By: Raed Omari
Of all the countless lectures, conferences, meetings and brainstorming sessions on the ongoing Syrian crisis I have attended over the past three years – in addition to hundreds of televised talk shows, personal testimonies and world gatherings on the war-torn country – I was exposed earlier this week to better unexaggerated insight into the Syrian dilemma by having just a 30-minute conversation with a Syrian refugee in Amman.
He was joining a group of Syrians near Damascus embassy in Amman, protesting against their country’s presidential election, slated for June 3, which began with the expatriate vote on May 28.
“Let Bashar al-Assad win his third seven-year term as president and surely he will win but the question is: Who, how and what will the ‘eternal’ president rule,” the 39-Syrian man said with unmistakable sarcasm while he was observing tens of Syrians lining up at the embassy’s gate to cast their ballots in the expatriate vote.
The man, who arrived to Jordan some weeks after the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, said, “How can Assad rule when half of the Syrian people are refugees in neighboring countries or somewhere inside our war-torn country? How [can] the ‘so-called’ presidential elections really be considered elections when half of the population is not allowed or unwilling to vote? Do you think that the homeless and starving Syrians inside Syria have the luxury to participate in the elections? How can the U.S. accept such a travesty?”
For purposes of authenticity, the man’s figures encouraged me to seek online data on Syria’s population census, which estimated Syria’s population at around 22,500,000 as of September 2013. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, an estimated nine million Syrians have fled their homes. Taking into consideration these “horrific” figures and also Syria’s electoral commission’s decision to ban all Syrians who fled the country “via unofficial crossings” from voting in the June presidential elections, the man’s conclusion becomes completely correct and valid. Yes, it is 100 percent true then that half of the Syrian people are absent from the election’s calculation.
But why has Syria’s electoral commission, that is certainly controlled by the ruling Baath Party, banned the Syrian refugees from voting in their country’s first ever multi-candidate election? It is simply because of its certainty of those people’s anti-Assad attitude.
Plus, there is a lot of nonsense in the commission’s classification of the “official vs. unofficial” escape from war when ruling that no Syrian citizen is allowed to vote in the elections if he/she fled the country via unofficial border crossings. That is just absurd. The people who fled Syria were not immigrants but seekers of safe haven somewhere outside of their war-torn country. In other words, they left because they had to and because they wanted to. Plus, most of the official border crossings have been closed since the beginnings of the Syrian uprising, both on the Syrian side and also in the bordering countries.
In fact, the expatriate vote was nothing more than an attempt by the Syrian regime to add some legitimacy to the presidential elections. There is no significance whatsoever in the results of the expatriate voting as they will be in favor of Assad (all certain of that conclusion ) inasmuch as in the political message the Syrian regime desperately tried to deliver to the Western world, saying: “Look, elections are democratic from the very beginning.”
Conversation with the Syrian refugee
Now, back to my conversation with the Syrian refugee in Amman. The father of five, needless to say he preferred to remain unnamed, was describing the tens of Syrians who voted or are waiting to vote in the elections at the embassy as being “all supporters of Assad.” In a rhetorical question the man said, “do you think that any one of those dares to vote for any of the candidates but in favor of Assad?” Asked why, the man said with shrewd smile, “you know why?”
“You journalists like politics a lot but let’s put that aside and let’s take it from a logical point of view; commonsense indeed…Why try someone who has been tried before and proved failure.”
Dwelling solely on commonsense, the Syrian refugee said, “Assad’s regime has been attributing Syria’s instability to the wrongdoings of the rebels and the opposition. OK, I will assume that this is correct but he [Assad] has been unable to help us get rid of those people who have been sending our country into hostility and unsurpassed brutality as he claims.”
For the simple Syrian man, Assad’s regime has exceeded all limits of logic and commonsense. “Assad is still behaving as if nothing happened in Syria. He [Assad] still thinks he can rule again. Is there really a state in Syria to rule? Does he think that we will easily forget our suffering, hunger, humiliation and pain?”
“The Syrian people have passed a point of no return. There is no way that they will accept the same model of totalitarian rule to prevail in Syria again. The rebels have the upper hand over the battle in my country. Forget about what the regime and its allies Russia, Iran and Hezbollah nowadays promote as the war turns in the Syrian government’s favor. It is all a media campaign ahead of the elections. Things there are totally different on the ground.”
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. This article was first published in Alarabiya.
Opinions do not necessarily reflect ARA News’ policy.
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