Assad celebrates Easter at Maalula Monastery – as presidential elections announced for June 3

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Enthusiastic locals in the village of Ein al-Tineh greet President BASHAR AL-ASSAD
Enthusiastic locals in the village of Ein al-Tineh greet President BASHAR AL-ASSAD

SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad on Easter Sunday visited the ancient Christian town of Maalula, which his troops recently recaptured from rebels, state television said.

‘On the day of the resurrection of Christ, and from the heart of Maalula, President Assad hopes all Syrians have a happy Easter, and for the reestablishment of peace and security throughout Syria,’ the channel announced in a caption at the bottom of the screen, without showing images of the visit.

It added that Assad had inspected the Mar Sarkis (Saint Sergius and Bacchus) monastery, damaged in recent fighting. It said the damage had been caused by ‘terrorists’.

‘Even the worst terrorists cannot erase our heritage and civilisation,’ state television quoted Assad as saying. Like other Syrian sites of heritage and civilisation, Maalula will always resist in the face of the barbarity and obscurantism that are targeting the country.’

Founded in the fifth century, the monastery is one of the Middle East’s oldest. It is dedicated to two Roman Christian soldiers who were killed by Emperor Galerius because of their faith.

The Facebook page of the Syrian presidency posted a picture of Assad – who has rarely appeared in public since the uprising began – standing next to a Christian priest. He held what appeared to be damaged friezes showing the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.

On the occasion of Easter, and from the heart of Maaloula town in Damascus countryside, President Bashar al-Assad wished a blessed Easter for all Syrians. During his visit to Maaloula town, President al-Assad visited the Monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus and inspected the damage and destruction caused to the monastery by terrorists.

President al-Assad said that the acts of the terrorist groups indicate their identity and the identity of those who support them, giving a clear image of their barbarism as they target people and stone alike.

In Safir Maaloula Hotel, which terrorists had once seized and used as headquarters and base to commit their crimes against locals, President al-Assad met members of the Syrian Arab Army and national defense forces, saluting them and those who rose to defend the homeland from terrorists.

He asserted that Syria’s steadfastness and the armed forces’ success in restoring security and stability to towns in which terrorists had been running amok could not have been possible if it wasn’t for the state of solidarity between the country’s people, both civilians and military personnel, not could it have been achieved without the people’s support for the army.

After passing the Eastern mountain pass, President al-Assad visited St. Thecla Monastery which was also vandalised deliberately by terrorists, with the President asserting that no one, no matter the scale of the terrorism they employ, can erase Syria’s human and cultural history.

‘Maaloula will remain, along with other human landmarks, steadfast in the face of the barbarianism and obscurantism of all those who are targeting the homeland, and they will remain a monument to the civilization of Syrians, while history will mark that what this town and other historic locations in Syria went through is proof the takfiri and obscurantist mentality of the aggressors’ he said.

Passing through Ein al-Tineh village on his way back from Maaloula, a number of locals gathered around President al-Assad, asserting that they stand alongside the homeland in the face of all that targets it.

The President lauded the national defense forces in the village who stood alongside the armed forces in defense of their village and neighbouring area, asserting that the honourable position of the people of Ein al-Tineh is an example of the Syrian society which rallies together if a section of it is threatened.

President al-Assad said that terrorists failed to incite dissent in the Syrian society no matter how many times they try, adding ‘the village of Ein al-Tineh is one of many examples of this, as it rose to defend Maaloula.’

Meanwhile, the People’s Assembly on Monday opened the door for candidacy for the Presidential elections in Syria. Speaker of the Assembly Mohammad Jihad Lahham said that candidates for presidential elections will be able to submit applications to the Supreme Constitutional Court starting from Tuesday, April 22, 2014 until Thursday, 1 May, 2014.

During the Parliament session which was attended by the Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi, members of the government and representatives of local and Arab and foreign media outlets, al-Laham said that ‘from the People’s Assembly I tell the Syrian people that the time for the presidential elections has come.’

‘We declare that presidential elections will be carried out on schedule with no delay, heedless of what some are saying from abroad in a bid to undermine our self-confidence and break down our political and democratic track.’

He stressed that no will is superior to the will of the Syrian people, adding that the legislative institution in Syria is steadfast and it works diligently and faithfully for fulfilling its duty despite the martyrdom of some colleagues, the kidnapping of others and all attempts of targeting other parliament members.

Al-Laham called upon the Syrians inside and outside the country to practice their right to vote and those who wish to run for presidency to do so. He said that submitting applications for the post of the Syrian Arab Republic’s presidency to the Higher Constitutional Court starts from 22nd of April until the first of May.

Al-Laham said that submitting applications for the post of the Syrian Arab Republic’s presidency to the Higher Constitutional Court starts from 22nd of April until the first of May.

He also set the date of electing the Syrian Arab Republic’s President for citizens non-residents in the country in the Syrian Embassies on Wednesday 28th of May, 2014 starting from 7am until 7pm according to the local time of the city where the Embassy is based.

The Parliament Speaker also set the date for the citizens living in the country on Tuesday 3rd of June, 2014 starting from 7am until 7pm. Bashar al Assad will be standing for a second term as President.