Assad supporters are used to describing the son of Bashar as “the next president” as evidenced in the way they promote many photos that have been circulated in Damascus for some time.
Such is the case with a selfie photo taken by small Hafez Assad while in Hong Kong with the Syrian delegation who participated in the global scientific Olympiad of Mathematics.
This lauding of the young man as Syria’s next president creates a great deal of provocation among many Syrians as it is far from any democratic concept. The boy himself may not even be aware of the political game being played around him that has as its end to prepare him to succeed his father after many years. Consequently, the boy will be converted into an enemy of many Syrians on the back of his father’s crimes, which is also evidenced in the comments of opposition activists on the selfie image.
Worldwide, images of kings’ and presidents’ sons or daughters may occasionally appear in the news, but have no intrinsic value of their own. But as for Syria, the situation is completely different.
After the first publication of photographs of the “ruling family,” which are posted in the “Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic” page on Facebook and on Instagram, the photos themselves are deified and reposted again and again in a large scale campaign on media sites of pro-regime loyalists inside Syria and its allies in the region.
The propaganda vision of the Assad regime assumes eternal presence and permanence in power, even thou the revolution to end the Assad reign of terror is in its sixth year. Thus, Assad’s media continues to plant and promote this vision that the presidency will be passed from the father to the eldest son when he grows up, exactly the same as during the era of this boy’s grandfather, Hafez Assad, when images and news of his eldest son Basil used to be widespread in official media — until his accidental death when it was shifted to promote the second son, Bashar, who was absent from the scene completely until then.
History is once again repeating itself in this regard; the public promotion of Hafez the small is similar to the propaganda of his father before him wherein the focus is placed on scientific achievements, school performance and educational attainments — just as the local publicity painted a picture of Bashar as an open-minded physician who would lead the country towards further progress and prosperity after returning from the West prior to his assuming the presidency.
Last Friday, the “Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic” page on Facebook mentioned that “small Hafez” did not get any medal in the Olympics and only had a certificate of appreciation, while the Syrian team won three bronze medals among 20 competitors, bringing the world ranking for the Syrian team to 48th globally, a significant increase from 109th in 2009.
We still remember earlier this year when all of social media was abuzz with the announcement that young Hafez Assad, the son of Bashar Assad placed, not first in the mathematics competitions which are held under the title “Syrian Scientific Olympics” as the former Hafez’s sons had automatically done, but seventh — a “historic event in every sense of the word” as one Syrian journalist described it.
It was quite possibly the first time in decades that a competition in Syria did not have an Assad as the winner in any game, of any category, against any opponent.