The struggle between Asma al-Akhras and Rami Makhlouf seems to have expanded with the entry of parties from the Assad family in direct conflict with Asma. This development follows fears raised by Makhlouf’s words and hints that Asma aims to replace the Alawite financial façade with one based around her cousins, in addition to competing for pre-eminent status amongst the third generation of the Assad family.
This analysis comes from Ruba Hijazi, who worked with the Syria Trust for Development — which Asma has managed since its establishment under the name “Syrian Fund for Rural Development – Ferdous” in 2001. The organization’s name was later changed to the Syria Trust for Development. The organization was expanded, and the Ferdous project became part of its overall portfolio.
In an interview with Orient Net, Hijazi confirmed that recently the idea emerged of Asma al-Akhras trying to become the new head of the Alawite financial interface, from where she could do business with her own relatives. Questions have escalated in the coastal region, especially within the Assad family, about the identity of the owner of the logistics company chosen to implement the smart card project. That person later turned out to be Muhannad Al-Dabbagh, who is the chairman of the company’s board while also owning a 30 percent stake in it.
Hijazi adds that Dabbagh is Akhras’ cousin, while the largest shareholding in the company is registered in the name of Asma’s brother, whose name has been kept secret and hidden from the media. This means that the company is fully owned by a person from outside the Alawite sect, which is the first time that large bids came outside the sect since the period when Hafez was awarding tenders to the sons of Shailesh and Muhammad Makhlouf. Bashar followed the same path until the outbreak of the revolution when Asma began to alter the structure of economic entitlements.
Third generation conflict in the Assad family
Another scene of competition within the family was evident in recent days between Asma al-Akhras and Duraid al-Assad. The latter promoted his daughter Shams’ charitable activities in providing support to those affected by the earthquake in the Lattakia governorate. Ultimately, Asma finally realized the threat posed and sent her daughter, Zain al-Sham, with her brother Hafez to take pictures and promote their participation in distributing aid.
Hijazi asserts that Asma was behind the closure of the page of Shams al-Assad after her star shone among coastal areas and villages while providing some aid to poor families. Asma and Bashar do not accept the emergence of anyone who could make themselves popular inside Syria, especially in the family’s stronghold regions. The same happened to Bashar al-Jaafari, who was frozen out after he gained popularity within the ranks of Assad’s supporters. Similarly, the pair coordinated the publication of videos showing Suhail al-Hassan’s videos to be an inarticulate person who utters incomprehensible words.
Hijazi indicated that Duraid al-Assad, the son of Rifaat, may reassess his calculations and rekindle his alliance with Rami Makhlouf. Previously, Duraid has repeatedly called on “judicial authorities” in Syria and abroad to arrest “Rami Makhlouf” on charges of espionage.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.