Syrian President Bashar al-Assad joined Instagram. Here are his first photos.


The new Instagrams of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife echo photos posted to Assad's official Facebook account, like this one from early July. (EPA)

Bashar al-Assad is waging a protracted, bloody civil war that has fractured his country and killed thousands, but the Syrian leader still found time to launch an Instagram account.

The account, which has already posted 66 pictures, will look familiar to people who follow the president’s other propaganda outlets. Many of the images, including this much-debated picture of Assad’s not-pregnant wife Asma, have appeared on his official Facebook page. On July 24, the Twitter account of the Syrian presidency — which has been widely reported as Assad’s account, though it’s not verified by Twitter — invited supporters to follow the account to see the president’s activities “first hand.”

The account presents the Assad regime in a polished,  sunny light, something Syria’s first family is reportedly quite good at. There are dozens of images of a smiling Asma chatting with children and sitting on the edge of hospital beds. Assad himself is usually surrounded by cheering crowds or important-looking officials. You would never guess, from the pictures, that Syria is in the midst of a civil war that has killed 100,000 people, according to United Nations estimates, and displaced more than a million.

A trip into the comments section, where pro- and anti-Assad Instagrammers spar, gives a touch more insight into Syria’s actual state of affairs.

“Keep swallowing the propaganda, you imbecile,” one commenter wrote to an anti-Assad commenter who has posted dozens of criticisms of the photos and who shot back, “What exactly do you think this Instagram account is?”

The account's administrators are, it appears, beginning to police the comments for remarks critical of Assad and his regime. In a one-hour period Tuesday morning, at least half a dozen negative comments disappeared from the most recent images, though many criticisms still remain.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)

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Max Fisher · July 30, 2013