PHOTO: Hassan Ghandour, the regime official who suddenly became a resident of besieged Moadamiya for Wednesday’s election propaganda
The Assad regime ensured that its show of Parliamentary elections, held on Wednesday in parts of Syria, received maximum coverage. State media was filled with videos and photographs, including of the President and his wife Asma casting ballots as well as lines of people carefully arranged to display “mass turnout”.
But this was not enough for the proclamation that all Syrians backed their President, amid political talks seeking a resolution which might call for him to step aside. Even opposition-held areas had to be seen in enthusiastic support of the elections.
And that is where the regime went too far in its propaganda, exposing the “truth” of the vote.
“National Unity” in Besieged Moadamiya
Russia’s State outlet Sputnik News, backing the regime’s PR, exulted on Wednesday that even the opposition town of Moadamiya — besieged by the Syrian military since 2012, with scores of people dying of starvation; bombarded by regime warplanes; and lacking food and medicine because of a tightening of the blockade and denial of assistance this spring — was joining the electoral party:
An armed Syrian opposition group, which controls the city of Moadamiya in the suburbs of Damascus, took part in the parliamentary elections, one of the local candidates told Sputnik Wednesday….
The whole population of Moadamiya, even those who carry weapons, came today to vote for a list of national unity,” Hassan Ghandour said.
According to Ghandour, those who came to participate in the election are tired of the civil war and want to return to peaceful life.
A ringing endorsement of President Assad, yes?
Except that Hassan Ghandour is not a resident of Moadamiya. He is not a local journalist or an activist pursuing humanitarian operations.
Hassan Ghandour is a regime official, “the general coordinator of the popular reconciliation in Syria”.
The translation of that title is that Ghandour is overseeing the truce forced upon Moadamiya in January 2014 by the siege that was starving and killing civilians. He has been involved in the protracted negotiations which have maintained the tight grip on the Damascus suburb, continuing to limit food and medicine.
At the same time, he can carry out the PR declaring that the Assad regime is actually helping the residents of Moadamiya, as in this article from AP in July 2014:
Since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in late June, 2,460 food parcels have entered the besieged suburb said Hassan Ghandour, the general coordinator of the popular reconciliation in Syria.
Unfortunately for the regime’s good-news propaganda, Ghandour’s mask sometimes slipped. In March 2014, Ghandour was not so helpful in getting assistance to Moadamiya: “General Coordinator of the Popular Reconciliations Hassan Ghandour said that aid coming from the Zionist lobby will not enter the city, adding that the Syrians do not need bargains that cash in on the blood of the Syrian people.”
And in April 2015, it was reported:
On Sunday, residents of Moadamiya, a town that lies just outside the Syrian capital, received a draconian ultimatum from Hassan Gandour, a former resident of Moadamiya and the regime’s chief negotiator for the town….
[The] ultimatum…has prompted locals to call him “Hasan Gouraud” in reference to French colonial general Henri Gouraud, who issued a similar ultimatum to Syrian nationalists in 1920….The ultimatum demands that Moadamiya be “evacuated of all inhabitants, including civilian residents.” It warns that unless a farcical “ceasefire initiative” circulated by Gandour is enacted within fifteen days, “anyone within the town takes his life into his own hands”.
Finally, it levels a chilling threat at Syrian opposition members: “This war is not yet over. By God, I swear over the anguished cries of our women, children, and fellow residents that we will take revenge.”
Busted…By His Regime’s Own News Agency
But maybe Ghandour saw the error of handing out ultimata to the besieged civilians who supposedly adore President Assad? Perhaps he gave up his fancy job title and became just a resident of Moadamiya, a neutral observer of Wednesday’s vote?
If so, the conversion is recent. In February, he was still serving both the Assad bureaucracy and its propaganda in his official role, according to the State news agency SANA:
Damascus countryside Governorate, in cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), distributed on Tuesday 2000 food and health packages to the locals of al-Moadamiya city in Damascus Countryside….
Head of the National Reconciliation Committee in the city Hassan Ghandour said that the terrorist groups related to foreign agendas tried to prevent the locals from receiving the humanitarian aid packages to distort the real image of what is happening on the ground and to inflame the humanitarian condition through media outlets which participate in shedding blood of the Syrians.
Ghandour speaks to SANA: