The Atassis of Homs: The rise and decline of one of Syria’s founding families


This brief collective biography offers a starting point for understanding how notable families struggled to adapt to shifting bases for authority in the twentieth century. The Atassi family, relative to most notable families in post-Ottoman Syria, maintained wealth and influence by transcending the traditional basis for authority associated with the “politics of notables.” For instance, it was an advantage to be a notable Sunni Arab family associated with the Hashemites in the 1920s through the 1940s, but it was a disadvantage in the era of Arab Socialism starting in the mid-1950s. Several Atassis maintained positions in government as advocates of a law-based political system, but were eventually sidelined as the new state descended into crisis, and military priorities and radical ideologies took over. Later, in the era of the minoritarian Assad dynasty (1970–present), the family was seen as a political threat. While some of the Atassis went into exile, others continued to play key roles in the Syrian private professional sphere. Since 2011, a few prominent Atassis have joined the ranks of the stalwart opposition to Bashar al-Assad.