First Published: 2013-01-24


Assad celebrates Prophet birthday amid ongoing bloodshed


Syrian President appears in live broadcast kneeling in Al-Afram mosque flanked by Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun.


Middle East Online

Who will pray for dead Syrian?

DAMASCUS - Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad was Thursday shown on state television attending prayers at a mosque in a northern district of Damascus to mark the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) birthday.

The president was shown in a live broadcast kneeling in Al-Afram mosque flanked by Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun, the highest Sunni religious authority in the country, and the religious endowments minister.

The minister, Mohammed Abdel Settar, made a call for dialogue following the prayers, addressing "every citizen of this beloved country: opposition or loyal, spiteful or tolerant, partisan or independent, Muslim or Christian, man or woman.

"Do not waste this chance by hurting and destroying Syria and tearing the unity of your nation to pieces, betraying what has been entrusted to you.

"Come back to the guidance of your beloved Prophet. The president has initiated this opportunity. The hour of salvation has come and the doors of dialogue shall be opened."

Abdel Settar had earlier called for "million man prayers" at mosques on Friday to appeal for the re-establishment of security in the country, rocked by a deadly anti-regime uprising since March 2011.

Assad's opponents have traditionally called for anti-regime rallies each Friday, the Muslim day of rest and weekly prayers.

After the brief ceremony in Al-Afram mosque attended by dozens of religious clerics and laymen, the president smiled and seemed at ease as a crowd gathered around him to offer greetings.

Assad was shown being escorted to a waiting car in the street and stepping into the driver's seat, after which the cameras panned upwards to show the mosque and surrounding area.

The last time Assad appeared in public was for a rare speech to supporters on January 6, in which he dismissed calls for his removal and said he had no partners with whom to negotiate for an end to the 22-month conflict.

He offered a roadmap to end the war while branding the opposition "slaves" of the West and urging foreign powers to stop backing armed rebels.


‘Islamic State’ claims series of deadly attacks in Yemen

Opening of Baghdad’s Green Zone to public worries US

NATO accuses Russia of violating Turkey airspace

Russia has created ‘de facto no-fly zone’ for Assad

Halal economy set to grow worldwide

France may strip five terrorists of nationality

Israel demolition policy: Collective punishment in violation of international law

Violence in Yemen may trigger world's next great refugee crisis

EU to 'step up' work on resettlement of refugees from Turkey

Tunisia dismantles three ISIS recruitment cells

Russia not cooperating with US in Syria safety talks

Recent unrest leaves Netanyahu with tough political choices

Unpaid teachers in Iraq Kurdistan go on strike to end ‘farce’

Erdogan warns Russia not to destroy friendship with Turkey

Arab coalition troops among 15 killed in Yemen attacks

Is pro-Sisi parliament a given?

NATO warns Russia airspace violations risk inflaming tensions

Turkey urges EU to do more to topple Assad

Iran threatens boycott Frankfurt Book Fair over Rushdie’s invite

Libya rival factions resume peace talks in Morocco

Yemen PM escapes unharmed in Aden rocket attack

UK top counter-terrorism official accuses social media of 'undermining' investigations

Lebanon lawmakers nearly come to blows in televised meeting

Gulf Arab forces take back strategic island in Yemen

Yemeni forces besiege rebels after capturing key strait

US shows laxity in enforcement of Iran arms embargo

Turkey warns Russia over air space violations

Russia gets new warning from Pentagon as tensions simmer over Syria

Arab states silent on Russian intervention in Syria

Assault on Egyptian waiter in Jordan draws public outrage

Syria rebel factions call for new coalition to combat Assad and allies

Germany voices doubt over Russian operations in Syria

Iraq militia leader casts doubt on US seriousness about fight against ISIS

Russia jets hit nine ISIS targets in Syria over past 24 hours

Bodies of 85 migrants washed ashore in Libya

Israeli army shoots dead Palestinian teen near Bethlehem

Russia TV takes Syria coverage to new level: Perfect weather for ISIS bombing!

Netanyahu pledges 'fight to the death' as clashes spread

IS destroys Arch of Triumph in Syria's Palmyra

French FM: Syria air strikes must target all 'groups considered as terrorists'

Israeli carries out air raid Gaza after rocket attack

Tunisia joins anti-ISIS coalition to ‘obtain information’

ISIS gunmen shoot dead two Egypt policemen in Sinai

Trump prefers to 'sit back' and see what happens in Syria

Tunisia President in Egypt for talks on regional issues