3 Ways Bashar al-Assad Uses Female Sex Appeal in Propaganda
There is an old dictum that says sex is a weapon of war. The Syrian Civil War is ongoing proof of this dictum. Very little is written about sexual and gender politics in Syria. We occasionally hear about the prevalence of rape, but not often. These stories usually (but not exclusively), involve regime soldiers or security forces abusing women suspected of being with the opposition.
As the Syrian regime attempts to disguise these crimes, the media has become a central battlefield for the regime. Syrian TV and social media are attempting to spread the message that the regime is an adamant protector of women's rights. Much media attention has been paid to the president's wife Asma al-Assad as a "beautiful, modern, westernized, liberated and uncovered" woman.
The Syrian media consistently showcases "attractive, liberated, and uncovered" women arguing on behalf of the regime. Sex in Syria is a psychological weapon. To truly understand this, one must juxtapose the image of these "liberated women" next to the "bearded" rebels. A narrative emerges based on these contrasting images. These are three media through which the Syrian regime channels this message.
1. Syrian Girl
There are many pro-regime commentators on social media, but Mimi Al-Laham, or Syrian Girl, has caused an online sensation. She has appeared regularly on Russian Today, Press TV, and on channels in Australia. She has appeared most frequently on Alex Jones's online show and runs her own channel on YouTube. The videos she posts on YouTube receive upwards of 163,000 views. On Google, her name followed by the word "hot" returns just under 50,000 results. Mimi, who is believed to be the granddaughter of a government minister, uses her channel to promote conspiracy theories, pro-regime, and anti-opposition rhetoric.
2. Syrian Television News
BBC Arabic News's documentary "Inside Syria: Reporting for Al-Assad" involved the network sending a reporter to Al-Ikhbariyya station. The network is famous for embedding reporters in the Syrian army on the battlefront. Particularly, they send "young, attractive, and uncovered" female reporters to the front lines. In fact, while up to 60% of Syrian women wear a hijab, almost none of the female personalities on Syrian state-owned T.V. station seem to. This is no accident as the regime is demonstrating its commitment to liberalism and women's rights. A woman wearing the hijab represents the opposition to Assad and Ba'athism, according to the state's ideology. An unveiled women represents the "ideals" of Ba'athism, as it symbolizes "progress, independence and modernity."
3. Female Soldiers
There are only a handful of female soldiers in the regime's army, but this has not stopped the propaganda machine from churning out these images. Whether its Russia Today broadcasting female soldiers shouting pro-Assad slogans, or Syrian Music channels broadcasting female singers dressed in military overalls singing about the army, the image of the pro-regimist woman is of a fighter who will "resist" oppositionist "oppression." When juxtaposed with the image of "Al-Qaeda," opposition creates a powerful narrative. These narratives are false. The regime has committed brutal crimes against women and children. The idea behind these images is to reverse reality, and that is why they is so dangerous.