Bahrain erects Assad portraits and Syria flags for Arab Summit causing uproar

Bahrain erects Assad portraits and Syria flags for Arab Summit causing uproar
Portraits of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad have appeared around Bahrain, which have been decried as 'disgusting' by pro-democracy activists.
3 min read
14 May, 2024
Many have criticised the portraits of Bashar Al-Assad that have gone up in Bahrain [Getty]

Billboards featuring portraits of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad have appeared across Bahrain ahead of an Arab Summit in Manama, which has sparked outrage across social media from pro-democracy Arab activists.

The portraits of Assad, responsible for horrific human rights abuses in Syria, were erected ahead of the 33rd Arab Summit held in Bahrain on 16 May, which the Syrian regime's head is expected to attend.

Around Bahrain, major roads have been closed as Arab leaders arrive, while flags of the participating countries have also been erected at major landmarks across the island state.

However, online, many activists have sharply criticised the portraits of Assad due to his role in a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011, and subsequent armed uprising, resulting in 500,000 dead, the vast majority civilians killed in regime bombing and shelling.

"In Bahrain the dictator throws people in prison for waving a Palestinian flag, while celebrating Assad, murderer of a million Arabs. That’s why Zionists call him moderate," wrote British-Syrian writer and thinker Robin Yassin-Kassab.

"Bahrain presents the positions of Saudi without the associated backlash. It’s a Saudi colony in all but name," another said.

Others called the move "disgusting", with around 130,000 Syrians still detained in regime prisons since the 2011 crackdown which saw Syria suspended from the Arab League until last year.

A ministerial meeting will be held on Tuesday to discuss draft resolutions ahead of the Arab summit including on the situation in Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Lebanon, Comoros and Yemen, as well as maintaining Arab national security and counter-terrorism.

Israel’s war on Gaza is also set to be a major topic of discussion according to various reports.

Last month, Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdul Latif bin Rashid Al-Zayani met with Assad in Damascus, in the first such meeting to take place in 13 years.

Fact Check
Live Story

During the talks the pair discussed bilateral relations and preparations for the upcoming Arab Summit.

Bahrain was the second Arab state following the UAE to reopen their embassy in Damascus in 2018. Last year, the Arab League also readmitted Syria after over a decade of suspension of its membership.

Activists and human rights campaigners have continued to highlight Assad’s horrific human rights record and targeting of civilians.

Syria's war has killed over 500,000 people and displaced over 12 million internally and externally.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said that the Syrian regime, headed by Assad, carried out 217 chemical weapons attacks between 2012 and 2023.