I never thought that I would ever dream of seeing Bashar al Asad winning an election. But frankly speaking – today I do. For the sake of the Syrian people.
During my last visit to Syria in April 2014 I had two meetings which confronted me so badly with the gritty height of irony we are facing in Syria. It hurts. It makes me feel desperate and angry. What can WE the people achieve against this bulwark of power and money?
The first meeting was with Nourra, Bassel’s wife. Among many other things Bassel is a social activist. He has been detained 2 years ago. And Nourra, his brave and courageous wife is fighting for his release. No accusation. No trial. A political prisoner. I wrote about it earlier. The situation is a mess and it is getting worse and more unpredictable every day. Together with Bassel there are currently 30.000 (estimated number) political prisoners in Syria’s government prisons. The prisons seem to be not necessarily controlled by government, the prison security apparatus has become an institution of its own during the war. And arbitrariness is what we see. Hardly anyone of the detained is facing a trial, many of them disappear – and no one knows where. The number of requests sent to the officials is countless, relatives very often have no idea what has happened to their loved ones. Actually one need to admit that Nourra can be “happy” with the situation … Hard to imagine, but this is reality!
My second meeting was with a young student at Damascus University. Feras is his name. He attended a presentation of the Iranian delegation of our International Peace Pilgrimage to Syria. A group of scientists and artists – all very well-known in Iran. Here is Feras’ reaction:
So why were these two meetings so abounded with irony ?
Nourra and Feras, among other young Syrians, confirmed that in April 2011 people all over Syria went in the streets. Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt. Frustrated with Assad’s dictatorship, its lack of fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and censorship. They’ve said maybe a few hundred went out in Damascus, but never ever thousands. And they’ve said, that their “revolution” has been stolen, stolen by foreign powers who have an interest in Syria and who’ve brought foreign fighters into Syria to overthrow Assad. An intervention as we’ve seen it in Irak or in Libya is still an option for the West.
Having said this, the irony become obvious:
- Those young people who fought for the values the West used to stand for turned against their former ideal.
- For most Syrians, including those who went out into the streets for a regime change, Assad is THE only one who can re-stabilize the country and protect it from foreign powers. He is stronger than ever.
- The Syrian youth doesn’t see a near future WITHOUT Assad and they are convinced that he will use pretty ruthlessly the failures of the West against his own people. Meaning more censorship, less human rights … more military.
- The Syrians have lost their nation. Their country is destroyed.
- And the Syrians never accepted the SNC – heavily supported and dominated by the West and the Saudis – as their representatives.
So, what has been achieved in Syria?
Another destroyed country in the Middle East. Millions of refugees – the UN speaks about the biggest human desaster nowadays. In Syria more than anywhere else the dirty game of war, power and economic interests became transparent for the worldwide public. The opposition – supported by the West – got “out of control” and today with the weapons of the West they fight against the West. The fear that jihadist – trained by the US and UK – return into their home countries and attack their citizens is bigger than ever before. The number of fundamentalists is growing rapidly and the entire region is far from being peaceful. In Irak the war is escalating. Today many more people die on a daily basis than during the war. The government can’t control the country. Same is true for Libya. And Yemen – were silently a US drone war is going on. In Egypt a new general was sworn in as President – a Western and Gulf puppet who when dressed in his uniform always reminds me of Gaddafi . Sisi was elected by less than 50% of the Egyptians! Is he a people’s president? In all countries the economic situation is a mess and the youth has lost its hope.
If not this, than what is irony?
This article was first published by COUNTERPUNCH, May 30, 2014
The Presidential Election in Syria takes place next Tuesday, June 3. With a revised 2012 Constitution, Syria is no longer a one party state and there are multiple candidates for office. Running against Bashar al Asad are former communist and legislator Maher al Hajjar and business person Hassan al Nouri.
The election has been vehemently opposed by the so called “Friends of Syria” (NATO members Turkey, Germany, France, UK, Italy, USA, plus the Gulf monarchies UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia plus Jordan and Egypt). Since 2011 the “Friends” have met periodically to coordinate funding, arming and training the rebels plus trying to promote and consolidate a credible outside political leadership. According to the pro opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the result of this externally supported uprising has been over 62,000 dead Syrian soldiers and militia, plus another 80,836 dead civilians. Many of the civilians were killed by rebels. Just looking at the number of dead Syrian soldiers and security forces, can you imagine what would happen if 10% that number (6,000 soldiers and security) were killed in the USA?
Given the extent of the violence, the well publicized fanaticism of the most active rebels and evident difficulty to manage the political operatives who were supposed to be anointed “leaders”, one might wonder whey the USA and others persist in trying to force regime change in Syria.
But instead of viewing the multi-candidate election in Syria as a step forward, they are viewing it as a mortal threat. “Assad’s staged elections are a farce,” Kerry said after the so-called Friends of Syria meeting in London on Thursday May 15. “They’re an insult. They are a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world,” he added.
France, Germany, Belgium and the Gulf States have all prohibited voting in the Syrian election. Syrian Embassies in the US and Canada have been forced to close, removing the chance for Syrians living in these countries to vote.
Why are Kerry and the “Friends” so upset and fearful of Syrian elections? If they are such a farce, then much of the public will not participate in them. If the vote is seen by the public as meaningless, then voter turnout will be very low such as in Egypt this week.
As to the issue of holding an election during a time of conflict, this was done right here in the USA. The 1864 election which re-elected Abraham Lincoln was held during the midst of the extremely bloody US civil war.
Another group afraid of the Syrian elections is the Syrian American Council (SAC). This well funded lobby group claims to represent Syrian Americans. They have launched a twitter and Facebook campaign decrying the ‘Blood Election’. They have professional marketing and public relations, paid staff and support from neo-con and zionist interventionists in Congress. Still, their real support across the country seems thin. Last August and September 2013, they were promoting a US attack on Syria. They were not concerned with the massive bloodshed that would have resulted from that. Ironically they are decrying blood now when Syria holds a peaceful election.
In sharp contrast with SAC, alternative organizations such as Arab Americans for Syria (AA4Syria) and Syrian American Forum (SAF) are speaking with growing strength against our US tax dollars being used to destroy their homeland. As a measure of the depth of feelings, over 25 members of AA4Syria are flying to Beirut then traveling by land to Syria to vote in next Tuesday’s election. The same thing is happening in other countries which have prevented Syrians from casting a vote. Syrians who live in the Gulf are traveling all the way to Syria to vote as a sign of their commitment.
The reason is that many Syrians, both inside and outside the country, see voting in this election as a sign of support for their homeland at this difficult time.
Voting by Syrians living abroad has already begun, with voting yesterday May 28 in Lebanon, Jordan and a few other countries. The turnout in Beirut was massive, with tens of thousands of people marching, chanting and singing through the avenue and along the highway to the Syrian Embassy compound east of the city center. Look at the video and judge for yourself whether these people are being “forced” to vote or cheer for Bashar al Asad.
The voting in Beirut has been extended due to the huge turnout. This is in ironic contrast with Egypt where the government is desperately extending the voting hours and days, trying to boost the voting turnout.
If recent history is a guide, there may be some kind of spectacular media event or atrocity in the coming days. The Syrian opposition and their handlers have executed PR stunts at critical times. If it happens here, the purpose will be to distract from the strong Syrian participation in the election and to attempt to renew the branding of Asad as “brutal dictator”.
But the branding is wearing thin, those who are most affected by the crisis know the truth and even those who have been influenced by the immense propaganda may be starting to wonder: Was it ever a genuine “Syrian revolution”? What kind of “revolution” is financed by corrupt monarchies and former colonial powers? Is the “brutal dictator” really as bad as they say? The scenes of thousands of Syrians waving his poster, chanting his name and youth expressing love for him are not what they wish us to see.
Next week we can look at the videos, photos and stories from Syria. Hopefully there will be some reasonably unbiased reports. John Kerry and other “Friends of Syria” did not want it to happen, and there may still be violence and bumps on the journey, but the election in Syria is going ahead. Let’s see what Kerry and company are afraid of.