In Syria there is an inevitable, expected death toll on a daily basis, and what is worse, the situation worsened after the latest futile attempt by the U.N. Security Council to curb the violent crackdown against the protesters, dissidents and defected soldiers as both Russia and China vetoed a resolution calling for foreign intervention.
An added raucous audio is also heard in the Levant country, that is the sound of mortars, gunfire … to say it more explicitly, it is the sound of war.
Syria displays the perfect picture for an observer to call for a revolution. After all, Syria’s late president, Hafez al-Assad, ruled the country for three decades under a dictatorial grip, aided with an emergency law to stifle opposition, and committed the infamous Hama massacre in 1982 among other violent dissident clampdowns.
Hafez, recruited people from his mainly Allawite sect, and during his tenure, bribes and corruption were rife and a small circle of beneficiaries monopolized business…
And in a typical Arab dictatorial fashion, he groomed his son, Bassel al-Assad, to be his successor, but he died in a car accident in 1994, so he chose his western-educated, softly-spoken, eye doctor son, Bashar al-Assad, who took over the presidency in 2000.
Expectedly, Bashar al-Assad stayed on. In 2007, Bashar won a referendum, described as sham, to give him a second seven-year term.
All this looks like a reeking dictatorship that needs to be removed and be gone!
But I am so sorry to pop the bubble for the revolutionary romantics, for Bashar al-Assad is still loved, beloved, adored, and has a support base.
“So are you against or with Bashar al-Assad?” I asked the hairdresser, who was working to turn my hair a dark burgundy-red in a salon in glamorous Dubai.
Looking at her reflection in the mirror, she gave a surprised look, but then she changed to answer a question that deemed to be rather urgent: “I am neutral now … and I do not think it is him;it is his brother Maher al-Assad,” she said in a confident tone.
“I have personally met with Bashar al-Assad … he is a nice person, and humble,” said the stylist. “We had a place like a cottage in Syria we would go to; that’s where I met Bashar al-Assad, jogged in vicinity with him in a track-like lane in there … ”
“But don’t you see the gruesome footage, the killing,” I, the perplexed, asked.
“My husband was against the regime before and after what had happened; I just don’t think he [Bashar al-Assad] is behind all of this, it is his brother.”
“He did not do anything for Syria, how can you be pro-Assad?” I asked.
“No he did achieve, he renovated the airport in Damascus, he introduced mass weddings, he facilitated home-ownership to young couples … before it used to take years and years for a person to afford a home … my sister within five years was able to get a house” she said.
“Well, a government should do these things anyways?” I asked.
“During his father’s reign none of this happened,” she said, staring forcefully into my eyes.
“I hope that there won’t be any civil war, any sectarianism, may God protect Syria,” I shared my sentiments.
“In Syria we don’t have any sectarianism; most of my friends come from a different religion, sect, we are not like Iraq,” she optimistically said.
After our discussion, I see that my eyebrows were burgundy, too, and they looked good, but then the hair-color creative had to hand me over to another lady to cut my hair as her shift ended …
I saw her wearing her scarf, her Gulf-style abaya, which Syrians do not usually wear … She looked like a devout Muslim as she walked out of the salon.
The lady was one of the pro-Bashar al-Assad individuals … but there are others.
One of my best friends in Dubai, a Syrian from Aleppo, who was pro the regime but now an undecided bench sitter, still loves the man.
“Come on, just take a look at him, he does not look like a criminal,” said my friend, who was puffing mint-scented shisha as we were sitting outside on a patio enjoying Dubai’s gentle cold-weather breeze.
And to my surprise, our other friend, a young Englishman, flashed a big smile in reaction, and nodded his head, agreeing that the aesthetics of Bashar al-Assad does belong to a war-criminal.
“The media is biased, in his ABC interview they cut and montaged so he can appear as per their own agendas,” my friend continued.
My friend is adamant in his neutrality, in the matter of fact, when he went as a suitor to get to know a girl from a hardline-opposition family, he made it clear that he is neutral and that he does not have enough information to take a succinct position. He lost the opportunity to know a nice lady for marriage, as the family rejected him due to his political views but he consolidated his impartiality.
Some online observers, too, are accusing Maher al-Assad as the one responsible for what is happening in Syria, and some go to the extreme and paint a romanticized, innocent image of the eye doctor, and say that his brother is the one who has put the president in a secluded place where he does not hear any news from the outside world!
While there is no verification for such claims, it shows Bashar al-Assad’s soft power and the wide-influence of his personality unto people.
It is true that Bashar al-Assad hails from the ruling Allawite sect, which represents only 12 percent of the Syrian population, but his mother is Christian, and his beautiful, tall, trendy, charity-conscious wife is of a Sunni background, making al-Assad a wholesome Syrian mixture.
While we do not know the truth about whether Bashar al-Assad is innocent or not, the president, who happens to be the head of the Syrian armed forces, was locked in some ivory tower, but empirical evidence shows that he has the support base … and even people that turn from pro to neutral, still stay to be taken by his humble charms.
It is no wonder that Bashar al-Assad made it to one of his supporters’ rallies in Damascus. The man is still loved and cherished by many Syrians, making the conflict in the country a protracted and prolonged one. And until then, the beneficiaries, too, decide to stand against him, the wheel of fortune will turn against him and his regime.
(Dina al-Shibeeb is a journalist at Al Arabiya, and can be reached at email@example.com)