An Epic Gathering at Aleppo University Campus in Support of Presidential Elections 

Are Syrians going to the polls now to actually make a choice, or is this a façade operation orchestrated by the “regime” as the “Anti-Syrian Coalition” wants us to believe? We cannot superficially look at today’s event without examining the growing pains that have led to this moment.

President Hafez Assad was a man of great wisdom and vision, and he knew it. He knew what was right for Syria and its people, and he knew that only through hard work, perseverance, prudence and above all, great sacrifices that Syria could return to the road of recovery.

His perception of Syria was not any different from his perception of Palestine and Lebanon. On the 8th of March 1974, he made a clear message to Israel and the West when he said that Palestine was “a principal part of Southern Syria”. He later on sent his troops into Lebanon to prevent it from being blackholed into the Israeli sphere of dominion.

For his perception of Palestine, he paid a hefty price. He was punished heavily by the West and misunderstood by Arabs; including the PLO chief Yasser Arafat.

He always rightfully believed that the Palestinian question was too big for Palestinians to handle on their own. It is, in his view, a central Arab issue, and more specifically, a Syrian issue.

“Peace is not for the weak” President Assad always said, and he was unable to persuade Arab leaders of his long-term agenda of building up enough might to stand up against the bullish American-Israeli alliance. Arab leaders had already taken the decision to comply with the wishes of the enemy, and the last thing they wanted was a confident patriot telling them that they should unite and fight, especially if that patriot was an Alawite.

Even Arafat insisted on the “independent Palestinian decision”, and his decisions were often at odds with those of Assad and did not fit into the long-term strategies. Assad regarded Palestine as a part of Syria and that it was his stewardship that was needed to bring it justice, but Arafat regarded him as a domineering dictating usurper.

Unable to make sense to Arab defeatists and the gung ho Arafat, Assad invested in educating the Syrian population about the responsibility that rested on their shoulders. Once again, he needed longevity and consistency in order to be able to achieve this, and not policies that can be swept away by the winner of the next “democratic” elections.

This finally brings us to the current Syrian Presidential election.

When Syrians went to vote for Hafez Assad from 1971 onwards, they did not have much of a choice. This is true.

Hafez Assad was a great believer in the patriotism of his people. The memories of Yusuf Al-Azmeh and his gallant men were alive in his memory. Al-Azmeh moved with an outnumbered and ill-equipped regiment to stop the French occupation of Damascus in 1920. Al-Azmeh with his men marched to their certain death, but they were determined not to allow the French into Damascus unopposed.

The victorious Henri Gouraud marched into Damascus, desecrated the tomb of Saladin by putting his foot on it saying: “Saladin, we have returned”. Memories of those stories, the western treacheries, the creation of Israel etc.. never left the President’s mind and he made a point of giving all his political Western visitors lessons in history in all of his meetings with them.

Assad knew that his people, the Syrian people had what it took to be fiercely independent and all they needed was a leader they can trust, one who can galvanize them, and he knew he was that man. He was bemused by people who simply cheered for him to make themselves look good, but without proper understanding of his policies and strategies. He always sought allies, not stooges, but true allies who were able to understand, prepared to walk the talk, and walk the distance were rare and hard to find.

Patriotic education became an integral component of the school curriculum. Army conscription had already been in place. Yet many Syrians remained skeptical and regarded the whole exercise as Baathist propaganda. However, after 3-4 years of Muslim Brotherhood terror campaign of 1979-1982, many Syrians realized that Syria indeed had many internal enemies and that the leadership was able to deal with them effectively. Even though those events made Assad lose some popularity with the Islamic fundamentalists, but his popularity amongst the general populace increased.

Later on, with Assad’s defiance to the American-Israeli plot, his refusal to surrender, his refusal to the “Reagan Plan”, his ability to turn the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon on Mehahim Begin’s head, his perseverance and successes, all finally paid dividends and made him gain more and more domestic support.

Early on in his “reign”, he was voted in because they had no other choice. Later on, some perhaps voted for him out of fear, but in each subsequent election, more and more Syrians voted for him out of conviction, devotion and love.

After the angel of death took this great man away, continuity dictated that his son should succeed him. If this meant dictatorship, then it also meant that the fruit of 30 years of labour and sacrifices were not going to be wasted away.

President Bashar Assad was steadfast and diligent to stick to the policies of reform and resistance to the Western-Israeli plot of submission.

It is of little wonder that by then the defiant proud and independent Syria had angered many nations and made a score of enemies within and without its borders. Enemies with very broad and diverse agendas, only united by their hatred towards Syria’s stand of honour.

When the “War On Syria” started in 2011, the popularity of Bashar was very high, but some Syrians were taken by the fervour of the “Arab Spring” and genuinely thought that there was indeed a move in Syria for more and quicker reform. Those reformists however were not the ones that carried guns and destroyed the infrastructure. Before too long, the enemies who are consumed with their deep fundamentalist sectarian hatred emerged from the woodwork.

Before too long, Syrians advocating reform realized that they were duped, and one by one, individually and in groups, they are waking up to the true conspiracy. Even some of them who took up arms are now responding to the calls of reconciliation and amnesty. We have recently seen this happen in many places, the most advertised one was the one in Homs.

Earlier on during the “War On Syria”, the West was “demanding” new elections in Syria. Now, with all of the recent developments, with the series of victories of the Syrian Army, and most importantly perhaps, with the rising popularity of President Bashar, the West is treating the Syrian Presidential Election like a non-event.

Little does the West know that before going to the polls, Syrians had 3 long years of war and 3 long years of remembering the words and warnings of the late and great Hafez Assad. Some of what he forewarned about did not make much sense to those with short vision. Now, they know that he was right. They had to learn the hard way. Now, they also know that for them to secure the continuity of their dignity, they have to remain steadfast and united behind their President of choice.

Finally, the revolution of Hafez Assad had gone the full circle. His vision is now in the hearts and minds of his people to whom he devoted his life.

Long before the current elections, Syrians have decided to vote with their blood. Blood is thicker than water and reverberates thunders that will echo for centuries, long after the poll count has been taken.