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Fearing reprisals, Syrian refugees wary to vote in election

The Assad government has reached out to millions of refugees to vote in its May presidential elections, but many have refused to register.

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With a presidential election scheduled for next month, millions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been commended to get out and vote. Television channels of the Assad regime recorded people registering at the embassy in Lebanon as an “expression of their resilience against unjust Western schemes and sanctions”, according to the journalist.

The parliament of the Assad government proclaimed the previous week that the presidential elections are scheduled on May 26. Conferring to state media, 22 people have presented their nomination requests so far, also containing Bashar al-Assad.

A Syrian man at the embassy in Beirut voiced that holding elections was an accomplishment. Various other men uttered the same thoughts.

But not all Syrians shared the sentiment. “The elections are just a vaudeville show,” said Abu Ali al-Hamoui, likening the election to the French absurd theatre genre.

Al-Hamoui refuses to register for the vote. “They indoctrinate you to support the Ba’ath Party ever since you’re in the first grade,” he said. Once a schoolteacher in his native rural Hama, al-Hamoui now lives in a town in northern Lebanon, a short drive from Tripoli. His family is dispersed across Syria and Turkey. He took part in peaceful demonstrations in his city at the start of the uprising in 2011 – some of the largest in Syria.

“Then we got threats. First, they told me, ‘You are an educated and decent man. Be careful. We’re watching you,’” he said. He lived through the blockade of Hama that summer and chose to stay. However, after the authorities pulled him over at a checkpoint to notify him, he would be called up for conscription soon, al-Hamoui decided it was time to leave.

Nearly six million Syrian refugees in the Middle East and North Africa are registered with the United Nations. An estimated 1.5 million live in Lebanon, though only about 855,000 are registered with the UN.

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