News / Middle East

Assad Appears in Public for Eid Prayers

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (3nd R ) attends Eid Al Fitr prayers at al-Hamad mosque in Damascus, August 19, 2012.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (3nd R ) attends Eid Al Fitr prayers at al-Hamad mosque in Damascus, August 19, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
CAIRO — Syrian state television has shown embattled President Bashar al-Assad attending ceremonies for the annual Islamic Eid al Fitr holiday, marking the end of Ramadan. The service took place at a mosque near the presidential palace and most of those attending appeared to be government officials.

Those attending the service, including Assad, observed the Eid al Fitr ritual, repeating after Sheikh Mohammed Kheir Ghantous, who led the crowd of several hundred in prayer.

It was only the third time that Assad has appeared on TV since a bomb blast killed many of his top aides at a security compound last month.  The president was seen on TV after the explosion appointing a new army commander and a new defense minister.

Arab commentators noted that President Assad traditionally attends major Islamic services at Damascus' iconic Omayyid Mosque. They suggested that tight security after the bombing which killed his brother-in-law and his defense minister prompted him to avoid the limelight.

Al Arabiya TV reported that sniffer dogs were used to check the area in and around the mosque for explosives.  Assad looked nervous throughout the service and left without shaking hands with many top aides and officials alongside him, as is usually the custom.

Syrian opposition figures stressed that several key government officials, including Vice President Farouq al Shara and Ba'ath Party head Abdallah Ahmar did not attend. Al Arabiya TV reported several days ago that Shara had defected to Jordan, but Syrian TV denied the report.

Opposition activists are claiming that Ba'ath Party head Ahmar was arrested after trying unsuccessfully to defect but this has not been confirmed.

In the state television report, President Assad was shown exchanging words with his Religious Affairs Minister Mohammed Abdel Sattar es Sayyid and Mufti Ahmed Badreddin Hassoun.

The mufti addressed the nation after the service, urging Syrians to put down their weapons and stop the bloodshed shaking their country.

“Oh sons of Syria,” he urges, “stop the bloodshed, because the world is watching and saying 'see the Muslims kill each other.'  Have you heard of such wars in Europe or America where people shed each other's blood? Why do we do this when we are sons of the same [Islamic] nation?"

Amateur video showed shells falling Sunday in the besieged town of Rastan, near Homs. Opposition leaders claim that government artillery bombed mourners at a cemetery despite the Eid al Fitr holiday. It was impossible to verify the claim.

Arab satellite TV channels broadcast live webcam footage of a crowd of men chanting “freedom, freedom” outside a mosque in the embattled city of Aleppo. The channels reported that some shooting and shelling took place around the city, despite the holiday.

Meanwhile, state TV showed Syria's Minister of Higher Education Mohammed Yehya al Ala'a visiting a model hospital in Damascus. He claimed that Syrian hospitals are “in a state of readiness and well-equipped,” with the exception of one facility.  Human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned government attacks on many hospitals across the country.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Maureen Leidly from: UK
August 19, 2012 1:13 PM
has the reprobate found "religion"... reminds me of Sadam... just before... you know what... someone here had said that Islam is a degradation tailored made for the Arabs - it was meant to keep these Arab moon worshipers in "line"... they are still worshiping a meteor... would you believe it?? I didn't too, until it was mentioned and I research it...

by: Greg from: New York
August 19, 2012 11:03 AM
Isn't it interesting how the US media never mentions that Assad is a Christian dictator, they would want you to believe an Alawite is the same thing as a muslim.. It would be a harder sell to go to war with a Christian nation. Let's bring an end to US hostilities abroad, stand up the war propaganda. No War in Syria or Iran.
In Response

by: Plain Mirror from: Plain Planet
August 20, 2012 8:24 AM
The mirror is simply plain in this comment. US should stop terrorrising the world. This act of spareheading of hostilities abroad is gradually eroding the respect, confidence and honour the US receives and enjoys from the outer world.

by: Rob Swift from: United Kingdom
August 19, 2012 10:18 AM
This pharisee (assad) seeks to polish the outside of the cup while the inside remains dirty. He is a blind guide and they shall all fall into the pit.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs