Cyber Security and Emerging Threats Vanita Thind

Bashar al-Assad Uses Instagram to Illuminate His “Good Side”

What do we know about Bashar al-Assad? Well, currently he is the dictatorial leader of Syria, his regime has condoned murder, torture, and kidnapping. Also, the regime recently targeted Syrian civilians by unleashing its chemical weapons.

Apart from his alleged war against “terrorists,” Mr. Assad also takes great pride in using Instagram to market his good side. Did you know that the Syrian leader and his wife, Asma al-Assad, are devoted to comforting Syrians, especially those who are sick, old and injured?

Storytelling via Instagram

Mr. Assad and his wife are shown in multiple pictures that have been posted on the official Instagram account for the Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic, which is titled ‘syrianpresidency.’ With 40, 390 followers and 221 posts, Mr. Assad continues to show his false colours to the world. The Instagram handle continues to upload pictures in which the couple can be seen comforting Syrians. Without a doubt, Mr. Assad has realized the importance of being loved by the public. Even Mrs. Assad is shown as an individual who is concerned wholly with the welfare of Syrians.

As the brutal war goes on, pictures continue to be uploaded and many people continue to post comments. As can be seen by these comments, Mr. Assad has fans in Syria, Russia and Turkey. However, many individuals leave comments that clearly highlight their disapproval of Mr. Assad’s actions, and acknowledge that his attempt to show his more likeable side is failing. Some have left comments that emphasize his mistreatment of Syrians and this is illustrated in the picture.

Mr. Assad’s objective of using Instagram as a tool for propaganda has only revealed that his attempts to portray himself as a benign leader is an example of the “banality of evil.” Since the inception of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Mr. Assad attacked truthful claims and fabricated his own stories.

Can the Syrian regime actually think that posting such pictures will efface dead bodies? Well, Mr. Assad cannot destroy the truth, and his attempt to paint himself in a positive light could be an indication of his losing touch with reality. His attempt to bolster his image on a universal level is revolting; we must continue to publicize unfiltered pictures of Syria’s reality.

Wounded Syrians: A Non-Fictional Tale

Many civilians do not have access to basic needs. There is a shortage of food, shelter and medical care. As a result of government forces shelling hospitals, medical personnel are forced to treat patients in improvised buildings. Yet, Mr. Assad tries to depict the Syrian conflict as one in which he is a victim. The regime’s security solution led to the escalation of the conflict and now the war-torn country is facing a multitude of problems. This is not to say that the regime alone is responsible for all the suffering of the Syrian people. Both the regime and some opposition forces are preventing the delivery of much needed humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians that are caught in the midst of the armed conflict.

The question posed for Instagram is why Mr. Assad and his cohorts have not been expelled from Instagram. Well, according to Alison Schumer, a member of Instagram’s policy and communication team, his account has not been removed because he is not promoting violence or posting violent content.

Mr. Assad’s sole objective is to refurbish his image by using social media platforms. Due to the internet restrictions in Syria, it is safe to say that his target is the outside world. Fortunately, utilizing public relations (PR) strategies will not help him because PR is about reputation, and reputations are products of what you say, what you do, and what others say about you. What does this mean? PR cannot help the dictator and the outside world will not be appeased until justice prevails.

Vanita Thind
Vanita completed her MA in International Conflict and Security at the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies. Prior to that, she received her Honours BA in International Studies from Glendon College, York University. In her final year at Glendon College, Vanita was invited to be a Junior Research Fellow for the European Union Centre of Excellence at York University for her role as a coordinating member of a conference on contemporary Germany. During Vanita’s year abroad, she was actively involved in organizing a conference on the international implications of the Arab uprisings, and she has also worked with the Home Government Department for the Model NATO Youth Summit (MoNYS 2013). Vanita’s research interests are broad, but her main focus relate to conflict resolution, international relations, the Syrian non-international armed conflict, NATO’s security policies, and international humanitarian and criminal law.