“Who is the hope for the future of Syria?” A teacher paces in a drab classroom in Syria, asking the young students. “Who is the hope to lead us to a better future?” She adds, “We have the right to choose.” She calls on a few to answer, one by one, later marking them as orphans of the war. They dutifully stand and state the same (and only) answer, “The President, Bashar Hafez al-Assad.”
This video has been making the rounds on Syrian social media in the past weeks. Another social media post from an official state channel covers the launch of the 2021 Children’s Parliament under the Young Baathists. Three young, unenthusiastic-looking children were elected as president, vice president, and secretary of the parliament. They and their peers are all wearing matching orange T-shirts with black scarves tied around their necks. Behind the young leaders of this parliament, the eternal leaders loom over them: three massive portraits of Hafez and Bashar. The tagline of the parliament is “Our hope is Bashar, to continue the journey.”
The upcoming 2021 elections will mark al-Assad’s fourth seven-year term. He’s already been in power for 21 years after his father, Hafez, reigned for 30. This means that any Syrian younger than 60 doesn’t even remember a time when the country was not ruled by the Assad regime. Still, the regime thinks there’s a need to play the brainwashing charade of “choice” and “elections.”
For over five decades in Syria — a country of millions of people — there has been one story, one portrait, one family, and one choice.
Early in the revolution, a video emerged of a man in a brown sweater with a trembling, hoarse voice, stating, “I’m human. I’m not an animal. And all these people are like me.” His words were uttered with so much pain, and yet they were so stark, so simple. This was the most basic demand of Syrians who rose up against the regime: to have the freedom to demand their own humanity. To reclaim their dignity. [Continue reading…]