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Nadine Elali

A free election?

Syrian nationals cast their votes under duress

Syrian refugees hold posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Zahrani near the southern city of Sidon on May 28, 2014, before going to the Syrian embassy to cast their ballots in the Syrian presidential elections

HAROUF, Nabatiyeh – “We’re all heading to Yarzeh tomorrow to elect President Bashar,” Mohamad, a Syrian national living in the town of Harouf, told NOW. “All of us here,” he said, pointing to the group of men around him, “will be casting our votes tomorrow with free will. This is the only truth.”

 

Local newspapers reported Sunday that Hezbollah supporters in Harouf were attacking Syrians who live there following rumors that Hezbollah member Mostapha Hussein Ayoub had been killed inside Syria.  After Hezbollah confirmed that Ayoub was killed during battle, angry family members allegedly pressured Syrians to pack up their bags and leave the town by sunset.

 

NOW spoke to a Syrian refugee identifying himself as Ahmad who lives in Harouf and confirmed the reports. Ahmad, who preferred not to reveal his real name for security purposes, further explained that Syrian nationals living in Hezbollah strongholds are being subjected to many forms of intimidation. Aside from the abovementioned attacks, he said, they are also being forced to voice their support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

 

“The Syrian [Syrian Social National Party] party and other Baath locals have been going door to door, collecting Syrian nationals’ identification information and keeping record of who will attend the march in support of Bashar al-Assad and who will vote for him,” Ahmad told NOW.

 

Mohamad denied these claims. “It’s all lies, all of it,” he said. “Or else, why would we still be living here?” As he spoke, the men around him glanced at one another, some interrupting every now and then to back up Mohamad’s claims while others remained quiet. By mid-day Tuesday, every Syrian in Harouf with whom NOW spoke was telling Mohamad’s version of the story.

 

But later that day, a man whispered to NOW from afar. “Miss. Miss, over here,” he beckoned. He walked ahead cautiously, looking back repeatedly. He crossed one street into another and into an old abandoned building, then climbed the stairs and walked into a house where an old lady stood waiting by the door. She welcomed him and guided him into a room where some four elderly men were waiting. Next to them sat a disabled young man.

 

The men introduced themselves. All were Syrians who, on condition of anonymity, told NOW a different story from the one repeated on the street.

 

“Miss, we have been humiliated,” one man said. “We have been intimidated, beaten up, shot at, and slashed with knives. We overheard what Mohamad was telling you, and it is all lies,” he insisted. “Mohamad is the regime’s mouthpiece here in Harouf. He was feeding you regime propaganda. We brought you here so you can see for yourself.”

 

“Show her what the thugs did to you,” another man told the handicapped person, who started to undress. He took off his shirt; his waist was bruised, his back slashed with knives. He couldn’t speak, but suggested that he had more on his body. He rolled up his pants to reveal still-bleeding knees.

 

“The town residents were aware that we [Syrians] were going to be attacked in retaliation for the Hezbollah member who was killed inside Syria,” yet another man told NOW. “They warned us and asked us to remain home on the day of his funeral. We gathered our children and hid away in our houses; we even shut our blinders. This boy here,” he said, pointing to the injured youth, “was walking back home at noon. He didn’t make it back in time. He paid the price.”

 

“This is only one incident,” the man continued. “Almost 20 days ago a Syrian was killed. To this day we don’t know why.”

 

“Some days ago,” he narrated, “thugs paid each and every one of us a visit. They collected our IDs and forced us to demonstrate our support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. We took the streets and carried his pictures for fear of being humiliated. They are also forcing us to vote for him tomorrow and we have no other choice than to do so. There is no government to protect us here, so we do what is asked of us. This is the truth!”

Vocal support. (AFP Photo/Mahmoud Zayyat)

“The Syrian [Syrian Social National Party] party and other Baath locals have been going door to door, collecting Syrian nationals’ identification information and keeping record of who will attend the march in support of Bashar al-Assad."

  • mjay

    LMAOOO This is the biggest B.S. I've ever read. "miss miss, over here" lol it sounds like a veronica mars detective story. "This is the truth!" this website lacks any sort of professional/ethics or journalism. just a march 14 rag. shame on you

    May 28, 2014