With presidential elections approaching on May 26, 2021 state media have broadcast demonstrations supporting the re-election of Bashar al Assad. While we believe that there is a class of citizens who benefit politically, economically and religiously from the continuation of the current hereditary dictatorial ruling system in Syria, we can confirm, according to a number of principals and teachers in public schools and professors at public universities in various Syrian governorates, as well as from our communications with staff members at some other government institutions, that the regime’s security services and Ba’ath Party members have issued menacing verbal instructions with threatening messages ordering them to attend these rallies and express support for Bashar al Assad.
These elections are only taking place in around 60% of the total area of Syria, namely in those areas controlled by the Syrian regime through its security apparatuses, which have inflicted particularly brutal torture for the past ten years, with public fear and terror at this relentless intimidation guaranteeing a victory for the hereditary dictator. In addition to this, the total number of residents in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime currently stands at between 5.5 to 6 million Syrian citizens which is less than a quarter of the total Syrian population, taking into account that 13 million Syrians are now either IDPs or refugees according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with nearly 4 million of these in northwestern Syria, and between 1.5 million to 2 million in northeastern Syria. In addition to all the aforementioned points, these elections are taking place in accordance with the 2012 constitution, which the current Syrian regime drafted unilaterally as though it were introducing some minor article of legislation. Moreover, these elections violate UN Security Council resolutions and impede the course of the political process, including the Constitutional Committee. We have issued an extensive report in which we clarified the illegality of these elections.
On a separate note, these election rallies are taking place despite the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the high number of infection cases announced by the Syrian regime’s Ministry of Health, with all such large-scale gatherings taking place without observing any social distancing measures, and ignoring the importance of wearing protective facemasks, violating all the precautionary measures introduced by the World Health Organization. The SNHR notes that this is further confirmation that a regime which is already responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Syrians and displacing 12 million more as refugees and IDPs will not care for its people or make any effort to protect them against the spread of the pandemic in any way.
The SNHR condemns the Syrian security services’ threats to citizens to intimidate and force them to participate in illegal presidential elections and deny them their right to freely express the opinion, as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by forcing them to elect Bashar al Assad exclusively, despite his being responsible for multiple crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Photo shared online via a pro- Syrian regime account on May 11, 2021, showing a banner put up by the Syrian regime’s Political Security branch calling for Bashar al Assad’s re-election.