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Syrians in Exile Lose Hope for Disappeared Loved Ones as Assad Reelection Looms

Syrians in Exile Lose Hope for Disappeared Loved Ones as Assad Reelection Looms

Wednesday, 26 May, 2021 - 17:00
People attend a protest against reelection of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, near Syria's embassy, Berlin, Germany May 26, 2021. (Reuters)

Holding a laminated photo of her father, Wafa Mustafa and dozens of Syrians stood next to the Syrian embassy in Berlin on Wednesday to protest against the almost certain reelection of president Bashar al-Assad for a fourth term in a national vote.


Mustafa's father has been missing for almost eight years. She believes he is being held as a political prisoner at a Syrian government prison. A reelection of Assad on Wednesday would dampen her hopes of seeing her father anytime soon.


"As long as Assad is in power ... my Dad and another 130,000 people will still be detained forcibly," she said.


Wednesday's election, set to extend Assad rule over the country, "is a clear message to the international community that the Assad regime has impunity and that it has gotten away with all war crimes", Mustafa said, adding that Germany's decision to prevent voting at the Syrian embassy in Berlin was right.


Germany, which hosts around 700,000 Syrians, mostly war refugees, views the election as fraudulent. It denied a formal request from the Syrian embassy to allow Syrians living in Germany to vote, saying the election will not be free or fair.


"Most of the diaspora Syrians would not be allowed to vote under the current stipulations or would not vote out of fear of repercussions against them and their families following from a registration," said Christopher Burger, a spokesman for the foreign ministry.


But not all Syrians in Germany agree.


Carrying photos of Assad, dozens of Syrians demonstrated against Germany's decision on Thursday, saying banning the election was unacceptable.


"No matter how you feel about these elections ... elections cannot be forbidden," said Aktham Suliman, a Syrian journalist living in Berlin.


Suliman, who expects Assad to win, said the election was an internal matter for Syrians to decide.


"This picture that they have been trying to draw for years, of one person ruling and the whole nation being against him does not apply," he added.


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