Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Assad, Face-to-Face with his Victims | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) shows Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad, left, visiting the Dweir shelter for the displaced people in the industrial city of Adra, northeast of the capital Damascus, on March 12, 2014. (AFP Photo/HO/SANA)

The grandmother pulled the hand of the crying little girl who stood staring in front of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. We heard the girl say she did not know anything about the fate of her mother and siblings as she wept. We did not know who the little girl was, who her family were, or how she lost them.

Some inaudible words were exchanged and the scene ended there to the sound of a song with the lyrics: “Put your hand in my hand, I will not abandon you even if they slit my throat.”

What irony, for the official Syrian TV to choose a song about the love for their president, which linked love and loyalty to the slitting of throats.

The song played for several long and unbearable minutes, accompanying Assad’s visit to refugees from Adra. He visited them in a public appearance which was described as “rare,” and which followed his offensive announcement that he deserved to run for another term.

Those who have been shocked by the scenes of violence, murder and bloodshed from Syria in recent years, and regard them as a true and honest portrayal of the meaning of pain and horror, may need to expand the scope of the definition of cruelty and its consequences.

After three years of Syrian violence, we now stand before scenes of a dramatic climax of the tragedy, which is the moment the murderer meets his victims.

The scenes of the daily Syrian slaughter, especially those which brought the murderers together with their victims, were dominated by intense feelings of violence. The victim would be begging or crying, or writhing in pain, or taking their last breath, while the murderer did not bother to hide their identity, and carries out their crimes without hesitation.

Assad’s meeting the dozens of refugees was such a moment.

But this moment can be interpreted differently. An interpretation which the many cameras that were eager to show the choreographed gazes of the compassionate president and convey his every loving gesture could not hide. There were stifled sentiments which accompanied the visit of the Syrian president to his victims at the refugee camp.

When the president talks to a tearful lady begging for her husband to be found, we can only imagine the hidden words in that chat, and the answer is: “Be thankful I did not kill you with him.” Or when he tapped the shoulder of a young boy sitting with a group of children, it was as if he was saying: “How did you escape my barrel bombs little one? Next time I will make sure my aim is more accurate.”

The refugees gathered around the president chanting, “With our souls, with our blood,” and rushed to meet him. He carried on with his smiles and hollow gazes, the hollowness of which the cameras failed to hide.

There is no doubt that the Syrian revolution has succeeded in creating images that no other revolution had managed before. However, in contrast, the Syrian regime has succeeded in diluting the impact of these images by casting doubts on them, and saying they were fabricated and false.

The meeting of Assad with the refugees is the other side of that image; the meeting of a caring president with a people displaced by “insurgents.” Do you believe Assad truly cares?

This is exactly what the makers of that film think we will infer, just as the regime thinks we will believe that the killers of the Syrian people are the “insurgents.”