President Bashar al-Assad remains at the center of the Syrian conflict. Fighting between troops, rebels and IS has claimed countless lives and the situation is still volatile. How has Assad stayed in power for so long in times of such instability?
According to UN estimates, the balance sheet after seven years of war in Syria is devastating: 500,000 dead or missing, 12 million people uprooted, besieged cities, air raids on the civilian population and endless suffering. Bashar al-Assad remains at the center of the conflict. He has been President of Syria since 2000. He succeeded his father Hafiz al-Assad, who ruled the country from 1971 to 2000. The son started as a reformer, initially courted by heads of state in the West. After all, he was considered a guarantor of stability and a partner in the fight against Islamic terrorism. But the “Damascus Spring” ended abruptly after the people’s demands for more freedom outstripped the Syrian leadership’s will to reform. Assad violently repressed the protests that began in Syria in the course of the Arab Spring in 2011. In the subsequent civil war, he stands accused of using chemical weapons against opposition fighters and civilians. Bashar al-Assad maintained his grip on power through a mixture of brute force, skillful tactics and above all through international aid, especially from his allies Russia and Iran. At the beginning of 2017, Syrian troops controlled 19 percent of the country: Now it’s more than half, including the four largest cities, access to the Mediterranean, ten out of 14 provincial capitals and 85 percent of the population. IS has largely been defeated and the area held by the last remaining rebels is shrinking steadily. So who is Bashar al-Assad? How could his clan hold on to power for so long? The film examines how the Assads have repeatedly managed to politically survive through changing international alliances. How does the dictator exploit the geostrategic interests of global players? We talk to close companions and opponents as well as other people who have met him.