|Portrai of Mansur al-Atrash, 1963-1966|
|Chairman of the National Council for the Revolutionary Command|
1 September 1965 – 14 February 1966
|Preceded by||Said al-Ghazzi|
|Succeeded by||Ahmad al-Khatib|
al-Qurayya, Jabal al-Druze, Jabal al-Druze State
|Died||14 November 2006 (aged 80)
|Political party||Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (until 1966)|
|Relations||Sultan al-Atrash (father)|
|Alma mater||American University of Beirut
University of Paris
Mansur al-Atrash (Arabic: منصور الأطرش, 1926-14 November 2006) was a founding member of the unitary Ba'ath Party and its Syrian Regional Branch in 1947, and a leading Aflaqite. He also became a strong supporter of Egyptian president and pan-Arab leader Gamal Abdel Nasser during the period of the United Arab Republic.
Atrash was born in 1926 in the Druze community of al-Qurayya in Jabal al-Arab. His father was Sultan al-Atrash, the leader of the Syrian resistance during the Great Syrian Revolt between 1925-1927. Mansur went to study at the American University in Beirut (AUB), and graduated in 1948. Later, he attained a law degree from the Sorbonne University. He also served as a lecturer on Arabic literature in the University of Damascus.
Ba'ath Party and conflict with Shishkali
In 1947 Atrash became a founding member of the unitary Ba'ath Party, joining the organization during his time at the AUB and then joining his fellow party members for further studies in Paris. He became part of its Syrian Regional Branch, and actively participated in party strikes, marches and parades. Atrash wrote regularly for the party newspaper al-Ba'ath. He was the only prominent Druze member in the Ba'ath Party who hailed from a major clan, the al-Atrash.
When General Adib Shishakli seized power in 1951, the Ba'ath Party was forced underground. Atrash participated in several anti-Shishakli activities, which included throwing explosives at Shishakli's residence in 1952. He was arrested twice by Shishakli's government, but was released twice because of his father's popularity; by releasing him Shishakli attempted to gain the support of Atrash's father Sultan. In response to his son's release from prison, Sultan al-Atrash said "I didn't ask Shishakli for the freedom of my son. I asked him for the freedom of my country."
In 1953 Shishakli launched a crackdown on the Druze community, claiming their activities were being funded by Jordan. Sultan was put under house arrest, but was able to escape and become an active participant in the struggle against Shishkali. In the first democratic election after Shishakli's downfall in 1954, Atrash was elected to parliament. Atrash was offered a cabinet position in Said al-Ghazzi's Government, but he rejected the offer because of the Ba'ath Party's position towards the government.
UAR years and Ba'athist Syria
Atrash supported the merger of Egypt and Syria to form the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. During the UAR years, Atrash became a devoted Nasserite, a supporter of Gamal Abdel Nasser's policies, and wrote several articles in Nasserite daily newspaper Al Jamahir ("The People.") Atrash supported the UAR until the very end, and opposed playing a role in post-UAR Syria in anti-UAR governments. Bashir al-Azma offered him a cabinet post, but he turned down the offer, Khalid al-Azm appointed him minister of social affairs without even asking him, but Atrash turned down the offer.
His seclusion from Syrian politics ended after the Military Committee of the Ba'ath Party took power in the 8th of March Revolution in 1963. The Military Committee's stated goal was to reestablish a pan-Arab state; a goal Atrash shared. He was appointed Minister of Social Affairs in Salah al-Din al-Bitar's first government, and became a member of the Presidential Council, an organ which was responsible for running day-to-day state affairs. On 1 September 1965 Atrash was appointed Chairman of the National Council of the Revolutionary Command (NCRC), but acquired little de facto power because of the Military Committee's hold on power. Atrash continued to hold the office of NCRC chairman until 14 February 1966, shortly before the 1966 Syrian coup d'état which brought the neo-Ba'athist government of Salah Jadid to power and caused the 1966 Ba'ath Party split.
The Jadid government's coming to power resulted in the self-imposed exile of leading Ba'ath ideologue Michel Aflaq. On 9 June 1967, when the Israeli Army entered the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War, al-Atrash and other Aflaq loyalists were released from their detention. Al-Atrash later remarked that "It was not agreeable to know that we owed our freedom to defeat." In collaboration with Salim Hatum, Atrash attempted to overthrow Jadid's government in 1967, but failed. Following this failed attempt, he moved into self-imposed exile in Lebanon and lived there until the death of Abd al-Karim al-Jundi, the head of Syria's secret intelligence service. He returned to Syria in 1969, and he lived much of the remainder of his life in seclusion.
Later life and death
In 1978 al-Atrash hosted a dinner aimed at healing the rift between the ruling Ba'ath governments of Syria and neighboring Iraq. The dinner was attended by such notables as Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz and Syrian defense minister Mustafa Tlass.
Atrash married a Christian woman, the daughter of Yusuf al-Shuwayri, Sultan's grain merchant from al-Midan who owned a house in al-Qurayya. The marriage caused a temporary schism between himself and his father. Eventually Sultan and Mansur bridged their differences. Following Sultan's death, Mansur gained the latter's role as the major spokesman for the al-Atrash clan.
Al-Atrash died at 6:30 am on 14 November 2006, at the age of 80. His funeral was held in the city of al-Suwayda, and according to one of his relatives, Talal al-Atrash, the ceremony was attended by "hundreds of thousands" of Druze from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as well as some "prominent Arab personalities." Atrash was buried in the woodland area of Hushus which he owned, near his native al-Qurayya.
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