Guest-post: A Journey in the pro-Assads’ Mentality
This post was written and sent to me by a dear friend in Damascus, who wishes to stay anonymous. I publish it as it is.
If you stop any taxi in Damascus, the driver would most probably be a member of one of the numerous internal intelligence bodies in Syria. These days, those recruited drivers are useful for the regime as a propaganda tool. They are ordered to keep the official and the unofficial radio stations on so that as many passengers as possible would be exposed to the official narrative.
Many drivers might open a discussion with the passenger. It would mostly end by criticizing the demonstrations and the demonstrators, or by depicting the Security forces and their brutal crackdown as heros. One driver passed by a demonstration in Al-Hajar Al-Aswad, one of the most unprivileged neighborhoods in Damascus, he described them as “animals without honor, they obviously appeared like they are not even from Syria.”
The animosity against “the demonstrators” is not as simple as some would think. It is systematic, discriminative and above all xenophobic. When the first demonstrations broke in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, the pro-regime supporters launched a campaign against its people. The first comment you would have heard from any pro-government supporter would be that “they are tribal and Bedouins, most of them are primitive weapons smugglers,” thus; presumably they deserve to be treated brutally.
And now that the demonstrations have spread across the country, excluding very few regions and cities, the accusations have escalated drastically. Usually, by the pro-regime media, all demonstrators are grouped in one category: greedy people who take money from outsiders so that they demonstrate and destabilize the country.
There is a considerable percentage of the population which believe these ideas. I had the chance to witness one argument between a young man and a woman who work in the same company talking about the demonstrators; they believe that each of the demonstrators take about 5000 Syrian Pounds (approximately 110USD) funded by external powers, namely the USA and Qatar. They also believe that the demonstrators take hallucination pills prepared and distributed by Al-Jazeera News Channel. The guy explained that this tablets make the demonstrators “immune” against physical and psychological torture; “Some of them laugh while they are beaten up, others don’t show any response” the guy said. The girl assured that in every demonstration there is someone atop of a building who sprinkles a stimulant material over of the demonstrators so that they become aggressive.” “The picture is clear now,” the guy said, “These people are willing to cooperate with the devil for a silly bunch of dollars. Now, there is no good demonstrator.”
In an afternoon BBQ, a friend of mine was having a chat with her friend whose father is a famous Baathist, the friend bended towards the grill and picked a piece of a lamb meat, he smiled and whispered in her ear: “Fresh!.. From Daraa.” Later that same week, a fifty year-old lady revealed to me that “all the demonstrators should be shot by an automatic machinegun.”
When President Bashar al-Assad made his famous speech in March noting that “you’re either with us, or against us”, an MP interrupted the speech telling the president that “he should not be the leader of the Arab world, instead, he should be the leader of the whole world.” All the MPs clapped and chanted for the life of president. Ironically, after this speech the term “global conspiracy against Syria” started to be widely used by the pro-Assads. They believe that Syria is targeted by the EU, USA, Qatar, and until very recently Syria’s strongest ally: Turkey.
In a Pro Assad rally, the supporters chant “if you do not clap with us then your mother is a Qatari.” To a lesser degree the same slogan is used but by replacing “Qatari” with “Turkish.” They even launched a campaign in order to boycott everything related to Qatar and Turkey. Listening to Turkish music is frowned upon by many of them, while a demonstrator stood in front of an ottoman building in Damascus and started shouting “Drown it! It’s Turkish.”
Alongside these new slogans used by the pro-Assads, the old ones are still popular especially “Allah, Syria, and Bashar only.” The Demonstrators have changed it by chanting “Allah, Syria and Freedom only.” The Demonstrators keep on assuring that achieving freedom is their main goal. But for the pro-Assads the word freedom puts a threat on the regime and is considered recently a taboo word.
In a park, a 4 year old child runs towards me smiling and chanting “Allah, Syria, and Bashar only.” I smiled and said, and don’t you want freedom? The kid responded automatically, “I hate freedom, and I only love Bashar.” I looked at his mother, she knew what I was going to say, she whispered in my ear “you don’t have to be angry at me, I did that in order to protect him from torture.”