Published on 27 Feb 2013

Syria’s extra extraordinaire

He is a man of many parts – soldier, poet, political scientist and man of the people who happens to be in the right place at the right time. Every time a bomb goes off  in Damascus, or a funeral is held, up he pops on Syrian state TV to praise Bashar al Assad and excoriate his enemies.

We featured him in a story last week and the New York Times described him as “Syrian TV’s most outraged bystander”.

Now ever more compilations of his dramatic appearences are circulating amongst Syrian exiles, one set to the music of Pink Panther.

Syrian opposition supporters say the middle-aged man with the balding hair and trimmed grey beard is Sahib Shaib, one of Bashar al Assad’s feared paramilities known as the shabiha.

The clearest video helpfully enumerates his guises:

In descending order: from 10 – 8 he is a bystander after a bomb. In seven, a poor person speaking humbly. In six, he is a poet. Five – a political analyst on a talk show. Four – he stands he behind a man praising the Syrian regime in English. Three – he discusses the problems of housing on a well know TV show called “Voice and Echo”. Two and one, he wears the beret and uniform of a soldier.

He’s not the only one. This video shows two other men who crop up in sundry guises on Syrian TV to say their piece. Nice work if you can get it – in a video featuring a story about last year’s parliamentary elections , which many Syrians saw as as an attempt to legitimate Assad’s rule, we see a young woman in hijab giving her opinion – and then, in the back of the shot, apparently being paid for her contribution.

Syrian TV staff are nonetheless proud of their channel’s output.  Live in Aleppo, the Syrian government reporter  rants about how Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya fabricate anti-Syria stories, while only state TV has credibility. Sadly, he is interrupted mid flow by what may well be a genuine bystander, who throws a shoe at him and yells “The Syrian TV are liars!”

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