“Lieutenant Bou Sakr” after “Jabri” and “Bayrakdar”, phone pranks reveal fragility of al-Assad regime
Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud
“Hello, may God bless you. It is Lieutenant Bou Sakr,” with this identification mixed with the seriousness of the voice of the caller, colored in a clear coastal dialect, Yaman Najjar, conducts live broadcasts on Tik Tok, the short-form video hosting service, targeting in every call a person from the regime’s institutions, whether they are security personnel or not.
Through these recorded communications, the young man chooses whom to contact based on the “demands” of his followers, as one of them talks about someone’s corruption here, or a specific violation committed by another there, which necessarily means a call from Lieutenant Bou Sakr to the person.
Even though the pranks are not new to Najjar, as he has been streaming videos of this kind for at least two years, focusing on entertainment by contacting people of different Arabic nationalities, Najjar’s tendency has become clear lately, to change the core of his pranks and to make the two sides of the phone call Syrians.
The phone-call pranks with individuals, employees or officials within the regime-controlled areas, preceded by more than one Syrian experience in this context, but what differed today is an increase in the level of influence in two directions, one of which pushed a military man to flee to Turkey after Bou Sakr’s prank with him went viral on social media , in addition to increasing the follow-up, given that the method is lighter.
Sakher Idris, secretary of the opposition’s Syrian Journalists Association, considered Najjar’s case or any other person who might share, simulate or develop experiences of this kind, as positive, if it was without insults and offense during the conversation.
In a WhatsApp call, Idris added to Enab Baladi that the use of defamation and offensive expressions in dialogue is useless as it lessens the importance of the phone call, especially when the person’s method (the one who plays the prank) varies between a recipient of a phone call and another
“Although these phone conversations are not considered in the corridors of the courts, they remain at least in the memory of the Syrian people, and contribute to building the awareness of the street and conveying a clear picture of people’s just demands.”
Idris also pointed out that the call partly bears a sense of humor, by focusing more on “jokes and pranks,” which may prompt those who are usually targeted to be alert.”
On the feasibility of using satirical calls and pranks in relation to the Syrian revolution, Idris said it is nothing more than a bit of psychological satisfaction because whatever the content of the call and the confessions taking place during it, they may not be enough for the Syrian street, unless accountability takes place.
On the legality of what appears in Yaman Najjar’s phone calls and other confessions, ranging from what is intended, to what comes out under the sedation of anger, or to “retract statements,” the head of the Free Syrian Lawyers Association, lawyer Ghazwan Kronfol, told Enab Baladi that all information that goes on in the context of these phone calls has no legal value.
“It cannot be placed among the so-called evidence in judicial files related to accounting, especially since the information, if it was true, was obtained fraudulently,” he assured.
Mohammed al-Satouf, researcher at the Syrian Center for Press Freedoms of the Syrian Journalists Association does not fully agree with Kronfol’s opinion in this regard, given that the legal perspective is sensitive.
“There is no definitive answer to the case, and the criminal courts leave the matter to the judge’s discretion, so he takes or neglects what he wants from the existing evidence,” he added.
Al-Satouf told Enab Baladi, “I think that what is broadcast can be taken as a guide and as a matter of sympathy, provided that the subject is sensitive.”
At the same time, he referred to the general state of influence formed by Yaman Najjar, which partially revealed a state of fragility in the structure of the Syrian regime, and how the security and non-security agencies, and even administrations and institutions, are run.
Despite the signs that such a method has turned into an escalating phenomenon over time, the idea lies in the fact that the various regime security services frequently fall into the prank, so to speak, and are afraid of a certain dialect on the phone or from an unknown number.
According to the researcher, it is too early to talk about the validity of these communications for use as trial evidence, in light of evidence proving that the regime or its militias committed violations and crimes against the Syrian people,
This is evidence that has been documented by Syrian and international human rights organizations, but the path of justice is “stumbling” in the international system regarding the file of violations in Syria, due to the intervention of powerful countries such as Russia, China and others.
Najjar not the first
The first appearance of this method was from phone pranks on the Syrian arena, through contacting artists or officers in the security forces of the Syrian regime since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
This was to comment on the course of events that were in the beginning stage, with its outburst of anger and breaking the wall of silence and fear, and to talk for the first time in a documented manner about topics and issues that have been trapped in the security taboo in Syria for decades.
“Hussein Jabri” (Abu Zuhair), was the first in this way to direct his message to members of the authority, believing in the legitimacy of its dealings with the peaceful popular movement at the time.
Jabri mixed humor with objective talk, which in some calls may go beyond insults and swearing, according to the person targeted by Abu Zuhair’s call.
Through these pranks, and in September 2011, Jabri called the then Air Force Intelligence officer, Bashar Awad, who tried to win over “Abu Zuhair” by “sectarian evasion from the regime,” before the talk turned into religion contempt including an insult to the second Islamic Caliph, Omar Ibn al-Khattab and confessing to killing the prominent activist Ghiath Matar.
Through his satirical style, Jabri revealed another facet of some of the personalities that the Syrian street perhaps places in an elitist stature.
In another call with actor Bashar Ismail, mutual insults covered the call, and Ismail followed it up by using cursing words against the Prophet Muhammad.
While the method of dialogue in Abu Zuhair’s call with actor Mustafa al-Khani differed, as the call, which lasted for about a third of an hour, was void of insults, defamation and swearing, and it was like a dialogue and an exchange of views during which both sides of the communication held their opinion.
Subsequently, the Syrian activist, Maysoon Bayrakdar, also appeared from the portal of phone calls and pranks, this time targeting higher positions and more weighty figures in the regime’s power hierarchy.
These conversations, whose conclusion has always been insults, Bayrakdar mitigated their pressure with some of the recipients of the call, such as the Syrian actor Assem Hawat, in a call during which Hawat expressed his distance from politics, and at the same time rejected abuses and crimes such as the Tadamon massacre, which was uncovered by an investigation of The Guardian newspaper and The New Lines magazine last April.
The massacre that took place in the southern Tadamon suburb of Damascus has documented the killing of 41 people by the regime military intelligence and their burial in a mass grave in April 2013.
What recently sparked a wave of interaction was the call that Bayrakdar made with the famed Algerian sports commentator Hafeez Daraji, against the background of his talk on Twitter about what he considered “betraying the Syrians, selling their homeland, their cause, their honor and destroying their country” in order to overthrow their “President,” in response to a tweet by British-Syrian television personality, Faisal al-Kasim, during which he criticized Algeria’s talk about its efforts to unite the Arabs in the “Arab Summit” to be held in early November in Algeria.
Daraji, who tried to restore his first tweet with another in which he expressed solidarity with “the people’s will for change,” received a call from Bayrakdar, who introduced herself as an employee in the Syrian presidency “The Republican Palace,” thanking him for his stance, and he sent her greetings to the President of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.
Later, Bayrakdar spoke of Daraji’s tendency to file a lawsuit against her to “expel” her from the European Union countries.
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