DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — His face is everywhere, on every public square, market and street corner in Damascus, as well as on the roads and highways leading to the Syrian capital.
Buoyed by successive military advances over the past year and having completely secured Damascus — President Bashar Assad’s seat of power — and the surrounding suburbs for the first time in years, the government is openly boasting about its victories.
And there is no shortage of posters and billboards for the triumphant message.
“Master of victories,” proclaims the writing on a poster of a smiling Assad in a blue suit and tie, placed on a street in Damascus.
After almost seven and a half years of war and with crucial military support from Russia and Iran, Assad has reasserted control over previously lost territory in the country’s north, central area and the south, near the border with Jordan and the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Rebel-fired shells that slammed into Damascus from outlying opposition-held suburbs have ceased.
The posters, most of them offered up by businessmen and companies loyal to Assad, begin as soon as one crosses into Syria from Lebanon: “Welcome to victorious Syria,” they say.
“The Assad has Triumphed,” reads the caption on one poster in Damascus, a play on Assad’s family name which means the lion in Arabic. “The leader of the victory,” reads another, a huge poster standing in the landmark Omayyad Square, next to the monument known as the Damascene Sword.
In the city’s famed Hamidiyeh souk, a covered bazaar, a soldier on a checkpoint slung an AK-47 over his shoulder, with stickers of Assad’s face on it.
The posters are less ubiquitous in the bombed-out eastern suburbs, retaken by troops earlier this year, but still visible.
At the entrance to shattered Ain Terma, as if rising from the ashes, a white banner hangs on the skeleton of a building.
Assad’s photo is on it, with the words: “We have lived and we live so that Syria may live on in Bashar Assad’s heart.”
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