Syria activists fight 'blood election' online, on street walls
ALEPPO, Syria- Activists opposed to the Syrian regime have launched campaigns online and on the streets against Tuesday's "blood election" which is expected to reaffirm President Bashar al-Assad's hold on power.
Forced to watch on as the government organised the presidential election to be held only in areas under its control, activists have combined humour with bitter criticism of the vote.
In the northern city of Aleppo, swathes of which are in ruins after years of heavy fighting, a young artist has painted rubbish containers in rebel-held areas white, transforming them into mock ballot-boxes.
"Cast your vote here," the artist, Jumaa, sprayed on the metal containers in large, brightly coloured letters. Residents walk past, throwing their rubbish into the dumpsters.
On others, he painted: "We throw you away, Bashar," and "Bashar, this is where you belong".
Jumaa is part of a group called the Funny Media Activist, who aim to paint dumpsters all over Aleppo's rebel-held areas before the elections.
"Bashar will really be able to see just how successful he is," Jumaa deadpanned.
Residents of Aleppo's rebel-held neighbourhoods, who come under daily bombardment by the air force, seem to have taken to the graffiti.
"It's a truth that needs to be known: the right place of the criminal killer Bashar, who nominated himself to be president of this country ... is in this bin," said Bakri, a Sunni Muslim cleric dressed in traditional white robes.
- 'Propaganda exercise' -
It is one of several campaigns denouncing the election, including some that have gone viral online.
Another is called the "Blood Election".
Its logo shows a hand casting a vote into a barrel brimming with blood and daubed with the hazmat symbol, a reference to accusations Assad's forces have used chemical weapons.
Opponents say the vote seeks to legitimise a regime that has used massive violence to crush dissent, whose air force launches daily barrel bomb attacks on rebel areas everywhere.
In Aleppo alone, an air offensive has killed some 2,000 people since January.
The opposition and the United States have also accused the regime of using chemical weapons to target rebel areas.
"Assad has killed so many people there is absolutely no logic in him remaining president," said Susan Ahmad, one of the organisers of the Blood Election campaign.
"We created this campaign because we really couldn't be silent while state media uses the election as a major propaganda exercise to make the regime appear legitimate," she told AFP via the Internet.
- Beyond rebel areas -
Ahmad said the campaign has spread outside rebel areas, with activists taking huge risks in army-controlled areas of Damascus and Hama by distributing flyers.
Amateur video purportedly filmed in Hama shows the back of a veiled young woman, leaving flyers bearing the red and yellow campaign logo at doorways and on car windows.
"It's a community project. Every day people from all over Syria and other countries are sending in their own videos," Ahmad said.
"We even received a poem written by a Syrian refugee in Lebanon under the title of 'Blood Election'".
Other activists have used video to get their message across.
One group called Dayaa al-Tase, whose name roughly translates into "a crazy situation", made a short film that they posted on YouTube and which has been shared widely.
The film is called "Together To Death" and shows a young man who lost his leg in army shelling over Aleppo gather stones and lay them out on the ground in a forest.
He takes out his Koran, reads a prayer, and then lays down among the stones, as he appears to breathe his last.
Pictured from above, the shape of his body and the stones together spell out the Arabic word "sawa", which means "together", the catchphrase of Assad's electoral campaign.
Syria's civil war has ravaged the country for some three years, killing more than 162,000 people since March 2011 when the regime unleashed a massive crackdown against a pro-reform protest movement.
The protests later morphed into a nationwide insurgency.