by Zakira Suriyeh
“Today, we march in millions to the squares across Al-Assad’s Syria. We march to declare that this is Al-Assad’s Syria. It is Bashar Al-Assad’s Syria and nothing will help you, not your money, not your betrayal, not your false media; nothing in the universe will help you. We will chant, ‘God, Bashar, Syria and nothing else’ and ‘The people want Bashar Al-Assad.’ The entire world will witness the march of millions, from all Syrian sects.”
This was the Syrian president’s message a few days ago to his people via Facebook, a call for a nationwide march (maseera) to support the regime on March 29. It was dubbed the “March of Loyalty” for the people to express their love and obedience to the president, the great defender of Syria. And they responded, in the thousands, filling the squares across Syria, bearing flags and posters, chanting and dedicating their souls and blood to Bashar Al-Assad.
These marches are a typical control tactic used by the Assad regime for the past 40 years. I remember the marches of the late 80’s and 90’s under the leadership of Assad, the father. They were carefully planned to include all schools, universities and governmental offices, and most importantly they were mandatory.
On the day of the march, we were asked to come to school with our military uniforms cleaned and pressed, our black combat boots polished. Our teachers organized us first by height then by looks, the tallest and the prettiest would lead the rest of the school. The dreaded second row were assigned to carry the flags and banners. We walked from our school to the main square, as the students from the other schools streamed in from different directions. We chanted “Hafiz Al-Assad for eternity!” until our voices grew hoarse. The teachers made random checks during the march to make sure no one defected along the way to the square. Those who dared to escape, as they called it, would face a harsh punishment the next morning, like being ordered to crawl across the school yard on their chests without using their hands or legs, or suffer a humiliating slap across the face during morning assembly. Continue reading