A few days ago, the above video surfaced on YouTube of Seif al-Islam Al-Gaddafi atop an armoured vehicle in what appears to be a morale-boosting visit to the front line.
What is interesting is that Seif is carrying a German-made H&K G36 assault rifle, not the standard issue AK-47 used by the ordinary troops. His jacket is most probably designer and so too are his glasses. This is the story of the LSE graduate, who counted Peter Mandelson as one of his close friends, now finding himself having to crush a popular uprising on behalf of dictator dad.
You might think he’s grossly out of place. Very briefly, you might even be tempted to feel sorry for him. For Arab dictator dynasties however, this is just another day in the office.
This leads me onto Bashar. I was never sold by the portrayal of him as a gentle, caring, softly-spoken reformer and modernizer. I felt there was something phony about him because had he been the gentle, caring, softly-spoken reformer and modernizer, he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he did.
It’s funny how Bashar has much more in common with Seif than he would otherwise like to admit. Both are sons of “revolutionary” dictators, both are stupendously rich, both studied in the UK, both have had military training, both had been assigned portfolios that would endow them with popularity (anti-corruption drive for Bashar, charitable organization for Seif), and both were groomed from an early stage to assume power at a future date.
But more importantly, both have demonstrated that underneath the thin veneer of civility and Western education is a vicious and vindictive character, every bit as nasty as daddy’s.
It took the Libyan uprising for Seif’s true colours to show. Bashar on the other hand has been showing his true colours to the Syrian people for the last eleven years. His latest victim is Tal Al-Mallohi, the 19-year old blogger arrested and recently convicted in a secret trial on trumped-up charges of spying for the CIA. I shudder to think what she has gone through in those cold and damp underground dungeons.
Then there was the Seidnaya Prison massacre of 2008 and the Qamishli massacre of Kurdish protesters of 2004. And let’s not forget the murder of Sheikh Ma’shuq Al-Khaznawi in 2005. That’s not to mention the many killings carried out in Lebanon which implicate Bashar Al-Assad personally.
I suppose the only obvious difference between the two is that Bashar made it to the top and Seif is unlikely to do so. Bloody good luck for the Libyans. Not so good for the Syrians.