Bashar al-Assad tells a French TV audience about his calling as a doctor. "You work for the health of humans. It's a humanitarian job," Two years later, the world would watch as this humanitarian sent black-clad troops to open fire on unarmed protesters seeking the fall of his regime.
During the 1970s, Bashar's father, Hafez al-Assad, turned Syria into one of the world's most secretive and repressive dictatorships. But Bashar was supposed to be different. A doctor who had lived in London, he vowed to fight corruption and embrace globalization in his inaugural address as president. He was supposed to be a modern, liberal leader.
Just over a decade later, the Assad regime is reeling. It has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of its citizens—protesters no longer willing to accept repression and insisting on the same freedoms that other nations have gained through the revolutions of the 2011 Arab spring.
SYRIA: THE ASSADS' TWILIGHT is a history of the Assad regime, from its origins to its teetering, possibly final days in 2011.
The Assads have been nothing if not survivors. In 1982, Hafez ruthlessly crushed an uprising by the Muslim Brotherhood (the film shows us rare photos of property damage during the battles—the only record of an otherwise invisible massacre by security forces). In contrast, soon after coming to power in 2000, Bashar ushered in the Damascus Spring—a flowering of dissent and openness. But when it seemed to threaten his rule, he banned all opposition and tightened his family's grip on the reins of wealth and power.
SYRIA: THE ASSADS' TWILIGHT, recounts the history of the regime and the region—including the tortured and troubled history of Syrian involvement in Lebanon. The film uses archival footage, as well as the testimony and analysis of members of the US and Israeli security establishment, key politicians, dissidents (among them members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood) and political scientists.
What emerges is a picture of a regime that has been at the centre of Middle East politics for two generations—but is now on the verge of being swept away, along with other corrupt dictatorships in the region.
As exiled dissident Abdel Hamid Atassi says, "Bashar cannot repress dissent in the Internet era... Hafez could throw people in prison for 20 years, and nobody knew about it. That's impossible today."
"This timely documentary offers an insightful portrait of a regime that has prospered through intimidation, brutality, and diplomatic scheming for nearly half a century. Recommended."—Video Librarian2012 MESA FilmFest, Middle East Studies Association
"Highly Recommended. This film will not disappoint the viewer seeking to be enlightened about the recent history of Syria and the influence of Syria on the rest of the world."—Educational Media Reviews Online
"An important and timely film...Anyone who intends to give an opinion on American or Western policy toward Syria should watch this film first"—Anthropology Review Database