Beirut, Lebanon – As the Presidential election prepares for next month, millions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been urged to go out and vote.
Syrian television station cited people who are registering at the embassy in Lebanon as “an indication of their tolerance for the wrongdoings and sanctions of Westerners”, according to a reporter.
Parliament announced last week that Election of President will take place on May 26. According to Syrian journalists, 22 people have made the request so far, including President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Assad is expected to win the vote and rule the war-torn country for seven years.
A young Syrian ambassador to Beirut told a television journalist that holding elections was a “stepping stone” for the Syrian army to recapture a large part of the country. Several other men said the same thing.
But not all Syrians had the same idea.
“The election is just a demonstration of vaudeville,” said Abu Ali al-Hamoui, 39, in comparing the election to a French theater nation.
Al-Hamoui told Al Jazeera that he was refusing to register to vote as al-Assad was the winner. “They train you to support the Baath party from the time you are in first grade,” he said.
Formerly a teacher in his hometown of Hama, al-Hamoui now lives in a town in northern Lebanon, a short distance from Tripoli. His family is scattered throughout Syria and Turkey. He he participated in demonstrations of peace in his hometown in the wake of the 2011 uprising – some of the most influential in Syria.
“Then we were threatened. First, he told me, ‘You are an educated and well-mannered person. Be careful. We see you,'” he said.
He lived his whole life the siege of Hama that summer and I chose to stay. However, when government officials took him to the waiting area to inform him that he would be called soon, al-Hamoui decided it was time to leave.
About 6 million Syrian refugees in the Middle East and North Africa have registered with the United Nations. About 1.5 million live in Lebanon, although only 855,000 are registered with the UN.
‘Fear is gone’
President al-Assad won the last general election in 2014 and 88.7% of the vote. The latter also endorsed al-Assad during this time. In Lebanon, thousands of Assyrians gathered at the ambassadors to vote, many in large numbers showing their allegiance to al-Assad.
In the meantime, Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons can also register via a Google form that is distributed through their office radios, requiring more information on their credit card, town or city of origin, mobile phone number, parents’ names, and where they live in their country of residence.
Refugees and expatriates do not have to represent the president, however, as they have not lived in Syria where the war has been over the past 10 years.
Western governments and political opponents of al-Assad and the Syrian government are involved criticized the forthcoming elections as a fraud and called for a political response to the dispute at first. A spokesman for the US State department and the French Foreign Ministry told Al Jazeera that they did not believe the election would be free or fair.
He also spoke of the UN Security Council Amendment 2254.
Haya Atassi of the Syrian People’s Association for Citizens’ Dignity says even those who want to vote are afraid of being monitored and given back into the hands of the government.
“Many Assyrians are afraid to go to the embassy – especially in Lebanon. You don’t know if your papers can be confiscated,” Atassi told Al Jazeera.
Atassi and its allies surveyed 500 Assyrians who had fled their homelands by the end of 2020 in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and throughout Europe to determine their views on elections. The results showed that although many supported the vote, they did not believe it would be free and fair. More than 80% said they would not feel safe going to the Syrian ambassador to vote.
‘Like signing to offend yourself’
Journalist Hoda al-Khatib, 25, left Syria in 2012 to study at a Lebanese university, and goes on a visit to his home for a weekend and vacation. However, after drafting a document on the uprising in late 2020, al-Khatib bid farewell to his relatives and friends – knowing that he might never see them again.
“For the past four or five years, I have been working in Syria without putting my name on it as a journalist,” he told Al Jazeera. “Later I realized that I needed to talk about this. It was a dangerous choice. ”
Al-Khatib surprisingly chose to register to vote, saying it “does not make a difference”.
“If there’s anything, they just put me on their radar and bring trouble to someone in our family,” he said. “It’s like signing to commit a crime.”
Towards his last visit to Syria, Al-Khatib said he believed that self-examination was also an indication that elections would not be free and fair. “The government has created this climate of fear. People do not talk about politics. Everything is down, and each one is afraid of the other. ”
There is no better return
Hatred in Syria has diminished and the government has managed to recapture much of the country, removing northern areas controlled by various opposition groups.
In Lebanon, at least 90 percent of Syrian refugees live in poverty, and about half struggle to make ends meet. That being said, many do not believe that returning to Syria will guarantee them the security and security they want.
Government forces seized the terrorist-controlled Hama in August 2019. Nearly two years later, life remains elusive.
“Back in Hama, things are not going well: there is no electricity, no water,” said Abu Ali al-Hamoui. “We had infrastructure even before the elections and we rely heavily on agriculture – but now we are going back to the old days.”
It is also not safe. Earlier this month, the ISIL militant group (ISIS) captured 59 people, mostly civilians.
Al-Hamoui’s friends and relatives told him that crime was rampant, and the Syrian army was forcing many young men.
“Every returnee is arrested,” Atassi said. “Many Syrians who have fled the country have done this ‘illegally’, so they have committed a crime.”
Atassi said the elections would only endorse the current Syrian government and cover barring refugees from returning as much as $ 100 entry and the 2018 law allowing the government to reclaim more and more land.
“The Syrian government’s assurance of security is insignificant,” Human Rights Watch Syria researcher Sara Kayyali told Al Jazeera. A New York-based group has filed a lawsuit against Syrian refugees who are being interrogated and arrested upon their return.
“If you return, there will be no one to save you. It’s up to you, your chances, and if you have enough money to go back, ”he said.
For these reasons, many Assyrians feel that participation in elections is risky and can accelerate the return of force. Last week, Denmark announced the event Send 500 refugees to Syria.
“If you are a man my age, you are at risk because you are avoiding compulsory military service,” al-Khatib said. “We have never been allowed to oppose Bashar [al-Assad] – just imagine voting against him. We studied for nine years. ”