Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has announced via Twitter that he had joined the photo-sharing network Instagram, evoking Washington's ridicule that it is "nothing more than a despicable PR stunt."
"Presidency of the Republic officially launches account on Instagram, lets you follow presidential activities. Follow us first hand," the message reads, offering a link to Syrian Presidency.
The account has 28,717 followers at the time of filing this story and dozens of photos uploaded. Very few of them depict the crucial topic of the day: the ongoing bloodshed in the fighting between the government forces and the rebels.
The burgeoning number of civilian casualties caused by the civil war and the Assad regime's refusal to step down continue to evoke global outrage.
"Kill the people, destroy their homes, and then visit them in hospital," read a comment on a photo showing Assad's wife Asma al-Assad listening to a bed-ridden woman with bandage on her chin.
The President, who has also a number of followers on Twitter, is depicted often along with his photogenic U.K.-born wife.
A photo in which the Assad couple is surrounded by smiling children drew critical comments, only to be attacked by Assad loyalists.
The more than two year-old Syrian conflict has killed over 10,0000 people, with no end in sight despite the global community's efforts and calls for a ceasefire. No neutral bodies, including human rights organizations and UN organs, are yet able to independently verify the death toll in Syria, a country that is subject to massive information blackouts.
"The constant flow of killings continues at shockingly high levels - with more than 5,000 killings documented every month since last July," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a recent update on Syrian conflict casualties.
During a routine State Department press briefing Wednesday, a reporter sought the US Government's reaction to Syrian President's postings in the Instagram list.
Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf responded by saying that "this is nothing more than a despicable PR stunt; that it's repulsive that the Assad regime would use this to gloss over the brutality and suffering it's causing; that to see what's really happening right now in Syria, to see the horrific atrocities in Homs and elsewhere, we would encourage people to take a look at unfiltered photos of what's actually happening on the ground."
"It's despicable that Assad is using this forum as a PR stunt when he continues a brutal crackdown and horrific atrocities against his own people," she told reporters.
Harf said she has seen the pictures on Instagram, adding that "they're not indicative of the horrific situation on the ground that he's causing for his own people."
Harf said what the world wants to see is "Unfiltered photos of what's actually happening on the ground."
by RTT Staff Writer
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