“Who Was Hilal al-Assad?” By Mohammad D.

Hilal al-Assad

Who Was Hilal al-Assad? 
By Mohammad D.
For Syria Comment, April 5 2014

By the time Hilal al-Assad reached Zahi Azraq Military Hospital in Latakia on Sunday March 23,2014, he was already dead. Latakians were already in a state of turmoil and anxiety. Grad missiles had been raining down on the city for a week. That night, at 8 pm, two missiles hit the city-center. The first struck al-Sheikhdaher, a bustling area in the old city and the second slammed into the old post office, less than a hundred yards from an entrance to the Sea Port.  Many were killed and injured in this attack. News that Hilal al-Assad had been signed into the Military Hospital spread like wildfire. Everyone knew within hours. The streets of the city emptied.

Death notice for Halal al-Assad

Death notice for Halal al-Assad

Hilal al-Assad was the commander of al-Difa’ al-Watani in the Coastal Region and a cousin of President Bashar al-Assad.  A  single bullet hit him in the chest. He was in al-Mushrefeh near Kassab north of the city of Latakia, according to parents of an Alawi soldier fighting with him.  This fighter was on his way with his other brother to help lift the siege of pro-Assad groups surrounded in Kassab.  The younger brother of this fighter, was surrounded with his unit in Kassab.  A range of anti-Assad militias, many composed of foreigners, launched a surprise attack called al-Anfal that was followed by a second offensive named Umahat al-Mu’minin.  The attacks were launched near the Turkish border into an area that was poorly defended, by all accounts.  The surprise attack was a total success. Rebel militias conquered Kassab, an Armenian town best known for its beauty, green hills and for being a summer resort. It is also linked to a custom crossing with Turkey and a small village on the Mediterranean called al-Samra.  Today, fighting is raging throughout the region and both sides are calling up reinforcements.  The pro-Assad forces have been able to retake one highpoint, tower 45, but with no major regains since.Hilal al-Assad is the first Assad family member to be killed since Asef Shawkat was killed in a bomb attack on July/18/2012 while attending a high level meeting in Damascus. Syrian official TV announced Hilal’s death, and declared him a martyr, but no public death announcement, known as Na’wa, was printed.  This is unusual. Numerous Facebook pages were created to celebrate and memorialize him and video messages were posted on the al-Difa’ al-Watani web outlets. For them, Hillal al-Assad death in battle is seen as a great honor. But his death also reminded everyone in Latakia that death and danger was at their door, closer than anyone had thought.

Hilal’s full military funeral procession was held on Monday.  His body left the hospital to the music of a marching band and into an army white ambulance.  He was buried in the Alawite Mountains east of Latakia.  Hilal left behind a wife, two sons and three daughters.  Not that much is known about him. Most reports about him are not accurate. The reaction of his infamous, “trouble maker” son Sulayman, who is only seventeen years old, only deepened the fears of Latakians.

Who is Hilal al-Assad

Hilal al-Assad was born in al-Qardaha in 1967.  His father Anwar was the son of Hafez al-Assad’s older brother Ibrahim (some people say that Ibrahim is a half brother from Ali Sulayman’s first wife Sa’ada. He was married to Umm Anwar).  Ibrahim died many years ago and not much is known or written about him, but his wife, Hilal’s grandmother, Umm Anwar was a very strong woman.  She became a household name as a business woman who took advantage of the rising power of her family. As Hafez al-Assad’s power grew so did her’s along with that of her family.  Her son Anwar was not an educated man. Indeed he was reputed to be slow. What is more, he suffered from Albinism.  So, when Hafez al-Assad became a minister of defense in the 1960’s, Anwar became a janitor in a school in al-Qardaha. When Hafez al-Assad became a president in 1971, Anwar became an employee in the Registery (al-Nufus) in al-Qardaha. He remained a resident of Qardaha until his death.

His son Hilal went to elementary, secondary and high school in Qardaha.  He was young when his relatives started consolidating power in Damascus. His relatives in al-Qardaha started a lucrative business in smuggling. From his high school days, Hilal joined local smugglers who brought goods from Lebanon to Syria. Hilal was one of the Original Shabiha; the first wave of smugglers (See my earlier article: “The Original Shabiha“.  He was a few years younger than the most famous: Fawwaz al-Assad.

But, Hilal was different from Fawwaz, who was bombastic and enjoyed making a spectacle of himself. Hilal did not search out the limelight. He preferred to remain in the shadows, driving his big Mercedes between Lebanon and various Syrian cities.  Many say that his grandmother, Umm Anwar, controlled the smuggling ring that Hilal ran with.  In his early days, Hilal hung out in two places: one was an Armenian photography shop and the other was with a Christian barber friend. His car seemed always to be double-parked outside these two haunts. It caused perpetual traffic jams. He rarely hung out with other goons, unlike Fawwaz, who was a goon magnet.

Hilal amassed a fortune from smuggling. But, once Syrian markets were opened in the 1990s, smuggling dried up. Hilal, like Fawwaz and the other original shabiha, who benefited from the trade restrictions of the 1980’s, had to find a new occupation. Some say that Hilal joined the military academy for a bit before enrolling in Latakia’s Tishreen University, where he studied business. Ultimately, he acquired a degree, but I have been told by a friend of his:

He never attended a class and only showed up at the university to sit for exams.  The only challenging part of his formal education was to struggle not to make mistakes copying the answers that he had passed to him.”

Hilal was able to secure a good plum position in one of the most lucrative state industries. In 1998, he was appointed head of Branch 202 in the Mu’assasat al-Iskan al-Askari.  This meant that Hilal run the Latakia branch of a  construction company owned and financed by the defense ministry. It was responsible for housing projects, building dams, and sometimes built roads. al-Iskan al-Askari was established during the rule of Hafez al-Assad and was first headed by Khalil al-Bahlul, who turned it into a construction giant in the Syrian building sector.

Hilal did not have a good reputation at work.  He is accused of holding back the salaries of the employees for months, making a profit on putting it in the newly formed private banks in the area and abroad.  When workers complained about their late wages, they had to face Military Intelligence, which Hilal would summon to deal with them.  At this era, Hilal would still stay out of the limelight for most of the time.  He would spend most of his night playing cards with the same group: a famous Alawite heart doctor and two rich Sunnis: a man from al-Jud family and another from al-Zein family.  Hilal also loved horses.  He collected them and kept them in the stables of the Sports Complex. Some say that these stables were used as Hilal’s private prison.  These allegations are yet to be confirmed, as well many tashbeeh stories about him.

When the Syrian uprising began, the government formed al-Difa’ al-Watani (National Defence Forces) in 2012.  Its head was stationed in Damascus: General Ghassan Nassour.  Hilal al-Assad was put in charge of al-Difa’ al-Watani in Latakia and its countryside.  The first major military action this militia saw was during the famous attack of August 4th 2013, when Sunni groups attacked 11 Alawite villages.  The attack ended, but the military scrimmages continued, especially now with this Anfal attack in the Kassab region. When Hilal died, al-Difa’ al-Watani had grown from being composed of only a few local “popular committees” (Lijan Sha’biyah) into a small-sized army, complet with a few tanks and many pieces of heavy artillery.

Hilal’s Personal Family:

Unknown to many: Hilal married a Sunni.  His wife, Fatima Massoud, is said to be from the Idlib region.  Others say that her father is from Tripoli, Lebanon.  With Fatima, Hilal has two boys, 17 and 9 and three daughters, the oldest is married to a Sunni from Aleppo.  Hilal’s oldest daughter has a baby girl with her husband.

Sulayman is the notorious 17 years old son of Hilal.  He is a trouble maker and stories about him fill the internet.  Some of these stories are true, while others are exaggerations by known anti-Assad agitators, who expound on the bad behavior of members of al-Assad clan.  He is almost always seen with his armed bodyguards, even on the beach, where his favorite pastime was to make hairpin turns with his all-terrain vehicle so that sand would spray those trying to relax at the shore.  Reports of him shooting at people are many, but cannot be confirmed. Sulayman poses frequently with tanks belonging to the al-Difa’ al-Watani. He posts these on his Facebook page.  His reactions after the death of his father added to the troubles of the city.  It increased the level of fear amongst all.  Reports said that Sulayman went on a rampage twice, the first was the day when his father died.  The second was few days later, when he went with some armed men to al-Slaybeh, a traditional Sunni neighborhood in the old city, and destroyed some of the furniture of al-Tabusheh famous cafe as well as that of a few other stores in the neighborhood.  He ran away when the Mukhabarat showed up.  This attack only deepened the sectarian divisions in the city.

Hilal al-Assad also had two brothers: Harun, the head of the Municipality in al-Qardaha, and Ha’el, an officer in the Republican Guards.

Comments (83)

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51. ALAN said:

“By insisting “Assad must go,” the West has locked itself in to a losing game in #Syria.” By Flynt & Hillary Leverett

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April 8th, 2014, 3:42 pm


52. Uzair8 said:

For Russia to grow it perhaps needs a taller leader.
President Putin can only take the country so far.

Yeltsin was a big man, huge. Wasn’t it under him Russia grew and the rapid rise in oligarch wealth began?

Look even PM Erdogan, a giant of a man, has overseen significant Turkish growth, much more than under Demirel and co’s time.

Ok Assad is an anomaly that throws a spanner in this theory, however, to be fair to him the poor growth was a given as the rigid sysytem was already put in place by the petit Hafez Assad.

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April 8th, 2014, 3:50 pm


53. ALAN said:

أوه عزير good evening ! how are you? What about the growth of the abdomen that you have to deal British food, genetically modified?(rofl)

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April 8th, 2014, 4:19 pm



Sometimes machine translation can be interestingly poetic.

Why so…. to the necessities of so…

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April 8th, 2014, 5:00 pm


55. mjabali said:


Please stop making Islam something it is not.

Try to sell your logic to any minority from the Middle East.

As long as there is Surat al-Tawbah, and similar aggressive texts, Muslims can never accept others. Read it again and talk to me if you want. Or do you want to read al-Jihad Hadiths?

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April 8th, 2014, 5:00 pm


56. mjabali said:

Syria “lover”

So Hilal al-Assad was killed by Bashar al-Assad? …. Your proof?

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April 8th, 2014, 5:06 pm


57. Ghufran said:

Dear SL, I hope you keep your sense of humor, we live to serve, learn and teach, I was trying to give you a compliment. I actually like the new you more than the old me.
Putin short and decisive is better for his country than many tall and indecisive leaders, not that I think that short stature is a virtue, keep in mind that a number of holy men and women were not tall.
I agree that Assad must go but that is something Syrians not chechnyans and Turks and the West have to decide on, for foreigners to tell Syrians who should be their leaders is contradictory to the old and overused freedom slogan. Trying to impose then using foreign jihadists to change a bad regime made things worse and helped the regime.

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April 8th, 2014, 6:36 pm


58. Syrialover said:

MJABALI, you challenged me (#56) with the words:

“So Hilal al-Assad was killed by Bashar al-Assad?…. Your proof?”

Oh, was he? I didn’t say that – but maybe you know more than I do.

I said his death is [alleged to be] the result of internal tensions, not an opposition attack.

Shadowy guys like Hilal Assad live with a seething mass of fear, distrust, rivalries and bitter long-term grudges around them.

We get a sniff of his relationship with the world reading above how he took pride in not paying his workers then setting military intelligence goons on to them if they complained.

It could have been one of his fellow gangsters, “business” rivals or victims, disaffected members of his brigade or a shabiha thug from his circle (maybe even his steroided son with a volcanic temper, angry because daddy wouldn’t give him the car he wanted or something).

And proof? Nobody can get the truth in Syria since the day Bashar’s daddy Hafez seized power. But it will come pouring out in post-Assad Syria when people are no longer afraid to talk.

But maybe you are ahead of this, along with some others who are suggesting Hilal made the mistake of annoying the supersonic thug, the legless Maher Assad.

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April 8th, 2014, 6:37 pm


59. Uzair8 said:


Oh I’m sorry, did I hurt your feelings? I’m sure, in fact I know Mr Putin has a sense of humour as you once posted a video clip to confirm it.

I was only joking of course.

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April 8th, 2014, 6:42 pm


60. Uzair8 said:

Regarding the possibility of Hilal Assad being a casualty of some internal rift I thought about it earlier.

It is quite possible that people within the regime structure may choose to settle scores with each other at this time knowing that Bashar Assad is quite busy and also less able to enquire and exact retribution.

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April 8th, 2014, 6:47 pm


61. Syrialover said:


One of the starkest difference between the phony bear wrestler Putin and leaders of more modern, advanced and democratic nations (of which there are many dozens today, leaving Russia behind in the dust) is that they act in accordance with the interests, welfare and wishes of their citizens.

Putin’s limited comprehension of the world and neurotic “pride” makes him resent such leaders and their status at home and abroad. He has no idea how they do it – all he knows is that he can’t.

To repeat:“Having driven the economy into recession, the Russian elite has to find a new way to stay in power. For an authoritarian regime that is always a difficult task, requiring money, repression and propaganda.”

PS Ghufran, I noticed your signature pattern – saying Assad must go, but then hinting that the only alternative would be control by foreign fanatics.

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April 8th, 2014, 6:57 pm


62. Uzair8 said:

Just seen an interesting blog called ‘All World Leaders Are Tall – A Commonly Held Misconception’

There’s an image of the Obama’s with the Queen. I was surprised to see them tower over Prince Phillip, who I assumed was quite tall. I mean today the Irish President was on a state visit to the UK and expecting the troops with Prince Phillip and the Prince towered over him. I wathced the ceremony on tv earlier today. Here’s some images:


Be warned on that blog there’s also a photo of a very under-dressed Kim Jong Ill. There’s a funny comment about him after the article regarding him wearing high heeled shoes to appear taller.


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April 8th, 2014, 7:03 pm


63. Syrialover said:

ALAN (#53), Are you confident Russians are not drinking vodka made from genetically modified ingredients?

Even Putin admits that Russians’ average life span is shrinking because of vodka.

But maybe there is something in the vodka that is accelerating this?

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April 8th, 2014, 7:09 pm


64. Sami said:


I really do not have the patience to get into it with you. Your visceral hatred of Sunnis and their faith is really tiresome to read and even more so to debate with.

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April 8th, 2014, 9:16 pm


65. mjabali said:

Syria “lover”

You said in your comment# 45 the following regarding the death of Hilal al-Assad:

“There are reports he wasn’t killed in battle, but by a single assassin outside his home. And that his death was the result of internal tensions, not an opposition attack.”

This is what you said…I asked you about what is the proof that this is true?

You mentioned the word “Reports.” You said there are “Reports…” Where are these “reports” you are referring to? That is my question.

Any thoughts…?

Also you seem to be denying the battles that were raging the day Hilal died?

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April 8th, 2014, 9:46 pm


66. Tara said:


Brilliant!. You can’t debate visceral hatred . It is futile. The challenge in my opinion is not to reciprocate it .

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April 8th, 2014, 9:51 pm


67. mjabali said:


I do not hate Sunnis, never did and never will. I critique their teachings and what they did to others, especially the sect I came from.

You, and others, are not accustomed to anyone critiquing your brand of Islam, Sunni that is, like me.

Nothing is perfect.

Reaching a middle ground in this argument is not bad at all.

Debates with people like me improves understanding between the sects in Syria.

You seem to believe in flowery tales…I do not…

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April 8th, 2014, 9:52 pm


68. Mjabali said:


What you say about Iranians, Shia, Alawites is considered hate speech here in America…

What I say about your sect is criticism that you can not handle at anytime.

The examples of your hate speech fill this blog…

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April 8th, 2014, 10:03 pm


69. Tara said:


Do you not get tired of playing the eternal victim? It is the twenty first century and I got tired of hearing it.

I hate them all and equally including their Sunni counterparts. My hate is not visceral and does not stem from their religious or belief system. I hate them because of their role in killing Syrians. There is no two people who believe the same no matter how you characterize them but there is clearly a phenomena of collective visceral hatred from the minorities in Syria toward the majority and you really are a prototype example.

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April 8th, 2014, 10:15 pm


70. apple_mini said:

Majabali, it is a waste of time.

Those people you have been debating with will not change or let along progress.

At their age, the mind has set.

Look at the American south, no one bothers to enlighten those rednecks. There are laws that contain their behaviors. The same treatment as to local gators: let them claim swamps. But if they get close to civilization, cage them.

Syria and all middle east need to kick Islam out of state and public institutions. Only then, we can see truly liberated population taking up the responsibilities of a progressive society by using their unfettered brain power and mind.

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April 8th, 2014, 11:35 pm


71. Sami said:

Rotten Apple,

I am in my early thirties. I do not consider myself a muslim, married to a Christian and have an Orthodox Hungarian for a Grand Mother. My favourite aunt is an Alawite from Qurdaha which scum like you would never even amount to the dust off her shoe.

So in short, shove all your perceived crap about me back up your crap shoot. And remember putting ray bans on a piece of turd and calling it “secular” does not in anyway make the piece of turd anything more than what it is.

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April 9th, 2014, 12:28 am


72. apple_mini said:

Sami, your filthy and vindictive tone and language will not do yourself good here.

If you cannot handle yourself even in a virtual world, how in the world can you conduct yourself in real life.

Without doubt, people here on the forum truly show what they are. That is what their thoughts and entrenched mindset are about. We are not interested in your upbringing, nor your background.

By resorting peevish and impish manners, you are just making yourself look like a fool.

As I expressed before, one of the worst byproducts of this war is that people like you get to crawl out a cesspool.

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April 9th, 2014, 1:55 am


73. SimoHurtta said:

63. SYRIALOVER said:

ALAN (#53), Are you confident Russians are not drinking vodka made from genetically modified ingredients?
Even Putin admits that Russians’ average life span is shrinking because of vodka.
But maybe there is something in the vodka that is accelerating this?

Syrian Lover maybe you should educate your self – sometimes

Russia has indeed a relative high alcohol consumption (recorded+unrecorded), but before Russia are plenty of countries. Like Czech Republic, France, Ukraine, South Korea, Ireland etc.

On the other hand could “we in the west” say that the desperate human rights and democracy lack in Muslim countries is caused by the low consumption of alcohol. And the population explosion there caused by “no alcohol”. Maybe Sunnis and their merry Al Qaida fellows should drink more and use less car bombs.

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April 9th, 2014, 4:28 am


74. Mjabali said:


Whatever you said is nothing but personal attacks… You never come up with any real argument..What you came up with is racist talk…and personal attacks…

Keep on using the failed argument of victimhood, this shows, again, that you have nothing to say.

I hope you are happy these days….there is a rocket attack against Lattakia almost every day… most of the rockets are falling on the Alawites area….? Any thoughts?

Contrary to your claims, many Syrians share my views, amongst them many Sunnis.

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April 9th, 2014, 8:50 am


75. mjabali said:

Apple mini:

You said:

“Syria and all middle east need to kick Islam out of state and public institutions. Only then, we can see truly liberated population taking up the responsibilities of a progressive society by using their unfettered brain power and mind.”

This is very correct. Only then anyone there could have any type of a chance.

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April 9th, 2014, 9:00 am


76. Sami said:

Rotten Toufaha,

well then use your “unfettered brain power and mind” to realize the venom you spew has nothing to do with modernity and everything to do with the dark ages…

And out of everyone here you have shown yourself to be lowest common denominator with your callousness and calls for death which you miserably try to intertwine with peace.

So again, shove your fake modernity facade and your perceived notions back up where the sun don’t shine.

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April 9th, 2014, 9:11 am


77. Mohammed Omer said:

Salaam Alaikum, it is too sad to know that Muslims can be such a fool that they become toys of Russia and America. Russia gives weapons to Asad to kill Muslims. America gives weapons to bloody terrorists to kill Muslims. Muslim nations and their rulers should form a Muslim union joint military to stabilize the Muslim nations and help Muslims to be financially strong and got Islamic education too to have humanity.

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April 10th, 2014, 1:20 pm


78. Mohammed Omer said:

I pray Allah that all Islamic nations and their rulers form a united millalitary of all Islamic nations. Without Islam we never be happy.

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April 10th, 2014, 2:37 pm


79. ghufran said:

An “Armenian genocide” resolution has passed the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee on April 10 by bipartisan voice.

Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark Kirk, a Republican from Illinois, had presented the bill last week.

“Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, during which 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turkey … To honor the survivors and the memory of those lost, and to lead globally on human rights, the United States should finally join the European Union and 11 of our NATO allies in officially recognizing the Armenian Genocide,” Kirk had said.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their forebears were killed in 1915 and 1916 by the forces of Ottoman Empire.

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April 10th, 2014, 9:48 pm


80. Mohammed Omer said:

Salaam alaikum, Islam is necessary for the betterment.

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April 11th, 2014, 6:18 am


81. Tara said:

Mohammed Omar,

Islam is not the way. Secular democracy that respects human individuality is. Islam should really be left at home. It is an individual submission to God and not a collective one.

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April 12th, 2014, 5:32 pm


82. Mohammed Omer said:

Say no to terrorism against Muslim countries.

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April 15th, 2014, 12:44 am


83. Austin Bodetti said:

I enjoyed this post alongside Aron Lund’s.

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May 17th, 2014, 11:33 pm


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