Dictator, mass murderer, war criminal. That’s Bashar al-Assad.
In a European capital city, a celebration is held in his honor. That’s freedom of speech. Thus observed by me in Budapest in April 2015, on “Heroes’ Square” fittingly, between the Palace of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts.
Already as I was approaching the square, I was wondering why I heard the sound of happy and Arabic dance music that evening. First I suspected a harmless party, but when I spotted the flags of Venezuela and of Syria, the cake- and juice-enriched activity did seem a bit more suspicious. And indeed: framed photos of Bashar al-Assad had been put up.
Now, I can comprehend that some Syrians long for the time before the Arab Spring when they weren’t yet bombed by their own government or beheaded by terrorists. It’s natural that during a civil war, the preceding time of stability is being glorified, even if it was sustained by repressive means. But this view overlooks cause and effect as well as possible alternative courses of events. If Bashar al-Assad hadn’t gunned down the peaceful protests in 2011, civil war might never have broken out. If the world was just a bit more interested and inclined to get involved, the civil war might even have been stopped or at least contained.
But even if one wants to have such sympathy for the adherents of the “everything used to be better in the old days”-theory, this does not explain why Dr Dr al-Assad (one Dr for the ophthalmologist, one for the certified dictator) should be celebrated like a hero.
There were a few young men among the fans of the slaughterer of Syria, in perfect age for military service. Just odd that they aren’t in Syria to support their idol in murdering other Syrians. Well, in some ways life in free and relatively liberal Europe does have its advantages, I guess.