Syrians slam actors who met Bashar al-Assad, call for Ramadan TV series boycott

Syrians slam actors who met Bashar al-Assad, call for Ramadan TV series boycott
Anti-regime Syrians have lashed out against leading Syrian actors who met with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday.
3 min read
11 March, 2024
Assad's violent crackdown on protests in 2011 spiralled into what would become a 13-year conflict [Getty]

Syrians opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s regime have slammed Syrian actors who met the president on Sunday, calling for a boycott of television series they star in during the month of Ramadan.

In a video shared by the Syrian Presidency, 15 actors and directors met with Assad in Damascus to reportedly discuss ways of "supporting the industry" and the "challenges it faces".

Many TV series are aired during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, catering to audiences across the Middle East and North Africa who tune in to watch shows, particularly in the evening after they break their fast.

Syria has been a major producer of Arab dramas and actors over the years, despite disruptions caused by the war.

The actors who met Assad included Abbas al-Noury, Bassam Kousa, Taym Hassan, Bassem Yakhour, Qusai Khawli, Suzan Najmeddine, and Nadine Tahseen Beyk, some of the biggest names in the Syrian and Arab film industry.

The meeting was slammed by several Syrians online who said it aimed at whitewashing the image of the president, whose brutal repression of peaceful anti-government protests in 2011 led to a conflict that has killed over 500,000 people, the vast majority civilians, and made much of the population homeless.

While there has been a downturn in fighting, particularly since the regime took key rebel areas, tens of thousands of political opponents remain detained in Assad's prisons.

Assad has been keen to rehabilitate his name in the region, with some success, despite endemic corruption and drug trafficking continuing in Syria.

"Memorise these names well," one Syrian journalist with the name Omar Kasir wrote on X, "in the hope that tables turn against the transgressor one day… against those who blessed his [Assad’s] crimes, who clean the blood on his hands, who promote his lies, and who call for him to remain perched in power forever."

"A meeting brings together the criminal Bashar al-Assad with a group of Syrian drama actors and directors. The discussion was about the production of barrels and the challenges facing displaced people," another Syrian X user named Ghayath Farzat wrote, referring to barrel bombs dropped by the regime on civilian areas.

Some Syrian celebrities, like mega popstar Assala Nasri, and actors Maximum Khalil and Jamal Soleiman, were vocal in their opposition to Assad at the start of the war and were banned from re-entering the country or faced detention on their return.

Despite taking a hit as a result of the war and the grinding economic crisis, Syrian TV series remain some of the most watched in the region, but many producers, directors, and actors have relocated to cities like Beirut, Dubai and Cairo.