Thousands have taken to the streets of the Syrian capital Damascus to support the country’s embattled leader Bashar al-Assad. The demonstration comes on the year anniversary of the anti-Assad uprising that has left scores dead and injured.
The pro-Assad rally is taking place under the slogan of protesting a ‘one-year conspiracy’ to overthrow the regime. The opposition said that Assad has forced people to attend the Damascus demonstration in order to overshadow the opposition rallies marking the beginning of the popular uprising in Syria a year ago, AP reports.
Video footage, however, shows people of different ages, including children, dancing and waving Syrian flags. Others had the national flag painted on their faces.
With opposition rallies planned all over Syria and abroad, local activists report the increased presence of the Syrian army in opposition strongholds.
The Popular uprising in Syria against the current regime started in mid-March last year. According to the UN, 7,500 people have been killed in the conflict.
While western states urge President Assad to leave his post, he claims the foreign-directed opposition is filled with terrorists and gangsters seeking to destroy Syria.
Political analyst Christoph Horstel, who was at the rally in Damascus, told RT that those who are still choosing violence over dialogue aren’t really interested in a Syrian democracy.
“It is very clear that anybody who is now picking up arms against this government, which obviously has indulged in honest reform and election, these people are not serious about constructive internal dialogue in Syria, that is quite clear. They are not part of a process, they are just killers”, Horstel said.
There are many circumstances serving to increase Assad’s popularity while weakening the opposition, says Middle East expert Ali Rizk. He believes there is no choice for Assad's international opponents but to resort to some kind of political solution to the crisis.
“Because of the procedures, because of the practices which some of the opposition resorted to, they have lost a lot of their supporters,” Rizk said. “When you see Syrian opposition figures speaking about for example cutting off ties, or decreasing their ties with Iran, cutting Syria off what we refer to as ‘a resistance axis,’ I think all that does, it gives more popularity to the Syrian regime.”
“The Syrian people are known to be people who very much support the anti-Israeli approach, a political stance which Assad has used,” he added. “And I think that is the main source of his popularity.”
Assad still has enough support not only in Damascus but in the rest of the country as well, and that will allow him to stay in power, at least for some time, political analyst Ahmed Badawi told RT.
“Assad seems to still have considerable support everywhere, except of course in the places that have come under heavy fire from his military,” he said. “The whole legitimacy question of course is a big dilemma for the regime, but it seems so far that the regime has managed to keep a lot of its legitimacy intact.”
Michel Chossudovsky, director for the Center for Research on Globalization, believes that members of the Free Syrian Army are being trained by special forces from NATO countries .
“MI6 and CIA operatives are there,” he stated during an interview with RT. “This is from their own sources, incidentally, it’s not hearsay, it is actual fact. British special forces have met up with members of the Free Syrian Army and they are training members of the Free Syrian Army from a base in Turkey. British MI6 operatives have reportedly been training the rebels in urban warfare.”