Suhayla al-Asa’d, a pseudonym for a student at the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Damascus, pretended to be sick in order to be able to go home after the Baath Party Branch in the faculty obliged students to participate in a march in support of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Asa’d expressed her dissatisfaction with the method of driving students to forced marches without any regard for their political views.
“We are fed up with being treated like a herd … We are students. We have different opinions about the situation in Syria and about the drumming for Assad or not. They have to realize that we do not want to choose him or choose someone else,” she added.
On Monday, the Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) announced its rejection to participate in the presidential elections after Damascus requested to conduct them in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria’s (AANES) areas.
The Baath Party Branch in the faculties and institutes of the University of Damascus warned the students of not participating in the rallies organized by the National Union of Syria’s Students and the party teams in the faculties.
During the past days, the Baath Party and the Student Union organized pro-Assad rallies in various faculties of the University of Damascus, in addition to events and celebrations inside the dorms in order to push the students to vote in the presidential elections.
On the other hand, the employees in Damascus complain of being forced to march in support of Assad, under penalty of accountability for those who refuse to.
During the past week, a large number of students intended not to attend their lectures, fearing that they would be forced out on pro-Assad rallies.
Issam al-Kayyali, a student at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Damascus, preferred not to attend the university during the past week.
“Most of the students who stayed at the faculty were forced to participate in those pro-Assad rallies,” he told North Press.
Kayyali considered the exploitation of the university for electoral purposes a crime against knowledge and education.
According to Kayyali, even before the start of the election campaign, university professors were promoting Assad in halls and auditoriums and talking about his fake victories as if the university was a field for the election campaign.
The election campaign of the current Syrian president was not only limited to forcing employees and students to promote him, but rather, the pro-government media started to broadcast rumors of a political breakthrough, an upcoming Gulf opening, and the return of investments to the government-held areas.
Under the slogan “Hope is in Work”, Assad started his electoral campaign, which is facing rejection by the international community.
Students in Damascus say that Assad’s election campaign was based on two factors, the first was forcing students, employees, and workers associated with the state’s departments to go out in rallies in support of him, to make him believe that he has great popularity. The second was promoting through pro-Assad media of upcoming breakthroughs in the economic situation.
Assad is competing in the elections with two other candidates who do not have influence and popularity inside Syria, “which raises doubts about the integrity of the elections,” according to observers.
Samir al-Issa a pseudonym for a Damascus-based journalist, told North Press that since the start of the election campaign, the pro-Assad channels and webpages have broadcasted rumors of Gulf contacts with the Syrian government to return its embassies and start investing.
The naïve people are led by these rumors, in light of the sanctions and the government’s inability to even provide bread for the residents in its held areas, according to the journalist.
Issa expected that the current election would witness the lowest turnout in Syria since Assad took power due to the miserable economic conditions in government-held areas and their lack of confidence in his leadership in light of the absence of any political solution.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.