Marking the first anniversary of the Syrian revolution which has taken a violent turn, supporters of the President Bashar al-Assad took to the streets on Thursday waving flags of undying loyalty.
State-run television showed thousands of Assad loyalists flooding central Damascus holding Syrian flags and portraits of Assad, Reuters reported. Rallies were also reported in Syria's second city Aleppo, in the southern town of Suweida, the coastal city of Latakia and the Kurdish town of Hassaka. A significant number of Russian flags were also seen at the pro-Assad rallies.
Clashes between the military and the rebels continued even as the government media announced the army taking control of northwestern city of Idlib, suggesting Assad's regime gaining ground in the conflict.
Security and peace of mind returned to the city of Idlib after authorities cleared its neighborhoods of armed terrorist groups which had terrorized citizens, the state news agency Sana reported on Thursday.
Coinciding with the anniversary, a trove of emails leaked from the personal accounts of Assad and his British-born wife Asma, by British newspaper The Guardian, with the help of an unnamed Syrian opposition member, were published on Wednesday.
The emails showed that the President had taken advice from Iran on countering the uprising with violent crackdown, and that his family remains insulated from revolution which many fear may soon turn into a civil war.
The leaked documents indicated Assad and his family were urged to seek political asylum in Qatar's capital Doha by the daughter of the Emir of Qatar. However, Assad wished to stay in power and suppress the revolution using violent means.
An email sent by the political advisor for the Iranian ambassador, who served as Assad's consultant for the speech he delivered in December, urged Assad to use violent language to show power.
I believe the language must be powerful and violent because the people need to see a powerful president defending the country and to show appreciation for support from friendly states, the adviser wrote. The Iranian consultant also asked Assad to leak more information related to our military capability to convince the public that it could withstand a military challenge.
The emails showed Assad joking to his wife that the reform demands of the Syrian rebels are rubbish.