It's interesting how westerners who spend time in Syria end up supporting President Bashar al-Assad. Why is that? Why does he have the support of 80% or more of his people when "leaders" in the west struggle to get into double digits? (Hollande in France - 4% support!) Well, I'll tell you why I support him:
1. His courage and integrity. "Anyone can be president. I'm Syrian. I was born in Syria and I'll die in Syria" he said. And he meant it. He could have run from Syria with a blank check by the Saudis; his wife and children safe. But they stayed. Like the captain of a ship he determined to stay at the helm. He is known throughout Syria to be incorruptible. He and his wife are steadfast in their devotion to the people.
2. He is a unifying figure. His support comes from every religious and people group in Syria. The majority of Sunnis (Sunnis make up about 70%+ of the population), the Alawites, the Christians, and other minorities support him. They despise the "rebels" and their fanatical religious fundamentalism.
3. His total commitment to secular government. Syria is predominantly Muslim but everyone is free to practice their own religion without any persecution. He has a fierce dedication to education - free, quality, secular education and positive initiatives for young people. Sports, the arts and sciences. Care and protection of all historic and archaeological sites. Quality healthcare.
4. Women's rights. Women are engaged in every aspect of Syrian society. They can wear miniskirts or burkas - it's up to them and their families. They are leaders in government, scientists, business owners, professors - you name it.
5. Non-aggressive. Bashar al-Assad has never invaded another country. He had always wanted positive relations with the west - but he was unwilling to be our puppet. He is not a puppet or proxy for Russia or Iran btw but is committed to maintaining Syria's sovereignty and independence.
6. His patience and wisdom. Even while being continuously and maliciously slandered by the west and our allies, his calm and pragmatic nature and message have not wavered. He has told the truth of this conflict from the beginning. Both he and his wife Asma have modeled the highest standard of conduct in the face of terrible danger - and unending false horrific accusations by western and gulf media.
7. His reforms. Syria has plenty of problems to deal with especially being at the heart of the Middle East - a region subject to intense pressures from regional and global factors and factions. Yet Assad has been patiently working on improving the lives of all Syrians while building a strong foundation for a functioning and maintainable democracy. I'm sorry if it offends people in the west that he is a "dictator". But as long as our governments keep bowing down to the utterly depraved despots, the absolute monarchy, the ISIS and al Qaeda godfathers - of Saudi Arabia - who behead more people than ISIS, who allow no religious freedom whatsoever, and who consider women as property - I will keep laughing at this "offense". Truth is when you're in a region as volatile as the Middle East with the Saudis bankrolling violent fundamentalism and terrorism wherever they go, and every global power wanting to control your gas and oil, you've got to have a strong man in charge.
8. His warmth. He's just a likable guy. When I first showed my husband an interview with him in 2012, Syd said, "I want to have that guy over for dinner!" He drives himself around Damascus often. Wherever he or his wife are, the people swarm around him, get so close. Would never happen in the US.
9. His accomplishments are many. President Assad was voted Most Popular Arab Leader in regional polls in 2008 and 2009. Syria was one of the 5 safest countries in the world to live in before 2011. It was becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The economy was opening up and improving. Syria has gone from one recognized political party to over 20. They have a popularly ratified constitution and have held elections for parliament and president even while at war.
But the bottom line is this...whether anyone likes Assad or doesn't...what is reality it what he said himself: ONLY the Syrian people can and should decide their leader and government. Not the US, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey. Not the Muslim Brotherhood. ONLY Syrians.
I said before, I make no apologies for President Assad. In EVERY other country in the world, the forces he is fighting are called terrorists. Terrorists is what they are and have always been. It is impossible to fight terrorists without killing people, without bombs. There would be no terrorists in Syria to fight if the United States had not been using them to perform our illegal regime change coup against this popular and positive president.
December 13 2016
Dr. Mohammad Abdo Al-Ibrahim