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08/30/2013

Hafez Assad, 11, to Washington: "Go ahead. Make my day"

Hafez
A defiant post on Facebook was apparently written by Hafez Assad, 11-year-old son of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Either Syria has a new unofficial spokesman in the person of the president’s 11-year-old son or else someone has done an awfully good job of impersonating the boy.

On Facebook, of all places.

What’s more, the child in question seems to be remarkably unimpressed by the prospect of possible U.S. airstrikes against his father’s regime, in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on August 21 that claimed hundreds of civilian lives.

America doesn’t have soldiers,” taunts Hafez Assad – or someone purporting to be Hafez Assad – in a posting on the social networking site. “(What) it has is some cowards with new technology who claim themselves liberators.”

Slightly more than 300 words long, the posting is littered with misspellings and errors of grammar – precisely what you would expect from a youngster writing in the heat of passion and in a second language. At times, the child seems to be parroting the opinions or attitudes of others, likely fellow members of Syria’s ruling elite.

“(Maybe) they are stronger, maybe they will destroy the army,” the post continues. “(But) they will never destroy these remnants and little bits of resistance, it’s who we are, we were born to fight and resist.”

The post has already been “liked” by many of the boy’s relatives and friends or – rather improbably – by people impersonating his relatives and friends.

As The New York Times notes in a report on the post’s appearance, “If the Facebook post attributed to Mr. Assad’s son is a hoax, it is either a highly elaborate one involving dozens of fake accounts purporting to belong to the children of other regime insiders, or a forgery so impressive that some of those children themselves – including the boy’s cousins – have been fooled.”

If the post is authentic, and if it does provide genuine insight into the prevailing attitudes of Syria’s rulers, then two conclusions seem to stand out: first, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his cronies do not seem cowed by the spectre of U.S. attacks; and, second, they appear to believe that such strikes will help unite Syrians around his leadership rather than further divide them.

“I just want them to attack sooo much, because I want them to make this huge mistake … ” writes the author of the post. “(They) don’t know our land like we do, no one does, victory is ours in the end no matter how much time it takes.”

Oakland Ross is a foreign affairs reporter for the Toronto Star.

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