Eastern Europe, after the Soviet Union and Poland.
Many Romanians see the newcomers as an economic threat. Jews face persecution and most are prevented from taking Romanian citizenship. More background.
Mini biography: Born in Pitesti, about 110 km northwest of Bucharest, on 15 June 1882, into an average family. Though an avowed antisemite, Antonescu will become engaged to two separate Jewish women and marry a third. His father will also divorce his mother to marry a Jewish woman.
Antonescu receives his education in French military schools and pursues a career in the army. By 1907 he has risen to the rank of lieutenant.
1907 - Antonescu participates in the suppression of a peasant revolt in and around the city of Galati, about 180 km northeast of Bucharest, gaining the attention of his superiors for his initiative and ruthlessness.
1911 - He graduates from the military academy.
1913 - Antonescu participates in the Second Balkan War against Bulgaria, winning Romania's highest military decoration.
1914 - The First World War begins early in August, with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) pitted against the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia). Romania stays out of the conflict, waiting to see which side may prevail.
King Carol I dies and is succeeded by his nephew, Ferdinand. Ferdinand's wife, Queen Marie, the British-born princess of Edinburgh, is the real power behind the throne. It is Marie who negotiates the conditions for Romania's participation in the war. The price will be Romanian sovereignty over Transylvania, The Banat and Bukovina (all in Hungary) and Bessarabia (in Russia).
1916 - The Triple Entente agrees in full Queen Marie's terms. On 27 August Romania declares war on Austria-Hungary. The war initially goes poorly for Romania, with Central Power forces counterattacking, occupying Bucharest, and forcing Romania to cede territory and pay reparations. However, the situation reverses when the Triple Entente gains the upper hand over the Central Powers.
During the war Antonescu serves as operational chief-of-staff to army commander Prezan. Towards the end of the conflict he is made chief-of-operations on the army general staff.
1918 - The war ends on 11 November with the signing of a general armistice. The Central Powers have been defeated. The Allies now begin to carve up the spoils.
Romania is more than doubled in size when its claim to Transylvania, The Banat, Bukovina, and Bessarabia is formally recognised by the Allies. The country's first free elections are held in 1919.
However, the acquisition of the new territory is not without cost. The integration of foreign nationalities and institutions leads to an increase in Romanian nationalism, discrimination against Hungarians and other minorities, and a rise in antisemitism.
1922 - In October King Ferdinand becomes the monarch of Greater Romania. The following year a new constitution is introduced establishing a highly centralised state and giving the king the power to appoint the prime minister. The constitution also grants citizenship to Romanian Jews.
Antonescu is meanwhile appointed as military attaché in Paris. From 1923 to 1926 he serves in the same capacity in London, where he meets and marries a French-Jewish woman, who bears him his only child. The couple later divorce and their child dies at an early age.
1924 - The Romanian Communist Party is banned because of its ties with the Soviet Union but continues to operate underground.
1929 - Despite experiencing rapid growth following the First World War, Romania's agriculture-dependent economy is thrown into crisis when the New York Stock Exchange crash of October sees world grain prices collapse.
1930s - The "agricultural crisis" helps feed the growth of the virulently antisemitic and anticommunist 'Iron Guard', the paramilitary wing of the 'Legion of the Archangel Michael', an ultra-nationalistic Romanian fascist group founded on 24 June 1927 by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu.The Guard advocates war against Jews and communists, violently confronting its opponents
Full name Idi Amin Dada Oumee. AKA 'Big Daddy', AKA 'Butcher of Africa', AKA 'Conqueror of the British Empire', AKA 'Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea'.
Kill tally: 100,000-500,000 (most sources say 300,000).
Background: The British Government declares Uganda its protectorate in 1894. Surrounding kingdoms are incorporated, with the borders becoming fixed in 1914. Independence is achieved peacefully on 9 October 1962 but rising tensions between the country's different ethnic groups see Prime Minister Milton Obote impose a new republican constitution establishing himself as president and abolishing all the country's kingdoms. Ethnic tensions continue to rise. Idi Amin seizes power in a coup in January 1971.
Mini biography: Born between 1923 and 1925 into the Kakwa tribe in Koboko, near Arua in the northwest corner of Uganda, close to the borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. His father is a farmer and a follower of Islam. His mother is a member of the Lugbara tribe and is said to practice sorcery.
(Amin's younger brother, Amule, claims that Amin was in fact born in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and that their father was working as a policeman there at the time.)
Amin's parents separate soon after his birth. Amin is raised by his mother, who becomes a camp follower of the King's African Rifles, a regiment of the British colonial army. She will have more children from other relationships, with Amin becoming the third of eight siblings.
Amin receives only a rudimentary education but excels at sports and reportedly converts to Islam at an early age.
1946 - He joins the King's African Rifles as an assistant cook. In 1948 he is promoted to corporal. By 1958 he is sergeant-major and platoon commander.
1951 - Amin becomes the heavyweight boxing champion of Uganda, holding the title until 1960.
1952 - He serves in the British action against the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya (1952-56) and is described by officials as "a splendid type and a good (rugby) player, but virtually bone from the neck up, and needs things explained in words of one letter."
One former commander remembers Amin "as a splendid and reliable soldier and a cheerful and energetic man." Another former commander describes Amin as "an incredible person who certainly isn't mad - very shrewd, very cunning and a born leader."
1959 - He is made a warrant officer with the rank of 'effendi', a position specially created by the colonial army for noncommissioned Africans with leadership potential.
1961 - He rises to the rank of lieutenant, becoming one of only two native Ugandans to be commissioned during British rule.
1962 - Troops under Amin's command commit the 'Turkana Massacre' while conducting an operation to suppress cattle stealing by tribesmen spilling into the north of Uganda from the neighbouring Turkana region of Kenya. Investigations by the British authorities in Kenya reveal that the victims of the massacre had been tortured, beaten to death and, in some cases, buried alive. However, with Uganda's independence only months away, the authorities decide against court-martialling Amin for his "overzealous" methods.
Uganda achieves independence from Britain on 9 October. The king of the Baganda tribe, Sir Edward Mutesa, becomes the new nation's first president. The government is led by Prime Minister Milton Obote, who Amin supports.
Overlooking the charges of torture, Obote promotes Amin to major in 1963 and to colonel and deputy commander of the army and air force in 1964, the same year that Amin helps put down an army mutiny at Jinja, Uganda's second city.
Shortly after independence Amin is sent to Israel on a paratrooper training course. He will become a favourite of the Israelis when he acts as a conduit for the supply of arms and ammunition to Israeli-backed rebels fighting a war in southern Sudan.
1966 - Following a financial scandal implicating Obote and Amin in gold smuggling, and on the back of growing opposition from King Mutesa, Obote suspends the constitution, arrests half his cabinet, and installs himself as president for life. King Mutesa is driven from his palace in a military operation led by Amin and forced into exile. A new constitution abolishes all the country's kingdoms.
Amin is subsequently promoted to major-general and appointed chief of the army and air force. He begins to build a support base in the army by recruiting from his own Kakwa tribe. However, his relations with Obote start to sour.1969 - In December an unsuccessful attempt is made to assassinate Obote. Brigadier Pierino Okoya, the deputy chief of the army and Amin's sole rival among senior army officers, tells Obote and Amin that the net is closing in on the perpetrators and that all will be revealed
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