London, Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – For the first time since becoming president, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave up talking to his people from behind closed halls and came out into the street to address them face to face. Al-Assad Junior in the last 12 years gave his speeches either at the People’s Assembly or at Damascus University with his audience limited to Baath Party leaders and state officials.
It became evident yesterday that Al-Assad’s appearance at Umayyad Square in central Damascus accompanied by his wife Asma and two of his young children “was preplanned precisely by the Syrian regime’s organs” according to activists’ assertions to Asharq Al-Awsat. “A demonstration of support was mobilized by issuing instructions to all the government’s departments forcing the employees to take part in the assembly the preparations for which were started early in the morning.” Groups of participants, among them girls, surrounded the main platform from where Al-Assad delivered his speech which, according to an activist, made the masses in Umayyad Square split into two: “The first were the state institutions’ staff and employees who were forced to come and the second were the (Shabiha) who rallied around Al-Assad and cheered him.”
Many Syrians mocked Al-Assad’s appearance and speech and compared it to Muammar Gaddafi, who just months before the Libyan revolution’s victory, stood on the roof of one of the buildings overlooking the Green Square and delivered a fiery speech asserting continuation of the confrontation with those he called the “misguided rats.”
Muhammad, a member of the Damascus Countryside Coordination Committee, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Al-Assad’s appearance at this specific time at the center of a demonstration of support is irrefutable evidence that the Syrian regime is in the last stage of its collapse.” He pointed out that “this is the first time that Al-Assad appears with his supporters and this is a sign of the quandary the ruling circle in Damascus has reached.” He expressed his belief that “the Syrian regime has made the decision for a confrontation after embroiling the country in a crisis that is difficult to resolve because of its stupid policies and barbaric practices against the Syrian people.” He added that “the president’s appearance among the people is just one of the signs of the confrontation that the regime is going to follow in a more ferocious way than before” and stressed that “Al-Assad chose to appear according to a planned scenario by the security organs and yet he did not dare to stand before his people for more than few minutes and in the presence of an extensive security protection.”
A Syrian activist asked: “Why Al-Assad did not appear in Homs, where his elements are killing children and torturing people?” He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Why did he choose Damascus and Umayyad Square that is blockaded by the security forces?” He concluded that “Al-Assad has only a small square left for him and few Shabiha who are protecting and standing with him for their own interest because the people are against him in all the cities. The Syrian revolution has triumphed and Al-Assad’s regime is in its death throes like a dying person.”
While the official Syrian media celebrated Al-Assad’s appearance claiming he “surprised his supporters” and underlined “the victory over the conspiracy against Syria”, Syrian oppositionists launched on the “Facebook” website mocking attacks on him. One of them said “Al-Assad is imitating Hasan Nasrallah when he appears suddenly before his supporters to address them” and pointed out that “not wearing a tie was an imitation of [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad, the only ally.”
Another activist wrote: “We will wait for Al-Assad to appear carrying an umbrella and saying I am here, like Gaddafi did.” A third oppositionist advised the Syria n president “to start broadcasting his speeches by audio only because his whereabouts in the next stage will not be known and the Syrian people will hunt him and try him and his criminal family.”
“Shabiha forever. We are your soldiers, O Al-Assad.” Chanted the Syrian president’s supporters massed in Umayyad Square in a demonstration called for by economic activists through “SMS” messages and on “Facebook” pages. It was noticed that the Syrian screens carried the voices of the masses in the square declaring loyalty to President Al-Assad and his cousin the businessman Rami Makhluf who does not occupy any official post in addition to voicing their loyalty to Iran and Hezbollah through the slogans changed by the participants.
Activists considered Al-Assad’s appearance in Umayyad Square with his family and the masses’ reiteration of the Shabiha’s chants, the drinking of blood, and slogans underlining the loyalty to Rami Makhluf “an admission by the regime that it is a familial gangs one” according to an activist who wrote this on his “Facebook” page while activist Bakr said “Al-Assad is repeating Gaddafi’s scenario when he appeared in Green Square.” Ahmad suggested to Al-Assad to appear spontaneously among his people in Al-Khalidiyah and Baba Amru or among those participating in the funeral of the 18 martyrs in Dayr al-Zur yesterday.”