Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bashar and Hafez around town, some more

In response to a few of the comments from the last post: I am purposely refraining from making this a politically centered article, much less a politically centered blog. I am posting these pictures because I find them to be so uniquely Syrian, and I think they say a lot about the culture that produced them - whether or not you agree with all the political implications.

Plus, they're fun.

Also, I take issue with the claim that these kinds of pictures are only on pro-Assad people's cars, homes, shops, etc, as well as the claim that they're all government made (however, it is true that most of these excerpted photos are probably from such sources). But if you try to tell me that "the government" produced a sticker of Bashar al-Assad with his wife and kids surrounded by a superimposed rose garden and encircled by a gaudily pink glitter heart (such a sticker is in my actual possession), and then chose to distribute it to the public by having a guy selling it and others like it on Jesr ar-Rais, then I'm sorry, but I don't believe you. There has to be a market for such things in order for them to be (so shoddily and kitschily) produced - and I don't think it's necessarily a statement of full support (or fear!) of the regime for someone to buy one.

Politics (mostly) aside, I bring you a few more pictures from around Syria.

This poster is hanging next to the entrance to the Souq al-Hamadiyye, not far from the statue of Salah ad-Din. It says, "God will protect Syria."

My only regret about this picture is that it's so blurry, because it has one of our favorite posters on it. Do you see Bashar in the picture above the bus? Then, do you see the ghost of his father hanging out over his shoulder? Even if the symbolism was unintended, it's brilliant.

There is also a poster we used to see in many places that actually had a picture of the heads of Hafez, Basil, and Bashar, kind of floating on a black background. We used to call this one (irreverence alert!) the Trinity. You know: father, son, and holy ghost.

Here is a sign celebrating Bashar's recent win in the election. That's all I will say about it.

This is actually a gorgeous mural not far from the road to Baramkeh. I think there is a similar, bigger one in the Panorama museum, but that one focuses more on the diverse peoples of Syria. This one has a few of those elements, but also some representations of events in recent history. See, for example, the dam built with Soviet cooperation in the north of Syria.

I think this one takes the cake. What more needs to be said about a cult of personality than that there exists on the road outside of Aleppo a giant picture of Bashar al-Assad's head? And that it's not even a flattering picture? (It's almost as bad as the one of Hafez that's hanging up in the border crossing areas, where he looks like he's suffering from a bad case of rosacea.)

I heard that Bashar himself actually requested that people not display photos of him or his family, presumably in order to stop the image worship that started with his father. I wonder if this was the photo that spurred that request. If so, I don't think I blame him.


Anonymous said...

Are you teasing your readers? Do you really believe of what you are saying. Have you been to normal people houses and you saw pictures for these clan. May be the soldiers from his village, but other than that, I do no think so.
My mom love him for the fact that they got rid of his father after 30 years. Have you seen his fathers’ photos looking angrily and threatening at his people. You need more work on a subject like this before you make a claim.

Bridget said...

I'm not sure what I claimed that you are disputing.

Yes, I've seen pictures of Bashar in people's homes (and shops, and cars).

Yes, Hafez often looks angry in his photographs (for example, the one in the border crossing).

And it sounds like your mom is one of the 'market' I described - someone who would buy a photo of Bashar from a vendor on Jesr ar-Rais.

I'm not sure where we disagree here, but thanks for commenting. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Bidget,
First, I disagree with you when you say that these pictures are fun, they are the simple for oppression He is the dictator son who imprisoned the people who would like to speak their minds like what you are doing now. Remember these pictures are for the Syrian dictator, the son the very vicious dictator who many of Syrians suffered and still suffering on their hands. You might think you not, but you are making a political statement when you put these pictures and write nicely about them. When I was in the country, I heard of thousands of stories about what have happened to the people who refused to hang these pictures. Have you heard of the people in prison, do you know how many ones are in prison for only voicing their point of view, are you forgetting that this is an oppressive State? Have you heard of the universal declaration of human rights, can name one practiced in Syria. Have also heard of Lisa Wedeen who documented his father oppression and how they used these pictures to control the population. You might have a good read to read her book: Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria

In the first picture, people will never dare to put the statement: God will protect Syria, if no picture of Him beside it.
The pictures with the three of them, the father and the two sons is the picture which remind people that this family owns this country and it is not a only the president who is in charge, it is a family affair. May be you never heard of his uncle who died two years ago, Jamil Assad, he died in a poor country but he could make a wealth from his work as a member of parliament making more than Syrian GDP, in addition to 900 houses, and 250 kg of gold as mentioned in the state published newspaper. Now, sorry, may be you have to go fishing?

DigitalOasis said...

I think we should respect Bridget's wishes not to politicize her post. She sees something different in those pictures than what the natives see, and it's always interesting to look at new perspectives.

So taking an artistic approach to this, I will say that several of the depictions leave a lot to be desired in terms of photographic or painting skill. Sometimes he's drawn out of proportion, and the colors mixes in others are aweful, what is usually called by city folks as "falahi" (trans. "country pumpkin" or "gaudy").

Anonymous said...

You know what I am thinking when I see the new posters and banners? ... how many of those graphic designers are using an original, and not a copied Adobe photoshop?*


*my attempt to steer the discussion away from politics

Golaniya said...

DigitalOasis, you may see in Bridget's perspective to the pictures as deep, but you cannot call anonymous' perspective naïve, he is speaking on behalf of most Syrian citizen.

A broken theater in Downtown Beirut might be exotic to tourists and foreigners, artistic that is, but to the locals, it is painful history. Same with these pictures.

The idea is simple, 97% did not elect Assad because they like him.

People did not go to the concerts in Omaywein square cause they're happy he's elected
(Elected himself).

People, thousands of them, did not march in the street to honor him.

And finally, you can see pics all over syria, but it is one syria you are looking at, a constructed Syria you are looking at, not the people's, it is his syria. You are seeing the syria we hate to see everyday, we flee everyday. Everyday.

Don't get me wrong, you can see whatever in those pics, but you need to believe most the people, those who shared history with this fellow, not posters.

Bridget said...

Thank you all for your comments. I see truth in all of them.

Especially the parts about "creative" graphic design. :)

Golaniya, I don't know how to say this without (probably) offending you. But it hurts me, even (especially?) as an American, to hear you say you 'hate' Syria every day.

I thought Arabs were the best at this - you know, the line I heard all the time in Syria: "We love the American people, but we hate the American government." Can you allow yourself, your countrymen, or at least me, the same privilege?

I love Syria. I may not love every little thing about every aspect of it, but on the whole, I love Syria. Yes, its people, especially its people, but not just its people. There is no other place like Syria in the world and I would hope you would be proud to call it your homeland. We loved it enough to start our family there and give our daughter an Arabic name and "Damascus" as a middle name.

Of course I can allow you (and others who expressed similar sentiments) to feel what you do in your heart. But I do hope to communicate to everyone the fact that I write the things I do on this blog because I. Love. Syria.

The end.

sasa said...


With all respect, I don't think you read Golaniyah's comment in context. There is no one. NO ONE. on the Syrian blogosphere who loves Syria more than Golaniyah.

Please read her comment in its entireity: she talks of the Syria of Assad photos. She says this Syria is one we try to ignore, try to flee, one we are ashamed of. There are many Syrias - the one which tourists unfortunately see, is an Assad worshiping state. And that doesn't represent reality.

I think if you read her comment, you'll find that she talks of different Syrias: one seen by foreigners, and one lived by Syrians.

Maybe, Bridget, you should read her blog before you pass judgement on her.

Best wishes,


Liz Johnson said...

I have never been to Syria nor have I studied it in depth. Most of what I know I have learned from CNN or from Bridget's blog... and from other blogs I have linked to from it. I think that all of the perspectives that have been voiced here are fascinating... and I love to see these pictures as a part of the culture, even if it is a piece that is less desirable to some. I am glad to hear what they mean to different people. Thanks to all for your perspectives, as they are ALL educational to those of us who are more ignorant about Syrian culture than we would like to be.

Anonymous said...

I hope Golaniya would reconsider her other extreme ... as if it is not enough that "the regime" only feels comfortable with 97% type of majorities, but to imply that the opposite is true is an equal disappointment to me.

The fact is: Bashar is genuinely popular ... maybe 60% or 70% is the real number of support he has.

DOn't ask me or Bridget, ask the following senior western journalists who interviewed Bashar lately:

the following western senior journalists who interviewed Bashar lately.. they all share the same opinion that Bashar is popular:

1) BBC's John Simpson who said that he is genuinely popular in Syria and the wider middle East
2) Italian La Repubblica editor Alix Van Buren who wrote THis email to Joshua Landis after she interviewed Bashar.
3) ABC’s Diane Sawyer interview.

The posters are mostly ugly, and there are opposition politicians in jail that we all have to remember and support, but Golanyia ... that's the way the Middle East is run in 2007. Anger and revolutionary talk will not lead to any desired changes anytime soon. We need to be able to smile and try to be positive. Bridget lived long enough in Syria to see that most Syrians are positive, realistic, and and relatively happy.

If 3 or 4 out of 10 are not very happy, in Israel 9 out of 10 are not happy, in America 6 out of 10 are not happy ... we need to be positive nevertheless.

I am a big fan of Bridget's sense of humor and her indirect, non-confrontational way of mentioning the things which are wrong ... like the posters.


Bridget said...

I think that's the essence of what I'm trying to say here, and maybe I'm not doing a good enough job of it:

It's enough that these kinds of signs/posters/stickers exist. That in itself says something. Exactly what it says may be different for each individual.

On this blog, I say what they mean to me based on my observations. Your observations may be different than mine, but it doesn't necessarily make mine incorrect. Or yours :).

Thanks for the article links, Alex.

Yazan said...

I really like you and everything, but I dont give a crap what Diane Sawyer says about the country I spent my whole life in, does that make me in the extreme too?

Seriously, I did not wish to comment here, because I was deeply offended by what this post was suggesting.

I am sure Bridget knows very well, what a photo or lackof in a mini-bus might change.

Anonymous said...


I really like you and everything too : )



Palm Axis said...

Greetings Bridget,

I enjoy going on-line in search of government sponsored public art displays in middle eastern countries. The Assad trinity was a great description. Public murals in Syria is tame compared to Sadam approved art. That one particular sculpture in Iraq where helmets from defeated Iranians are piled up at the base of Sadam's giant bronze hand is just plain creeeepy!

Dora said...

I am the daughter of the man,whose

face is identical to Joann Paul II. In Italy he is known as Tata Giovanni (Father Giovanni) .He lived in Rome and worked

in the USA. I lived with adopting family in Yekaterinburg in the place of killing Royal Romanov family. Why? Who from my own family is a queen? My own grandmother? Or what does it means? Address was Moskowskaya street 9-31. In Moskovskaya street 9-20 lives Hussein family with daughter Aleksandra. My real name is Anna-Kristina-Aleksandra. What does it means? Who fined that information?Who really have aggression against Muslims countries and against Iraq and Hussein? I know that my own grandfather Naum was Muslims friend. And when he invest his money in Russia he took gold as financial guarantee. May be in Iraq and near Hussein my enemies searching that gold? I know that everything my relatives had they left as inheritage to me. I need to find, who has management of it in his hands, and which is the state of property and assets. I don,t know how my identity could be hidden, because I have unique right leg, which was disfigured from birth. This is my unique sign, nobody could be mistaken normally in my identification. Business of my own grandfather was oil and gas, casino and hotels of Las-Vegas. Own father too. During 10 years I was under strong financial pressing. And lived with my younger son for 60 dollars per month. Who became a manager and do that? Since October of 2001 till 2007 all the force of repressing machine was put on us. I have savage fascism in Lithuania in my own flat and in my own life and life of my son. We came out of there on our four. We have total control. Causes - multi billion assets in-heritage from my own relatives. Since 1993 year I was pressed financially at first, I lives with my son and we have 60-100$ for month. And even it is well known that a person is dead without money, my attackers didn’t stop - since 2001 year I had seven savage attacks on me on a territory of Lithuania - was poisoned with HCl, toxicoids,I was systematically trivially beaten, I had a traffic accident - was hit by a car on the pedestrians on green light for me, poisoned with hallucinogens and with my son pushed out to bogs in winter, where we have spent 3 nights. Those attacks started 3 weeks after twin-towers in the USA were ruined. They were ruined in 11.09.2001. I was born in 11.06 - month of twins-Gemini. More, the only citizen of Lithuania died in that crush, who was constantly living and working in the USA in twin-towers Jelena-Helen Gavriushina-Melnichenko - her mother was director of the school my children got education. Director of the school Gavriushina was born 6th of June. I have a friend in my childhood. Vladimir Vladimirovich Gaper. He was born 6th of June. Who is that friend? Everybody knows one Vladimir Vladimirovich, but he wasn’t born at the 6th of June. Putin is a friend of Kerkorian? Who is that my friend born 6th of June? I found that one. In the USA in Las Vegas. Kerkor Kerkorian. After reading his biography I saw that his owned MGM hotel, casino blown 21.11.1980. Interesting, that all those digits are digits of mine and my children’s dates of birth. More, even ID’s are the same. That friend was my own father’s and own grandfather’s manager? Why then the property wasn’t returned to me? Interesting that Bill Clinton had a nickname fly. After exact translating to Russian this mean to fly - as a pilot, a flyer. Manager was a pilot, a flyer. Why Bill Clinton, you ask?If bill - is billion, who clean’t billions then? Do you remember what is Bill Clinton wife’s name? Hillary Clinton. What is hillary clinton? Hi-Larry-Cleaner. Hello, Larisa who got in fly and cleaned… understand, yes? Monica Lewinski came into cabinet in White House at 28 of february 1997. Adopting family’s son Sergey Lopatinskiy was born 28 of February. Who knows what does it mean? In 10 June of 2006 in Diana,s Spencer family house resident of Russian special services Aleksandr Lebedev organized a meeting to memorize death of Raisa Gorbacheva. Michail,s Gorbachev wife died 20 09 1999. But 11.06.2006 I celebrated my 50 anniversary. It means all the strange recollecting organized just before my birthday. Why? How it is connected with the fact that 9 months before Raisa Gorbacheva died, 20.12.1998 died Jevgenij Bondarenko-son of Natalia Bondarenko who became also Lopatinska,ja after getting married with my adopting brother. It is she who is used to get my money without me to agree nor accept. Who helped her? Bush, Primakov visiting Lithuania they organized “accidental” meetings with me and my son. First used his security officers, second by himself. 11.03.2008 Poland visited Hosni Said Mubarak. 14.03.2008 we were proposed to leave Poland. We were getting by auto-stop in Italy. As well as we arrived to Italy, to Italy came Putin, who visited Poland and came to Berlusconi.Some years ago Berlusconi became Prime Minister 11.06.2001.In my birthday. What does it means? They have my money and business? They robbed me? They were so poor that needed my finances and my incomes? We live with son at street wearing some floor clothes. Was my father such a bad person? Is he blackmailed in such a way? Where is he now? Multiple applying to Silvio Berlusconi does nothing. What could be this person whom in my childhood I know as Silvia in Italy - my “mother” with wig and with man,s cigarettes, and which I must find if I need a defense and help? I know that part of finances former soviet agents transferred to someone in England. Queen Elizabeth and her husband visited to Lithuania (16.10.2006-18.10.2006)Jan Paul II became Pope in Rome 16.10.78. What Elizabeth and her husband need from me? After theres visit 21.10.2006 Hubertas Grusnys was killed, he was owner of radio stations and Lithuanian millionaire, whose radio Lietus a week before told about poisoning with toxicoids me and my son in our flat. In Lithuania for my financing and living my own father gave 10% shares of AO LUKOIL company to the oil company AB MAZEIKU NAFTA. For my financing in Lithuania responsible A.Brazauskas, B.Lubys (as everybody know Mr. Lubys is a friend of Mr. Nazarbajev), G.Chapanidze, V.Shkil. Mr. G.Chapanidze is in jail since 1996-1997. I was not financed at all. And didn,t ask nobody to sale or to present my finances or shares to anybody. I know that there are most of assets, which didn’t get in hands of those who robbed me. May be Mr. Alekperov knows what does it mean? In 19.8.1995 in Omsk died someone Ivan (Jan,Giovanni, Ioann) Lickevich. Do you know what does Lickevich means in polish? This is translated as calculate. What and whom calculated Lickevich?Ivan Lickevich was the director of the Omsk oil rafinery. In 3.7.2000 died with his son Gediminas Kesus.They are killed both. Gediminas Kesus was the director of the Mazeiku oil rafinery.When he was killed in Lithuanian newspapers was published information – some documents Gediminas Kesus put into some England bank. What the documents it was? Who started to kill the directors of oil rafineries and started putting the money into his own pockets? My money.in such way Lukoil go for another hands.
Another savage attack against me began 20.10.2002 – 23.10.2002. In 23.10.2002 - 26.10.2002 there was Nord-Ost in Moscow. My son and I had the same diagnosis as victims of Nord-Ost. Who do it? I have personal individual characteristic by which I can be easily identified - my right leg was disfigured while my mother was pregnant, and I was born with unique diagnosis. After many specific medical operations, my leg became passport, which couldn,t be forged. I demand to change my managers and carers, and I look for a country which could accept me and defend me.