Interesting portrait of Syria’s President by a Canadian Journalist…
Bashar and Saddam
During a CNN interview, Christian Amanpour asked President Assad of Syria if he is a Dictator. He replied: “But they also say that I am not in control, I can not be a Dictator and not be in control at the same time?”
Some foreign journalists and politicians describe the Syrian leader with words suited to a generic dictator like Saddam Hussein. Nothing could be further from the truth. One thing in common between the two is that the current US administration removed the first one, and seems to be starting a process that might lead to the removal of the second one, by chance or by design. Another similarity is that they were both “elected” through soviet era styled elections, and they won with 95%+ margins. But that’s where the similarities end.
Don’t classify him as a dictator. Syrian president Bashar Assad chats with ordinary syrians before having dinner with his wife Asma and eldest son Hafez at an Aleppo restaurant. He drives his own car, wears simple T-shirts and Jeans, pays his own bill, and it all starts when he calls the the restaurant to ask them if they have a free table for him to reserve.
Bashar Assad spent his teens and his twenties at his desk studying for his medical school, first in Damascus and later in London. He never drove exotic sports cars, never abused his power as the son of the late president Hafez Assad. Many Damascenes would tell you their stories of when they looked behind them and found Bashar waiting in the same lineup to buy a shawarma sandwich. Unlike the sons of other Arab rulers, he was never a womanizer, never a drinker or a smoker or a gambler.
Basha’s personal popularity in Syria is probably (there are no proper opinion polls) the highest of any Arab ruler in his country. If there is anything that Syrians criticize him for, it is his hesitation and excessive caution. They want him to move faster on internal political reforms and fighting corruption. With the exception of many Kurds and Muslim fundamentalists, you have a very supportive population. A popular and extra-clean president, with a regime he is trying, slowly, to change. Consider him the president from a moderate opposition party.