Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Assad’s newest propaganda campaign: ‘Beauty’ and the Beast

In the wave of initiatives bound to fully rehabilitate the Assad regime while wiping out years of horrors, Italy always seems to be up to date. First of all, as I pointed out in a previous article on Syriawise, despite the Syrian embassy having been closed in 2012, there have always been more or less overt relations between Italy and the Syrian Arab Republic. Furthermore, representatives of the Italian neo-fascist organization Casa Pound, strictly tied to Prime Minister Meloni, have often visited Damascus, the last time not later than May.

It is undeniable that in the last few years, the Syrian regime has been engaged in a less than truthful marketing operation meant to convey a fresh and clean, refined, and above all, safe, image of the country. The purpose is to attract tourists while reinforcing the idea that Bashar Assad has triumphantly succeeded in saving the country from the “war” and from savage “terrorists”. This is why, in cities like Aleppo and Damascus, a lot of effort has been put into reconstructing areas in which tourists are most likely to circulate. 

“Art, music, and archeology have been some of the tools used in trying to renew the Syrian regime’s image. Not by chance, on many occasions, this task has been assigned to Asma Assad, mainly through the Syria Trust for Development, a charity network founded and led by the ‘First Lady’ herself.”

Francesca Scalinci

Let us say things clearly: Syria is certainly a country with an ancient history, a rich culture, and refined traditions, but focusing on these aspects seems like a dishonest operation if carried out while a war criminal is still in power, hundreds of thousands of people are still arbitrarily detained and millions of refugees live in conditions of extreme poverty, dispossession, and unsafe conditions.

Art, music, and archeology have been some of the tools used in trying to renew the Syrian regime’s image. Not by chance, on many occasions, this task has been assigned to Asma Assad, mainly through the Syria Trust for Development, a charity network founded and led by the “First Lady” herself. The Syria Trust for Development website describes it as an “umbrella institution for various other organizations” whose main goals are rural development and the promotion of cultural heritage. Some would say wouldn’t be bad in and of itself if the country promoted human rights as well.

It is in collaboration with the Syria Trust for Development and UNESCO that the Italian Fondazione Santagata has organized a series of initiatives that will take place between July and October 2023. For those who wonder about it, the “Fondazione Santagata for the Economics of Culture” was founded on April 13 2018, and mainly works in four areas: the management of cultural heritage with a specific reference to the economic dimension of development, the production of culture and cultural innovation, tourism, and sustainable development with a focus on UNESCO’s programs and on the relationship between cultural/natural heritage and sustainability.

La rosa di Damasco (The Rose of Damascus), a large cultural event hosted at the Royal Museums of Torino, is comprised of a photo exhibition about Damascene roses, a tapestry display, the screening of a documentary titled “The Oath of Cyriac” that describes how cultural operators saved some of Aleppo’s cultural heritage in times of “war”, a meeting with the writer Sami Moubayed, a well-known historian whose attempts to rehabilitate the Assad regime appear soft and moderate but are nevertheless effective, and three musical concerts, one involving the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra.

“Syrian culture and traditions are certainly to be discovered and celebrated but is it ethically acceptable to do so with the country coming out of 12 years of horror through an event organized by a woman whose hands are soaked in blood?”

Francesca Scalinci

It is, undoubtedly, an event involving relevant collaborations that imply a formal relationship between the two countries. And this is exactly the problem. Syrian culture and traditions are certainly to be discovered and celebrated but is it ethically acceptable to do so with the country coming out of 12 years of horror through an event organized by a woman whose hands are soaked in blood? Is it right to go through a cultural event managed by a woman whose husband did not hesitate to pulverize a country and slaughter its citizens to keep an inch of power? Is the complete ‘erasure’ of the human issue and tragedy fair? Is it right, for an organization working with UNESCO and representing Italy abroad, to establish an event with a Syrian organization with direct ties to the Assad regime? My answer would be a capital NO.

Surely, Asma, the westernized lady with British citizenship, has for a long time been the ambassador of the Syrian regime, the one endowed with the mission of cleaning up the dirt. She is sent into the world as the “Beauty” whose goal is to cover and wipe out the crimes of the Beast.

Asma’s apparent elegance and delicacy is meant to make the world forget about tattooed thugs, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and savage bombings. However, inasmuch as you try to cover up the stench of decay with the scent of Damascus roses, it will always resurface.

Francesca Scalinci
Francesca Scalinci
Francesca Scalinci holds a degree in Foreign Languages and Literatures, and a PhD in Anglo-American Studies and New Literatures in English from the University Ca’ Foscari of Venice. Since 2013 she has been following Syrian events. Many of her poems bear the echo of her great love for Syria and Syrians.

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