“Why do you provoke and humiliate us by presenting Abdel Hakim Qatifan, Gamal Suliman and Maxim Khalil on national screens?” screamed the President of the Syrian Artists Syndicate and the member of the People’s Council of Syria, Zuhair Ramadan, while addressing the members of the People’s Council, which was headed by the Prime Minister Imad Khamis, at a hearing held on 29 December 2016.
The President of the Artists Syndicate demanded that no artists opposing the Syrian regime should appear on Syrian television, which is still presenting old works for them.
The Chief of the Police Station Runs the Syndicate with the Same Tools
Zuhair Ramadan, known as the chief of police station “Abu Jawdat” in the TV series Bab al- Hara, abused the Syrian actors who opposed the Syrian regime and its president Bashar al-Assad, immediately after obtaining the position of President of the Syrian Artists Syndicate in 2014.
And in order to prove that he is actually “patriotic,” he issued a Syndicate dismissal list of a number of actors and artists. Some of them were dismissed because of their attitudes against al-Assad and others because they left Syria permanently due to the deteriorating situation. The list included the cinema director Hatem Ali, Basel Khayat, Jamal Suliman, Taim Hassan, Maxim Khalil, Qays Sheikh Najib, Samer al- Masri, Jumana Murad and other artists.
Ramadan made his decision in 2014 accusing the Syrian actors of contributing to “shedding Syrian blood” by supporting the Syrian opposition or calling for military intervention in Syria, according to his claims.
On the other hand, the President of the Artists Syndicate did not change his attitude towards the artists residing abroad, reassuring them by saying: “We will ensure the return of everyone who has not made any provocative statement against Syria by all possible means.” Ramadan added: “Anyone who abused the symbols of sovereignty in Syria would be included in the list of dismissal. I mean the Syrian flag, the army, the national anthem and the President of the Republic.”
“I have no Honor in Being a Member of the Syndicate you are Presiding”
The attitude of Zuhair Ramadan to dismiss the previously mentioned actors of the Syrian Artists Syndicate triggered serious reaction. The first reaction was of the opposition actor and the member of the Cairo conference of the Syrian opposition, Jamal Suliman. Actually, he said: “Please do not hesitate to dismiss me, I have no Honor in being a member of the Syndicate you are presiding.”
Suliman accused the President of the Artists Syndicate of being a “Fascist Shabih” and added in a post on his Facebook page: “It is no secret today that this mentality of accusing people of disloyalty was behind the policies of detention and torture and of deepening the splitting. These policies created a state of despair that gave rise to unprecedented violence leading to the shedding of blood.”
Abu Jawdat did not limit himself to the decision to dismiss several actors from the syndicate. In reality, two years later, he issued a “disciplinary” decision which brings seven Syrian artists before the “Disciplinary Board” on October 26, 2016. Among these actors were Jamal Suliman, Abdul Hakim Qutifan, May skaf, Maxim Khalil, Louise Abdul karim, Samih Choucair, Abdulkader Manla and Mazen Al- Natour.
The opposition actor Abdul Hakim Qutifan responded to the disciplinary decision saying: “The sons of the same homeland are those who feel sympathy for the people of their country, appreciate their feelings and support them. You are a mafia, a tyrant and an occupying power.” Abdul Hakim Qutifan added: “I want to tell you, Professor Zuhair, do what you can.”
A Number of Demands at People’s Council Platform
During a session of People’s Council of Syria on 4 June, Zuhair Ramadan presented a series of demands to the Prime Minister Emad Khamis. The most important of which is the expansion of graveyards in Lattakia city in order to bury those he called “martyrs” who fall during the battles of al- Assad forces.
The city of Lattakia, where Ramadan was born in 1960, has recently witnessed many complaints about the high death rates among its young men and their demands for the army reserve through military campaigns.
Ramadan asked the People’s Council, after he became member in 2016, to allow the import of musical instruments as means of entertainment. He considered the ban to be the reason behind the drastic increase of the prices.
He also called for the production of series about ISIS, pointing to the need to allocate 200 million Syrian Pounds, out of the 1.2 billion Pounds budget of Syrian TV production, for the creation of such series.
Threats Extended to Non-Syrian Actors
Social media reverberated with the conflict between Zuhair Ramadan and the Lebanese actress and singer Cyrine Abdelnour, after she was invited to Damascus to be part of “Kanadeel al-Oshak” (Lovers’ Lanterns), a series broadcasted on television in Ramadan 2017.
“Abu Jawdat” did not allow Cyrine to enter Damascus and had put her name on the Syrian – Lebanese border to ban her entry to Damascus. This reaction was instigated by her visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon.
However, a TV report prepared by “ET Bel Arabi” confirmed that this decision came after Zuhair Ramadan received several complaints from Syrian actors who stressed their right to be part of Syrian drama since they are Syrian residents.
On 15 March, he asserted to “Sayidati” magazine that “every actor has financial commitments that he has to fulfill and those who misbehave need to apologize to Syria.”
Ramadan did not deny his anger at Cyrine’s visit to the Syrian refugees’ camp in Lebanon. He didn’t go further into the reasons which made him angry at such a “humanitarian” visit that had no political background. He apologized also for the inability to provide more details on the pretext of his preoccupations.
Cyrine responded to Ramadan and posted the following statement on her Facebook page: “he said that I am against the regime and detrimental to Syria. He also said that I caused the suspension of Syrian actors’ work and received an amount of money which made them upset. Would I be blamed in the future for triggering war just because I had to be part of this series?”
Ramadan, who is famous for the role of “Abu Jawdat” in Bab al-Hara and the graduate of drama department from the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, is one of the Syrian regime’s most loyal actors. This is manifested through his supportive statements and positions. However, his role as chief of the police station in Bab al-Hara accompanied him to be practiced outside of the TV screen.