The Assad family dictatorship was imposed on Syria in a military coup in 1970 by Hafiz al-Assad. The ruthless dictator of Rumania, Nicolae Ceaușescu was both his friend and mentor. Hafiz adopted the same cult of personality, brutal secret police, intolerance of all dissent, nepotism and systematic use of torture from Ceaușescu. In 1989 when Nicolae and Elana Ceausescu were shot, graffiti saying the equivalent of “For every Ceaușescu the day will come” was sprayed on walls in Damascus. The Syrian dissident Rana Kabbani remembers growing up in Syria in the 1970s, and having to learn the speeches of Hafiz verbatim, before being allowed to go to university. Hafiz created the most feared and comprehensive web of security forces “Mukhabarat” in the Middle East, which were capable of systematic torture and murder, such as the notorious destruction of Hama in 1982.