The introduction of the new 1,000-pound bank note in Syria in late
June has not been without controversy.
The new issue may be taken as a tribute to Syria’s ancient cultural
heritage, now being indiscriminately pillaged by friends and foes of
the regime alike. Prominent on its face is the ancient Roman amphitheater in Bosra, a UNESCO
World Heritage Site dating to the second century A.D., while the back
has a rendition of the tile mosaic of a grape harvest found at the
Roman ruins in As-Suwayda.
The controversy arises over what is missing, namely the central
figure on its predecessor note, the image of President Bashar Assad’s
father and the country’s former president, Hafez al-Assad.
The change has been the subject of vigorous debate since the note
was issued by Syria’s Central Bank, an institution no one doubts is
under the control of the Assad regime. The bank says its motivation
was to show by printing new notes that the Syrian economy is capable
of overcoming the difficulties it is facing, which are especially as a
consequence of American and European sanctions on its currency. The
new notes are said to possess better security devices and be printed
on higher quality paper.
However, the Middle East news site Al Bawaba reports the real reason
is that the note with Assad on it was the subject of a campaign by the
opposition to write offensive things about him next to his image. Not
only was this embarrassing to the government, it was also dangerous —
notes that had insults written on them could lead to the arrest of
individuals holding the notes.
The Syrian Observer reports that social media supportive of the
Assad regime railed against the move for “daring to remove Assad’s
image and ideology.” They called for a boycott of the new note while
urging people to use the 500-pound note instead “until the SYP 1,000
banknote returns to its original look.” Another supporter wrote “This
banknote does not represent me. I am a Syrian, I am against it.”
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