Bashar al-Assad was sworn in for his third seven-year term as President of Syria today, one day sooner than citizens expected. He won a sham election last month where opposition forces were cut out of the voting process.
State media broadcast what it said was the live ceremony, where Assad called those who oppose him terrorists. "Syrians, three years and four months ... have passed since some cried 'freedom'. They wanted a revolution, but you have been the real revolutionaries. I congratulate you for your revolution and for your victory," he told his supporters.
On election day last month, Assad shared photos of happy citizens voting on the Instagram account he and his wife use for propaganda purposes. He won 88.7 percent of the vote among multiple candidates, but voting only took place in government-controlled areas.
Over 170,000 people have died in Syria's civil war since 2011. Matters have been complicated in recent months by the rise of ISIS in Syria and the weakening of the Iraq-Syria border. While the U.S. still nominally supports the overthrow of Assad, the military is helping Iraqi forces defeat ISIS. This is convenient for Assad, who likes to dismiss any opposition as "terrorism." Still, Obama has asked Congress for $500 million to train and equip the moderate rebels in Syria.
Assad congratulated his supporters today for "defeating the dirty war" against him and the Syrian people. He promised that other nations aiding the rebels will "pay a high price for supporting terrorism."
[Image via AP]