26 November 2020

Important Figures in Syrian Politics among First Graduate Institute Cohort of 1927

On the first day of classes in 1927, when the Graduate Institute first opened its doors, 31 students were enrolled; among them were three Syrian nationals: Nazim Al-Qudsi, Adnan Atassi and Samy Kabbara. 

This fact and more are included in the Graduate Institute History Quiz: 20 questions to challenge your knowledge of your alma mater (play in English or in French). 

“As a Palestinian who was born in Syria, this info was just amazing”, wrote Bilal Salayme, a PhD candidate in International Relations/Political Science in an email to the Alumni Office after playing the quiz. He was curious to know more about the Syrian students mentioned. Interestingly enough, they all went on to become important figures in Syrian politics. 

Nazim Al-Qudsi was elected as the first President of Syria after Syria’s exit from its union with Egypt and the United Arab Republic (UAR) — a union he had voted against — in December 1961. He remained in office until 1963. Before his presidency and after finishing his studies, he returned to Syria and began his political career with the National Bloc, a coalition of political parties that emerged during the Syrian struggle against the French Mandate. He was appointed as the first Syrian Ambassador to the United States in 1945, and founded its first embassy in Washington, D.C. He then served briefly as Prime Minister in a provisional government in 1949 and then again in 1950, following which he then served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Speaker of Parliament in 1951 and, later, from 1954 to 1957.  

Adnan Atassi was also an important political figure during the same time, especially in the field of diplomacy. Upon returning to Syria after his studies, he rose through diplomatic ranks. He began as Deputy Consul in Istanbul in 1938, moving to Consul in Cairo in 1939. He then served in 1945 as Ambassador of Syria in France, where he was in charge of discussions with the French government concerning Syria’s full independence. He was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Belgium in 1946 and to Paris in 1948, and was Syria’s Ambassador to multiple European countries until 1952. He then returned to Syria to join the opposition to General Adib al-Shishakli’s military rule, a fight that Al-Qudsi also actively engaged in. Adnan Atassi is the son of Hashim Al-Atassi, the fourth President of Syria, and a member of the noble Al-Atassi family. 

Samy Kabbara returned to Syria after his studies to serve as Secretary-General of Parliament in 1932. During Shukri al-Quwatli’s presidency, Kabbara founded and ran a famous political newspaper, Al-Nidal, in opposition to the administration. He was voted into parliament as an independent in 1947, again in 1949 and 1957. In 1949, along with Nazim Al-Qudsi, he was a member of the Constitutional Assembly charged with drafting a new Syrian constitution. In addition he held the positions of Minister of Justice and Health in 1949 and Minister of Interior from 1950 to 1951 and under two different administrations, including as part of Prime Minister Hashim Al-Atassi’si cabinet. 

All three were visibly associated in Syria, famously opposing the same regimes and actively participating in shaping their country in turbulent and monumental times. All three left a particular mark on the generations to come. With the knowledge of their political leadership, they add to the legacy of those who have passed through the Graduate Institute’s doors. 

To learn about other important historical moments and interesting facts about the Graduate Institute, play the 20-question history quiz