Syria: Why the personality cult there can be a problem

So, dad tells about the war, Stromberg would say, because office is also war. But this is really about the war now, about the time before the war, to be exact. It's Autumn 2009, I'm a student in a Syria that was already “Al-Assad” Syria, as it stood on some posters that hung large and conspicuous in the streets and in the football stadiums. They showed the young President Bashar al-Assad, whom many today regard internationally as a bad dictator, as he kindly looked down from the posters to his children – his people -, smiled and waved. His own father had died only a few years before, and so Assad Junior suddenly became president himself, in good old family tradition.

Sincere affection or fear of intelligence?

There were statues of Assad senior in the country, as well as statues of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and statues of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Even today, the personality cult is fully developed in other countries, for example, when Vladimir Putin rides his bare-chested through the Siberian steppe or Greens chief Robert Habeck strokes a cow with his shirt unbuttoned and daring hair. Behind it is also such a dissatisfaction with the circumstances and a promise of salvation as the classic marriage swindler. Only that with the dictators still secret services are added.

It was therefore difficult for me to explain the love of my Syrian landlady for Assad. Was it a sincere affection or a fear of the power apparatus? Anyway, she was so close that she did not let him come to him. Nothing that became a problem on the toilet.

The president image was always cut out

For the great problem of Madame Hayat, as she always used to call herself, was also her pronounced stinginess. We lived in a wonderful old house in the old town of Damascus. In the yard stood an orange tree at a well. The students' rooms were all around.

But in the winter there was no oil for the stoves – I say, Daddy tells me about the war – and no toilet paper either. At night you had to scurry across the yard in the dark, draw a little water from the well, if you wanted to go to the bathroom. But basically, Mme Hayat had a good heart and hung old newspapers on a nail for the necessities. But feces on the face of the nation's father? Impossible! So she carefully cut out of every piece of paper all the pictures that showed the President. In the end, only scraps remained.

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