How do you recognise an Assadist?

by | 24 Aug 2016

“Platform-34.532298,69.153442” (2014). Mixed media on canvas. Image by Waseem Marzouki.

“Platform-34.532298,69.153442” (2014). Mixed media on canvas. Image by Waseem Marzouki.

Some people whose interest in the Middle East is recent think that Assad is a uniquely Syrian phenomenon. I think the excessively harsh despotism and the equally excessive ability to cruelly exterminate your own population while believing yourself to be setting your nation on the road to modernity are quite unique in terms of their degree and intensity, but Assadism is nonetheless a more widespread political disposition in the Arab world. It can even be described as a mode of being. How do you recognise an Assadist? Here are some helpful suggestions for the newcomers:

• An Assadist is anyone who pretends that the tension between a local population’s aspirations for freedom, justice and dignity and geo-political anti-imperialist posturing (i.e., being ‘against’ the US, ‘against’ Israel, etc…) does not exist, and does not need to be negotiated. Assadists believe that they have ‘solved’ this problem, or that geo-politics is all there is. Assadism is above all the dictatorship of geo-political discourse, which, to be sure, does not necessarily have to be geo-politically rational.

• An Assadist is anyone for whom ‘resistance’ functions as an institutionalised ideology of national/state legitimisation. Assadists are those who clearly see themselves sliding into a reality where ‘resistance’ entails more ‘resisting anyone who resists you’ than ‘resisting anyone who oppresses you’, but it doesn’t bother them.

• An Assadist is someone who believes in the ‘dictatorship of the seculariat’. They think that the ‘secular’ bit in the concept of ‘secular dictatorship’ far outweighs in importance the ‘dictatorship’ bit. An Arab Assadist usually combines this excessive modernist adoration of secularism with an excessive modernist usage of eau de cologne — not to mention a particular adoration of this other great modernist artifact: the sun glasses — which can help you identify them even if they don’t say much.

• A western Assadist is someone whose belief in the power of radical western thoughts’ ability to ‘analyse’, ‘dissect’ and ‘capture’ the political essence of a situation anywhere in the world remains unshaken by the failures of radical western thought to do anything of the sort throughout the twentieth century, and who gives you top-down lectures about where the right path towards genuine anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics lies with the same arrogance his or her colonialist ancestors gave your ancestors top-down lectures about where the right path towards western civilisation lied.

I am sure there’s more but I hope this helps.

Ghassan Hage is Future Gen­er­a­tion Pro­fessor of Anthro­pology and Social The­ory at the Uni­ver­sity of Mel­bourne.


  1. One should definitely add a section for recognizing the Iranian Assadists. Comparatively speaking they are among the ugliest types of this species. I happen to live among them…

  2. I am not sure what this piece wishes to convey. The (failed) attempts at humour, incredibly out of place in the current situation, assure me that the author does not wish to contribute at all to the conversation about Syria, or indeed enlighten those who have, as he patronisingly put it, only a recent interest in the Middle East.

    • Syrians manage to find humour in the midst of their nightmare – indeed its a key vehicle for *their * “resistance” so there is nothing “out of place” here

  3. If anything, it is the anti-Assad ideologues that have a newfound interest in the Middle East, suddenly shedding tears for the victims of Assad’s authoritarianism when they weren’t doing the same thing for the more numerous victims of US and Israeli bombs and bullets in the same region, in fact calling for said bombs and bullets in Syria. Anti-Assad ideologues are no different from the anti-Saddam Hussein ideologues who also justified the Iraq War on the grounds of Saddam’s authoritarianism.

    • I can only deduce from your name, Communist Feminist, that you don’t see yourself as an ideologue; that, in fact, you see yourself as the embodiment of criticality and objectivity, yes?

    • Don’t know where you’ve been hanging out, but in my neck of the web opponents of Assad’s bloodletting are equally vocal about the actions of the US and of Israel. We are opposed to oppression and support movements for freedom wherever they occur. Unlike, tragicallly, so many others. Awaiting your declaration of colours.

  4. How to recognize an Assadist?

    1) They are smart.

    2) They are sane.

    3) They understand geopolitics.

    4) They understand history.

    Seems about right.

    • Hmm – invert that and it would be about right. in my (quite extensive) experience, Western Assadists are:
      1. Suckers for a bit of propaganda from sources that dress themselves up as anti-Imperialist (but only selected imperialisms)
      2. Seriously disturbed. Usually losers with a grudge and sociopathic.
      3. Allow fantasy “geopolitics” to displace any sense of morality or humanity.
      4. Are totally ignorant about the history of Syria and the nature of the Syrian regime.

  5. How to recognize and anti-Assadist?

    1) They are human

    2) They are courageous

    3) They refuse to worship Assad

    4) They recognize propaganda when they hear it

    5) They rot away in Assad prisons just because they can be put there

    6) They are willing to die for their freedom

    7) They have no pictures of Assad in the homes he buries them under

    8) They are exceedingly thin due to cowardly starvation sieges

    9) They have family members who have been tortured or killed

    10) They know that civilization moved backwards under Assad

  6. There seem to be a lot of Assadists in Syria:

    “The survey, conducted by ORB International, a company which specializes in public opinion research in fragile and conflict environments, [2] found that 47 percent of Syrians believe that Assad has a positive influence in Syria, compared to only 35 percent for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and 26 percent for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.”

    “Some 55% of Syrians want Assad to stay, motivated by fear of civil war – a spectre that is not theoretical as it is for those who live outside Syria’s borders.”(

    If ‘freedom’ entails a Syria in the grip of Jihadis or Muslim Brothers, then it’s obvious that the country’s religious minorities and the secular city-dwelling segments of the sunnis prefer an Assad dictatorship.

    • Wrong.
      All polls say 120% of Syrians are fond of Assad as a 1st class peace maker (not a single bullet fired in Syria since his coming in 2000);
      and that 157% believe he’s (with his RayBans) God descended on earth (well beyond human stuff called “elections”) by Russian jets;
      and 190% believe that Islamist Fundamentalist Jihadi Khomeinist Shi‘a mercenaries allowing him to survive are fanatic secularists;
      and (this morning poll) that 322% think that Russia beaten by Croatia is a fake (no evidence, no sources).
      PS. Polls carried out on the 5M Assadists remaining (alive) inside Syria, the rest (16M) being either dead, or disappeared, or displaced abroad.

      • Don’t know about all of this – but the 2014 Syrian Presidential election results showed without doubt that Assad had the support of 110% of the Syrian electorate. Got to love a guy with that kind of chutzpah!

    • Ooh – Syrian polling data is a speciality of mine.A word of advice: take data from the source not from secondary sources grinding their axes. Steele’s extrapolation from the Doha poll is an ancient chestnut refuted within hours of its publication – All it proves is that Asad has at least 170 supporters in Syria (happy to concede that) .
      Let’s look at the ORB data: The first conclusion from this is that Asad is a hugely divisive figure: popular in his home base but hated almost everywhere else: he has 73% support in Government controlled areas but only 20% in Opposition areas.
      Second, survey results are sensitive to the questions asked. In 2014 ORB asked explicitly “Who do you feel best represents the interests and aspirations of the Syrian people?” Adding up different incarnations of the opposing sides, the Regime was supported by 37% and the Opposition by 48%. (and this iteration of the survey excluded, for security reasons two of the most pro-opposition areas.)


    Jalal Al-e Ahmad was the Iranian writer, he did not coin that word but he was the one who popularized it.

    Gharbzadegi = Westoxification, West-struck-ness


    Al-e Ahmad also confronts the problem of Iranian returnees from Europe and the United States. These returnees expect government positions by virtue of their western education. Slots are created, but more often than not they end up “governmental deadwood,” for the returnees have become not only alienated from Iranian culture but also, wittingly or unwittingly, the agents of the West: “They are perfect examples of something severed from its roots, this the result of gharbzadegi. They are perfect specimens of individuals with their feet in the air. These are the ones who execute the notions and views of foreign advisors and experts.”

    End of Quote

    There is way too much in Jalal AI-e Ahmad’s writing where he is describing people like Ghassan Hage. There is nothing worst than those Westoxificated allegedly educated individual who lives in the West and serves the West interests in various of the roles.

    While I do not condone Assad in any way it is common knowledge that whoever stands in the way of empire will end up as Ghadaffi or Saddam. Are they all really that bad? No not at all. Just to the contrary.

    Af for Ghassan Hage where ever he is from I hope his native land will take his citizenship and won’t allow him to step up on its soil with its Gharbzadegi feet.

  8. anti-Assad types believe in destroying the village to save it. *See Iraq 2003 and Libya 2011. They’re always drooling for more war and violence, as is typical of the Zionist/Wahabbist axis. Usually they shed crocodile tears for the “poor suffering Syrians” but strangely enough are very quiet when Iraqis or Palestinians or Afghans are slaughtered en masse by the kind & loving smart bombs, tanks & drones of the freedom ‘n democracy brigade.

  9. Let me add some characteristics of the Western assadist:
    – They believe in democracy, but not for Muslims countries. Muslim countries should be an apartheid where the most “westernized” population gains a special benefit that allows them to dispose of the others like if they’re animals
    – They don’t believe in self-determination. A government should represent western values, and it should promote western interests. Not the interests of the local population
    – They tell you that they like Assad because he’s anti-West, but they support YPG and their american allies
    – No matter what proof you show them. If Assad’s soldiers or Russian soldiers brutally blow up civilians, they always see a shadow or something for which the video cannot be taken as true, but a meme with a random guy (often not the same) person wearing an ISIS t-shirt with a flag of the Free Syrian Army is an absolute proof
    – They feel victimized. They’re not enough happy that Assad is fulfilling their dream of emptying a country of its Muslim population, they also complain that they’re being invaded by the Syrian refugees and they want them to return, so that they can celebrate it as a victory against terrorism when they get slaughtered by Assad after returning
    – They hate Syrians for making what they call a “pro-West” revolution, but they don’t hate western countries. They are the West and all of its cancer
    – They know that Assad killed scores of civilians, but they expect his victims to support Assad only because according to them he is the only one who can fight ISIS
    – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, UAE… they’re all terrorist countries for assadists
    – They see the human rights violations only in Yemen

    Assadists are the most disgusting creatures in the World. They should be sent to re-education camps and killed if they refuse to un-brainwash themselves.


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