Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Beautiful Face of an Ugly Regime | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Faiayo and Rihan Younan perform on the video, ‘To Our Countries.’ (Screen-grab taken from YouTube video)

In this day and age, with its proliferation of images and videos online, it is easy to become bewitched by a beautiful face and a sweet-sounding voice. So it was with the Western media—sick as it is of the ugly images of death and killing and destruction coming out of our countries—when it recently fell under the spell of two Syrian girls, Faiayo and Rihan Younan, whose online video, ‘To Our Countries,’ quickly went viral, and was received with open arms in Western media outlets.

The video shows the two—highly attractive—Syrian girls standing almost angelically in front of a white background while one of them sings a song about her homeland and the other recites poetry detailing the horrors the Syrian people and others in the region have had to endure in recent years.

Here, the true meaning of the video, the song and the poetry recited, all take a back seat to the visual sophistication of this professional-looking video and its beautiful protagonists talking about their country—the one which now provides us with a steady stream of images and videos of murder and slaughter and horror.

Here is how the Western media can finally hand over its traditional purview of calling for “peace” to someone else—specifically, two beautiful Syrian girls living in Sweden posting a video about the sufferings of people in the Levant, Baghdad, Beirut and Jerusalem, spreading a “noble” message of hope and love for their war-torn country, Syria, now emblazoned all over newspaper headlines.

Those who welcomed or even celebrated this video ignored an important question. Do these two girls truly stand for the values of freedom, truth and peace as some Western media outlets would have us believe? We haven’t even mentioned the very similar response the video garnered from the Syrian regime and its allies’ own media outlets yet.

How seductive is all this talk of “freedom” coming from these girls; how poetic their admonition of the faceless enemy that is extremism and the foreign, hegemonic Western hands reaching into our lands and meddling in our affairs. In their song, the two girls adopt the same rhetoric used by the Syrian regime, generalizing the Syrian problem as a pan-Arab one, without pointing the finger at any one particular oppressor, and lumping together Western interference and the terrorist threat into one vague, ill-defined opponent.

So let us dig a little deeper, and we will soon find out just how vacuous this video and the message behind it is.

It is no secret that these two girls, who bewitched the foreign press and hundreds of thousands of others online, are fierce supporters of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, the primary architect of the current crisis in Syria; neither is their support for his army, now an expert in dropping barrel bombs onto the heads of the Syrian people; nor their stance toward those farcical presidential elections held in Syria earlier this year.

As such, the Syrian regime’s media machine welcomed, like some of its Western counterparts, these two girls and the video they appeared in. This is not the first time the West, with its general ignorance of our region, our language and the events occurring here, has become bewitched by a beautiful, exotic face singing an “innocent song for peace.”

Here we are taken back to the beginnings of the Syrian uprising, back in 2011. How can any people revolt against a youthful, handsome president, who was trained as a doctor and is married to such a beautiful, elegant, educated woman, and who was previously hailed by the West only years before? In reality, this president is nothing but a butcher responsible for the deaths of around 200,000 of his own people and the destruction of an entire country.

And so the inevitable online video rebuttal to the Younan sisters’ video followed on its heels rather swiftly. In this video—entitled, ‘The Genuine Version’—two young men appeared mocking the sisters’ appearance in the original video and the words of the song one of them had sung. How can these “deluded” youths, as the sisters had called them in their video, have the temerity to revolt against “our beloved doctor?”

In reality, the buffoonery and mockery of the second video puts things in their proper place. In the first video, a despotic regime attempts to seduce us through a beautiful voice and two pairs of hypnotic eyes; in the second, two youths give us the truth.