On every corner and every street under government control, regime flag fly. Shop doors, barricades and park fences have all been painted with the regime flag.
These signs are part of a campaign launched simultaneously with preparations for the start of Geneva II talks one month ago and which intensified during the first round of negotiations.
The message is that Bashar Assad and his regime will stay in power. It can be read as a practical interpretation of the declaration of the Minister of Information, Omran al-Zoubi, when he said that the "Syrian people have decided to nominate Bashar Assad for another presidential term and they will put pressure on him to run for the election".
Evidence of "people's pressure" were seen in the "obligatory" flag-painting campaign, coinciding with the release of songs in the Alawite dialect, all expressing: "We want no one but Assad" and the victory cheers from the regime delegation at Geneva.
Victory, in their eyes, means here that the conference has achieved nothing, and that Assad will run for the upcoming presidential elections and will win due to the popular support.
The campaign was not limited to media, but also involved lectures in cultural centers by Baath officials across Syrian provinces, aimed at "convincing Assad to run".
One activist in Latakia reported that in a recent lecture there, a Baath official said: "they will accept Assad's nomination for presidency and they will elect him." However, he said, this statement provoked a colleague, who condemned him for using the term "accept" instead of "demand" the president be nominated.
These lectures, aimed at mobilising support, were accompanied by marches arranged under threat of non-participation. The latest was held in Nabuk, north of Damascus. Dozens of retailers participated in the march, just one month after regime forces committed terrible massacres and atrocities in the city. Official state media channels reported what was described as a "people's celebration" in Nabuk, while Hezbollah-owned al-Manar television channel met the participants and reported their joy because "safety and security have been returned to the city after the regime defeated "terrorists".
In Damascus, the two famous Hummer vehicles, painted with the regime's flag, tour the city with other cars carrying girls and boys, all singing songs glorifying Assad and his brother Maher. Most Syrians describe these displays as "provocative" and "shameless".
"There is nothing as shameless as this. While we die, our country is being destroyed and our people live on international aid, they celebrate victory in Geneva and advertize the regime", said Rami, using a nickname, who was obliged to paint his shop with the regime flag.
"I was obliged to pay 7,000 Syrian Pounds, which I consider as stolen by the governorate. They didn’t ask me to paint it, and even if they had, I wouldn’t have dared to refuse. Many people are like me. They follow the policy and cannot refuse."
Mazen, another shopkeeper, said no one can refuse or complain.
"A young man from the governorate council came to me and told me they will paint the door of my shop with the Syrian flag. He said there are orders to uniform the doors of shops to improve the look of the city and show loyalty to the country against Syria's enemies," Mazen explained.
"I didn’t object, but I told them I would paint it myself. He threatened me indirectly, telling me there is a 100,000 SP fine for those who refuse to paint their shops, and that I might be arrested. Then, I realized they want to rob me, as the paint itself costs 3,000 SP and they want 7,000 for the job."
Qusai, a regime-supporter, said he admires the idea of painting shops, adding that it makes Damascus more beautiful.
"It is one heart supporting one regime," he said, "and this is better than the chaos brought by terrorists."
However, he did not deny that the governorate council might be in need for money and this campaign was a chance to raise funds from merchants.
Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer