Pro-President Supporters take to the streets 3/29/2011
As most people continue to see in the news, the Middle East region is under great reform. The Tunisian and Egyptian presidents have already been checked out of their offices, and Libya is underway, with possible threats carrying into Yemen and talks about several other countries. One of these countries is Syria. But, should Syria truly be compared to the rest of the Arab nations? And do the Syrian people really want a new president?
As I am of Syrian origin myself, I can give you a first hand account as to what is truly going on in the country. I have been trying to explain to people outside of the country and region over and over again what is going on and I have gotten tired of repeating myself, so I figured the best way to deal with this dilemma is to post the issue on my blog and carry out an open discussion from here.
I am going to start with the latest news about Syria, which is the decision of the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, to accept the resignation of the government chaired by Mohammad Naji Otri. Following this decision hundreds of thousands of Syrians took to the streets throughout Syria chanting in support of President Al-Assad.
Now, I will go through the events of the past week.
Let me start with the claim that news sources were publishing saying that thousands of people had taken to the streets protesting the current Syrian regime. This claim is nowhere near the capacity the news organizations are publishing, including the popular Arabic News Networks Al Jazeera and Alarabiya. Unfortunately, we are in a day and age where news agencies are not looking out for truth anymore as much as they are looking out for money and their own interests, even if it means printing lies.
Luckily, there are people -although it’s a very small number- who are still seeking the truth. Al Jazeera and Alarabiya say that thousands of people took to the streets protesting the Syrian President’s regime. My answer to them? Take a look at the Arabic News Network, Dunya. They cared enough to go around in the Syrian streets to find out the truth. One of their destinations was the congested Souk al-Hamidiyeh, one of the most popular Souk’s -shopping centers- in Damascus. The reporters asked workers, merchants and customers in the Souk about the alleged protests against President Al-Assad.
Although I have provided a link to the video of the news segment, I know that most of you reading this blog post probably don’t speak any Arabic. So, I will translate for you some of the responses by the people you see interviewed by Dunya.
Man 1: “Souk al-Hamidiyeh is congested whether it is winter or summer. Friday or Thursday. We see in front of the cameras now, it is a Souk for business. It is known amongst all people. 20 or 15 people entered, that can’t possibly fill Souk al-Hamidiyeh.This is something that has been exaggerated.”
Man 2: “They were 10. I was standing in the same spot I am standing in right now. And they came out from here. 10 people. Young boys and two girls. There was not the number that they are talking about. Our country is safe. They’ve been paid to do what they did, I am sure about it 100%.”
Man 5: “They are saying that thousands of people came, but this is not true. In normal circumstance Souk al-Hamidiyeh is always crowded.”
Woman 1: “They are a small group in Syria, too small. They’ve been sent and are working for someone. Someone has tricked them and paid them.”
Reporter: “The images that have been presented by mobile camera’s, and for anyone who looks carefully, they will see a very limited number of people in the middle of the Souk, who integrated themselves within the main population of the Souk in order to show a greater number of people protesting than there actually was. That same image exposed their reality.”
Man 7: “This is coming from outside the country. These are spies who have entered the country or are a group of people being paid by someone outside of the country.”
Man 8: “Boys. They are all little boys and have a little girl with them. The News stations are making it so big, we heard it on TV, and it’s not. We heard of 50 people and 70 people; there is none of that. All of them won’t reach up to be more than 10 people.”
Man 9: “These are spies who have been sent to the Souk so they can ruin the image of Syria. But we are, thank god, living in peace and stability.”
Man 11: “It is about spies. About 10 or 15 people that entered between all the people in the Souk. As you can see the Souk is very congested with many people. They entered between the people and they started chanting. And the images make it look like all these people are protesting. This is all wrong.”
Alarabiya also showed a video saying that this was a video of people sent by the Syrian government carrying weapons, and that they had been ordered to go and attack the protesters. Dunya did an on-air interview with a Lebanese man who recorded the video, Dr. Kamal Fayyad. This was what Dr. Fayyad had to say:
“This afternoon at about 4:00 pm Dubai time, I became surprised with the Network station Alarabiya. They put a special video about the anti-protesters in Syria. They said that these are people who had weapons, they had explosives, they had knives and they had many dangerous things with them, who had been sent by Syrian security forces so they can go and attack peaceful protesters. I became surprised with the scene that I saw in front of me that was supposedly a scene taking place in Syria. This scene was actually from 3 years ago during events taking place in May of 2008 in Beirut, Lebanon, of which I recorded! This scene was in the streets of Beirut, and I have a copy of it, of which I will upload tomorrow on my facebook profile so that all the Arab viewers can go in and see it. My name is Kamal Fayyad, and I will upload this video for everyone to see… I am really surprised. Why all these lies? Why has the Alarabiya Network entered such a conspiracy? This was a very big surprise for me. What does Alarabiya Network want from this? Why are you acting like this? Why are you participating in such a conspiracy?…I wish for one thing; that any Syrian citizen or any Syrian lawyer sue the Alarabiya Network on the counts of lying, fabrication and ruining Syria’s image. These things are fabricated, things that you are trying to fool the Arabic people with, not just the Syrian people. “
The scene Dr. Fayyad is talking about can be seen starting at 2:05 in the link provided.
The anger of the Syrian people towards Al Jazeera and Alarabiya News Networks became clear. So clear that the Syrian people decided to protest in front of Syria’s Al Jazeera station to show their disapproval towards the lies that were being said and fabricated. The Syrian pro-government protesters held up pictures of President Al-Assad and the Syrian flag chanting, “Say God and higher your voices. Al Jazeera record record. See the Syrian people here. What a lie, what a lie. God is protecting our Assad.”
My cousin, Michael Anastassiou-Bondokji, who is of Greek origin, arrived back from Syria two days ago. I was excited to ask him about the situation in Syria and what was actually going on. Not to my surprise, he told me it was all a lie and fabrication, and nothing in comparison to what the news organizations were broadcasting. I asked him to explain and he started to show me videos he took of what was actually going on. His videos reaffirmed what the people in Dunya’s news segment were saying. The protesters against the government were very small.
The Syrian people had become so tired of hearing the lies, they decided to hit the streets with protests that were in support of the government and president to show the world the truth about the Syrian people’s beliefs and feelings towards their government. These protests were much bigger than the anti-government protests. In these videos you will see girls, boys, women and men of all ages.
The people are chanting, “God, Syria, and Bashar only!” And, “Our Souls, and blood, we will give to you Bashar.”
People were also interviewed asking their views on President Al-Assad, of which all the people interviewed replied that they would die for their country and support their president all the way and were willing to lay out their lives for their country and president.You will see people holding pictures of the President and the Syrian flag, which clearly shows their support for the government and president.
I know that many of you are still asking, what about Daraa? Well, I am going to answer this for you.
The anti-government protests in Daraa were one, not peaceful, and two, many were not even Syrian citizens. Armed gangs had been invading and attacking police stations, government headquarters and worst of all, Syrian citizens. Some had opened fire from roof tops of buildings at passers-by while others stole weapons from police stations and used it to fire at officers and people. When news stations said that Syrian security had attacked and killed peaceful protesters they were lying, because the protesters were not peaceful, and any peaceful protesters that were out, the Syrian police didn’t even care to look at.
Now, after having tried to explain all this to people outside of the country who were unable to see what was truly going on, I was targeted with some concerns and questions of which I will now address. One person said to me, “I am sure you are proud of your country and your culture but we do have a right to be skeptical. Syria refuses to grant visas to American journalists and we cannot independently verify what is happening.”
Barbara Walters having lunch with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his wife Asma Al-Assad
My response to him is that this is completely untrue. Two of the top journalists in America have been to Syria, and even met with President Al-Assad. One was Diane Sawyer in 2007. Diane Sawyer actually broadcast her show for one week from inside Syria. If you youtube Diane Sawyer in Syria, you will see almost a complete list of her news segments and interviews while she was in Syria.
The other journalist was Barbara Walters, who went in 2008. Walters came back and spoke about her experience in Syria on her show, “The View.”
Walters spoke about President Al-Assad saying that, “From my experience, he was a very intelligent, a well informed, thoughtful, he spoke perfect English, wants very much to have relations with this country, has some solutions for ending the war in Iraq.”
Walters then went on to speak about President Al-Assad’s wife, Asma Al-Assad, saying “She was educated in England, worked in this country, speaks English the way I’m talking to you, lovely, intelligent…They just were very charming and intelligent. She has a cooperative, a group teaching children to be entrepreneurs with Harvard University, was raised in England, worked in this country. So this is not what we expected in terms of the leaders.”
In regards to the current situation, as I have laid out earlier, the news agencies and journalists have not been looking for nor printing the truth about what is truly happening in Syria, and have even fabricated videos to play out their interests. Actually, while my cousin was in Syria, he heard that Syria was not letting people video tape what was happening. So he decided to go down and see for himself. While he was there he saw a foreign journalist freely taping the anti-government protests. Later pro-government protests came out. When they did, the journalist turned her camera off. So he went up to her and asked her, “Why did you shut your camera off? Why don’t you tape what is truly happening?” Where he then took out his camera and started to freely record the events. From here you can see that there is some kind of conspiracy going on trying to mold the events in Syria towards one side.
I also received many comments about how Christians in Syria feel suppressed and have no freedom. Again this is not true. I am a Syrian Christian, and I never felt happier or safer as a Christian than when I am in Syria. Speaking from experience, Christians and Muslims in Syria live very peaceful lives. There are many inter-religious friends and dialogue. Actually, during the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan, Syrian Christian priests go and visit the Sheikh’s and Imam’s and celebrate with them. Then during Christmas, the Sheikh’s and Imam’s visit the Syrian Christian Priests to celebrate with them. The parade’s that take place during Christmas and Easter in Syria, is something probably never seen anywhere else in the world. Thousands of people take to the streets for parade’s during the Christian holiday’s set up by Syrian churches and members of the church. Muslims and Christians flood the streets to watch.
Does this look like Syrian Christians running in fear to you?
Even Walters, when talking about her trip to Syria said, “They have total freedom of religion because it’s a Christian, Muslim, there are not very many Jews there.”
I believe in 2008 Syria had the second largest Christmas Tree in the world and the largest one in the Middle East, where Muslims and Christians together went out to see the tree.
Many people have this misconception that Syria is an Islamic country run by Islamic law. This is incorrect. Syria is not an Islamic country. The Syrian Constitution defines Syria as a secular socialist state. Islam consists of the majority of the population in Syria, but that does not mean Syria is an Islamic state. Just like most of the people in the USA are Christians, but that doesn’t mean the USA is a Christian country run by Christian laws.
Some people then asked me, why are Christians in Syria fleeing the country because of the Muslims and economy in Syria, to come to the USA? The response to this question is, the Christians in Syria are not fleeing the country to run away from Islamic oppression. Many young Christian and Muslim men in Syria dream to come to the USA. Why? Simply because they have a misconception about the USA. They believe if they come to the USA then within a year they will be living on a bank of money.The reality? When most of these young Christian and Muslim men arrive here they realize they were wrong. They realize how expensive it is, and that they can not live the life of luxury they were dreaming of and see on TV, but instead have to work day and night just to live and pay their bills. What do they do? Well many either pack up their bags and go back, or spend the rest of their lives working at a minimum wage job and feel it’s too late to go back now, but regret the day they ever came.I know of many cases where men have dreamed of coming to the US, and once they got here they were shocked at what they saw and started to say life in Syria was way less stressful and so much better.
I am not saying Syria is heaven on earth. The country is far from it. However, neither is it anywhere near the image and conception that some people have and some news sources are printing. No country in the world is immune to corruption, lying and stealing. There isn’t one government in the world that doesn’t lie to its people and steal from its people. But what I do ask of everyone is to always check two sides of the story before creating for yourselves an idea about a people, region or news story, and indulging yourselves in the ignorance of the world.