News / Middle East

Syrian Singer Rallies Assad Forces

Multimedia

Audio
Elizabeth Arrott

As rebel fighters battle Syria's military on the outskirts of Damascus, President Bashar al-Assad's allies in the capital continue to show strength with massive rallies in his support.

Few are as unapologetic in their defense of the embattled leader as singer Rami Kazour, whose "God, Syria and Bashar" has become an anthem.

Checkpoints block roads entering Damascus, but city-center traffic slows only for the normal workday rush.  There is one obstacle ahead: outside the central bank, a stage is set up for a rally to be held the following day. 

Rami Kazour is making a music video, singing above pre-recorded instrumentals and chorus.  His hair is gelled up and swept back, his black suit sleekly cut, and although the only audience is a few technicians and a reporter who happened by, the actor/singer/dancer is putting on a show.

His song is a patriotic medley extolling Syria's history and strength; it's the refrain that stands out.

It's a bold combination that puts God, Syria and President Assad's first name, Bashar, on equal footing - heady words for any leader and a provocative rebuke to his opponents in this country riven by sectarian divides.

Kazour takes a break from shooting and comes to the stage edge for an impromptu interview.  A government minder is present but, in this case, seems to make little difference.  Asked about the presumption of ranking the president up there with the almighty, he is unfazed.

Kazour says the wording is deliberate, to provoke those he calls Syria's "trash" - the protesters.  He calls Assad the last symbol of righteousness among Arab leaders. 

During the past year of popular uprisings, the roster of Arab rulers has changed dramatically.  Kazour is reminded that his song recalls perhaps the most reviled of former leaders, and his slogan "God, Libya and Moammar."

Adjusting his flag-emblazoned scarf, Kazour says Syria is not like Egypt or Tunisia or Libya.  This is "a nation of lions," he declares, "exceptional in everything."

Human-rights groups agree that Syria indeed is exceptional, for its cruel treatment of anyone who openly opposes the Assad regime.  Accounts of torture and atrocities by pro-government forces have grown as the revolt has expanded.  The body of Kazour's counterpart across the barricades, anti-Assad singer Ibrahim Kashoush, is reported to have been found floating in the Assi River, his throat slashed open.  The entertainer says that is false propaganda.

He says Al-Jazeera has many such stories: Al-Jazeera and, in what would be an unlikely media alliance, the "Hebrew channel."  He advises against watching either if one wants the truth.

Truth seems to be in short supply in Syria. Arab League monitors have been roundly criticized for failing to see clearly what's happening on the ground.

The United Nations tried to count the numbers of civilians killed last year, but has given up the effort. 

In the vacuum, both the government and opposition have hardened their positions.  The opposition circulates horrific videos while the government shows off crowds of hundreds of thousands of people who say they support Assad.

One skeptic says much of that fervent government support is probably quite shallow.  He says many people are like Kazour, who he says is "an actor" who "will flee before the regime falls." 

But Kazour and many others have publicly tied their future to the government's.

Still, there is some genuine support for the Assad family, which has run Syria for 40 years.  Some have a vested interest - jobs, property, privileges - in the status quo; others fear all-out civil war.

This was a relatively calm day in the capital.  The conflict was only a few kilometers away, but it seemed more distant than that on this bright, sunny day.

Kazour's immediate concern is for some cloud cover; it will give the video a more flattering light.

 

Violence spread across Syria once again on Friday, at demonstrations demanding an end to President Bashar al-Assad. At least 37 people were killed in Allepo, Hama, Homs, near Damascus and elsewhere. Among the victims, activists say, were six government security forces killed in a car bomb explosion. Demonstrations in support of Assad continue, however, in government-controlled areas. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott came across a particularly fervent display on a recent tour of Damascus, accompanied by pro-government escorts. She tells us about singer Ramzi Kazour and his song of praise for Assad - "God, Syria and Bashar."

Checkpoints block roads entering Damascus, but city-center traffic slows only for the normal workday rush. There is one obstacle ahead: outside the central bank, a stage is set up for a rally to be held the following day.

Rami Kazour is making a music video, singing above pre-recorded instrumentals and chorus. His hair is gelled up and swept back, his black suit sleekly cut, and although the only audience is a few technicians and a reporter who happened by, the actor/singer/dancer is putting on a show.

His song is a patriotic medley extolling Syria's history and strength; it's the refrain that stands out.

It's a bold combination that puts God, Syria and President Assad's first name, Bashar, on equal footing - heady words for any leader and a provocative rebuke to his opponents in this country riven by sectarian divides.

Kazour takes a break from shooting and comes to the stage edge for an impromptu interview. A government minder is present but, in this case, seems to make little difference. Asked about the presumption of ranking the president up there with the almighty, he is unfazed.

Kazour says the wording is deliberate, to provoke those he calls Syria's "trash" - the protesters. He calls Assad the last symbol of righteousness among Arab leaders.

During the past year of popular uprisings, the roster of Arab rulers has changed dramatically. Kazour is reminded that his song recalls perhaps the most reviled of former leaders, and his slogan "God, Libya and Moammar."

Adjusting his flag-emblazoned scarf, Kazour says Syria is not like Egypt or Tunisia or Libya. This is "a nation of lions," he declares, "exceptional in everything."

Human-rights groups agree that Syria indeed is exceptional, for its cruel treatment of anyone who openly opposes the Assad regime. Accounts of torture and atrocities by pro-government forces have grown as the revolt has expanded. The body of Kazour's counterpart across the barricades, anti-Assad singer Ibrahim Kashoush, is reported to have been found floating in the Assi River, his throat slashed open. The entertainer says that is false propaganda.

He says al-Jazeera has many such stories - Jazeera and, in what would be an unlikely media alliance, the "Hebrew channel." He advises against watching either if one wants the truth.

Truth seems to be in short supply in Syria. Arab League monitors have been roundly criticized for failing to see clearly what's happening on the ground.

The United Nations tried to count the numbers of civilians killed last year, but has given up the effort.

In the vacuum, both the government and opposition have hardened their positions. The opposition circulates horrific videos while the government shows off crowds of hundreds of thousands of people who say they support Assad.

One skeptic says much of that fervent government support is probably quite shallow. He says many people are like Kazour, who he says is "an actor" who "will flee before the regime falls."

But Kazour and many others have publicly tied their future to the government's.

Still, there is some genuine support for the Assad family, which has run Syria for 40 years. Some have a vested interest - jobs, property, privileges - in the status quo; others fear all-out civil war.

This was a relatively calm day in the capital. The conflict was only a few kilometers away, but it seemed more distant than that on this bright, sunny day.

Kazour's immediate concern is for some cloud cover; it will give the video a more flattering light.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs