Why do basic rights turn into “makrumah from the president”?
Enab Baladi – Hussam al-Mahmoud
If you check the State-run media outlets and pro-accounts on social media, you will find that many government decisions and circulars are issued in the form of “makrumah,” or an “honorable gesture,” in reference to the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad.
These media networks, which have wide reach locally, present their news in a semi-uniform format, conferring the phrase “With the blessing of the president” on decisions related to the citizen’s livelihood, such as one-time financial grants disbursed from the state treasury or an increase in salaries, most of which are still under the ceiling of $35, compared to the historic low of the value of the Syrian pound.
This case is not considered new in presenting official decisions, whether they are of higher or lower importance.
According to Enab Baladi’s monitoring, in July 2018, the municipality of Jarjisa village in the Hama governorate issued an announcement saying, “With the blessing of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, mosquito nets will be distributed to the people of the village of Jarjisa.”
At the time, the municipality also required the “honorees” to come to its headquarters with the family’s civil record (book).
Also, under the slogan “Under the honorable gesture of the president,” local networks, including the “Daraa Governorate” page and the “Hama Branch – Mhardeh Division” of the Baath Party, reported news about opening the door to a “comprehensive settlement” in the city of Daraa between June 3 and 8.
As for the media close to the regime, these slogans are also present at a rate of varying clarity. In February 2019, al-Watan newspaper quoted the Minister of Higher Education in the government of the regime at the time, clarifying a decree issued at that time for university graduates “with the blessing of the president.”
Samir Matar, former head of the Syrian Journalists Association, told Enab Baladi that adopting this method of presenting decisions is an old and new policy that is usually known in countries with monarchical regimes.
Matar indicated that the official Syrian media wants to show people, in these difficult economic conditions that the residents of the regime-held areas suffer, that the “president” has not forgotten the people so that anger will not be directed towards al-Assad himself, which is theoretically present and unable to express itself.
The media follows this method so that people within the areas controlled by the regime do not have doubts about the credibility of the ruling regime, even though the decisions that are issued are paid out of the pockets of the people and their rights.
“The regime uses this method as disinformation, conveying a fragmented truth cut from the general truth and disseminating it to the people,” Matar said.
He pointed to the impact of such stories on the Syrian street, as their content does not contradict the regime’s narrative about the Syrian revolution as a whole, to present messages that ultimately serve its survival in power.
Whoever wants the truth must look at what other media outlets publish, and this is available, and I do not mean social media at this point.
Samir Matar, Former President of the Syrian Journalists Association
The American researcher George Gerbner is considered the first to develop the “cultivation theory” in the late sixties of the last century, and it is one of the media communication theories that is still supported.
Gerbner and his colleagues suggest the “cultivation theory,” which explains that “viewers cultivate television information by integrating it into their perceptions of real world phenomena.” The more exposure one has to media images, the more likely that his perceptions of reality will be distorted.
With the advent of social media, part of this influence went in favor of these means, which means that the impact on the recipient is necessarily an impact on the general culture.
The regime harnessed its media tools through television, the press, and social media, to present it in a civil manner that the international community is satisfied with, relying on recycling the same official narrative that preys on the conspiracy theory on the one hand and deals with the ordinary as an achievement and victory on the other.
“Less than bondage”
The Syrian regime’s dealing with the issue according to this vision is not new, as it has been tending for a long time to link any imbalance or shortcoming in the areas under its control, whether the lack of services, or the spread of negative social phenomena, to some employees in state institutions, and the title of employees includes the entire job hierarchy from the prime minister to the mayor, the sociologist Dr. Talal Mustafa said.
Dr. Mustafa told Enab Baladi that the issue is due to Hafez al-Assad’s accession to power in Syria and his transformation of the Syrian Arab Republic or the Syrian state into “al-Assad’s Syria,” socially, in the media outlets and in propaganda.
In addition, the increased media pumping on all occasions, such as increasing salaries, ceremonies, etc., and depicting everything as a “presidential honorable gesture,” seemed to be a kind of misleading that could deceive some citizens, including a group with an advanced scientific level, as if Syria had already become “al-Assad’s Syria,” according to the sociologist.
At the beginning of the popular movement in Syria, some used to say that you were receiving salaries from the state and opposing the president as if we were receiving our salaries from Bashar al-Assad. Protesting and sit-ins are a right even for private sector workers in civilized countries.
Dr. Talal Mustafa, Sociologist
Mustafa considered that characterizing the state and its institutions in the person of the head of the regime and creating a state of gratitude without foundation in exchange for basic services puts people at the mercy of an authoritarian regime.
As for the Syrian citizen, who no longer enjoys even basic services, food, and drink, these facts make what he lives in less than slavery, he adds.
It is logical that power and its faces, such as the government and the president, change from time to time while the state and its institutions remain.
However, the Syrian regime worked to turn Syria into a “farm” and canceled everything that preceded it. There is no picture or mention of any president who preceded Hafez al-Assad in power, right up to calling him the “founder.” Everything that is offered in Syria is “With the blessing of the president” by this regime, whether opening a school, inaugurating a road, or anything else.
The researcher at the Syrian Dialogue Center, Dr. Ahmad al-Qurabi, explained to Enab Baladi that one of the most important philosophies brought about by the French Revolution is the transformation of the concept of the state into a contract, which is the theory of the social contract that Jean-Jacques Rousseau and other Western philosophers based on, on the grounds that the state as a result of the contract between individuals, the ruler is merely obligated and enforcer of that contract.
Among the theories that also originated the concept of the state is the theory of Natural Law, according to which rights and freedoms are linked to human beings and are not granted by a king, president, or regime.
Natural law is a theory in ethics and philosophy that says that human beings possess intrinsic values that govern their reasoning and behavior. Natural law maintains that these rules of right and wrong are inherent in people and are not created by society or court judges.
This is something rooted in Islamic law, given that the allegiance is equivalent to the contract, and rights and freedoms are a gift from God, not from the ruler.
There is a school of tyranny and theory that deals with the state as a “Divine State,” or the divine theory of the emergence of the state, in which the ruler is considered a god who gives and withholds, and everything in the state belongs to this ruler.
This theory dates back to the Middle Ages, but with the advent of the modern state and the spread of concepts of rights and freedoms, the divine theory of the emergence of the state disappeared except for the al-Assad regime, according to al-Qurabi.
The makrumah principle is linked to the divine theory of the emergence of the state. This regime deals with al-Assad as a God. The state belongs to him, and the citizens are his subjects. Everything that comes out of him is honorable, and the subjects have no rights.
Dr. Ahmed al-Qurabi, Scholar at the Syrian Dialogue Center
The researcher also pointed to the idea of placing al-Assad in a divine status as a manifestation of this theory. In addition to dealing with the official Syrian media and those close to it with rights and freedoms, and transforming people into the property of the ruling family, making all decrees that are issued come out of grace not right.
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