The influx of social media influencers into Syrian regime-held areas has recently increased with the easing of precautionary measures imposed by most countries under the COVID-19 pandemic.
A good number of these Arab Youtubers have been active, especially Syrians who left the country as refugees fleeing the war launched by the Assad regime against revolting civilians since 2011.
However, they were quick to adopt Assad and his media’s narrative, promoting a different portrait of what is happening on the ground, especially since 2019, when the intensity of the battles between the regime and the opposition weakened according to settlement agreements that resulted in the displacement of thousands of fighters and residents from Daraa, Quneitra, southern Damascus, and the northern countryside of Homs city
Also, social media content creators and tourists must sometimes obtain a security clearance or approval from the General Intelligence Division to enter Syria and transmit the image the Syrian regime wants and seeks after its alleged victory against terrorism.
In many cases, travel companies undertake the task of obtaining the security approval of a tourist or an influential content maker in the community where tour guides or escorts are assigned to identify the places they are allowed to visit.
Security clearance does not mean visiting all Syrian places and cities, especially those pulverized, which shows the fact that heavy weapons were used against cities and neighbourhoods.
The security branches determine direct creators to the need to stay away from meeting poor people who are exhausted by the living conditions.
Zaman al-Wasl monitored the visit of several well-known YouTubers to Assad-held areas, such as British travel blogger Simon Wilson, Reem Khalil, Abir Shalati, Ahmad Aburub, Kasem Hato, Chef Omar, Youssef Kabani and several others.
Syrian in the UK visits Syria
What is remarkable is that some of the content makers who have been to Syria since 2019 have sought refuge in European countries to escape the oppression and bombing of the Assad regime and have obtained residency and protection, and some have even obtained European passports.
Reem Khalil, for example, has frequently visited regime areas in Damascus and Lattakia, and it is noticeable from the videos she posts that she adopts the wrong picture of the situation in Syria.
Khalil portrays Damascus as God’s heaven on earth with its markets, food, restaurants, and neighbourhoods, ignoring the security suppression inflicted by the security branches upon citizens.
Khalil, who has about 1.3 million followers on Facebook, tried to promote the return of normal life to those areas that she visits in Syria from time to time, and she holds a Golden Visa in Dubai.
A refugee in Sweden visits Assad’s Syria
As for a 26-year-old Syrian refugee, Abir Shalati, she sought refuge in Sweden to escape the brutality of the Assad regime in 2013 and obtained protection and residency, then Swedish citizenship in 2019.
After acquiring Swedish citizenship, Shalati worked for a Swedish television station and later revealed the reality of her position on the Syrian regime. She made several visits to Damascus and posted photos depicting normalcy before taking them off her Facebook account.
Shalati was not the only refugee who visited regime-controlled areas. The Assad regime benefited from dozens of Syrian, Arab and international influencers who portrayed the return of the situation to the way it was before 2011.
Omar Abu Libdeh, better known as Chef Omar, resides in Turkey. He remained silent for a long time before he revealed his support of the Assad regime, which expelled him and his family from Syria.
Chef Omar distributed school uniforms, bags, and stationery to 850 students in Syria, from the profits of videos for the months of August and September of last year.
The chef did not mention the names of the areas in which these materials were distributed, only to silence his commentators with the phrase: “Whoever writes the words “regime” or “liberated” will be banned from this page.”
Omar alleges that his page is not for news and that the work is purely humanitarian, adding: “The distribution took place in liberated areas and regime areas, as you said. I know that its name is Syria, but I wrote it to you in plain words so that you would understand”.
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.