Reactions to Russian plane crash highlight ideological fault lines

State-sponsored events in three Syrian cities on Monday reaffirmed support for Moscow’s ongoing military intervention in Syria and offered condolences following the recent crash of a Russian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

In the mostly regime-controlled northern half of Daraa city, the governor “compelled government employees” to participate in a demonstration organized by the Daraa branch of the Baath Party to express appreciation for Russian operations in Syria, Abu Muhammad al-Hourani, a Daraa-based opposition activist told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

“Daraa’s residents are against the killing of civilians in all forms, including Russians,” al-Hourani said of the Russian plane crash that killed 224 people, and which an Islamic State affiliate in Sinai claims to have carried out. “The plane crash killed Russian civilians, just as Russian planes are killing Syrian civilians.”

A mandatory solidarity demonstration, including a moment of silence for the Russian plane crash victims, was held in the Hafez al-Assad Square in the Al-Hasakah city of Qamishli, also on Monday, citizen journalist Abu Jad al-Hasakawi told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

There is a belief among regime supporters in Al-Hasakah that “considers Russia the savior of Bashar al-Assad,” Majd al-Majd, an activist from the province told Syria Direct on Tuesday. “Some glorify Putin and consider him a hero.”

“The regime would have completely collapsed if not for Russian intervention.”

In Damascus, nearly 20 Syrian children, members of the ruling Arab Socialist Baath Party’s youth organization, visited the Russian embassy on Monday, state-owned newspaper Tishreen reported.

The young well-wishers met with the Russian ambassador to Syria, presented roses and expressed condolences for the 224 victims of Saturday’s plane crash “in the name of all Syria’s children,” Tishreen reported.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights has documented 254 civilian deaths, including 83 children, since the beginning of Russian military operations in Syria just over a month ago.

As a result, some regime opponents “are in a state of joy in the wake of the plane crash,” Baraa, an activist with the pro-opposition Damascus Media Office told Syria Direct on Tuesday, seeing it as a sort of revenge since “Russian forces are bombarding Syria and its people.”

One opposition activist in Al-Hasakah questions the impulse to hold Russian civilians accountable for their government’s military activities in Syria.

“Why be happy and find joy in others’ suffering, in the death of civilians in a plane crash?” Shirwan Ali, a pro-opposition Kurdish activist from Qamishli told Syria Direct on Tuesday.

-Photo courtesy of Tishreen

Ghalia Muhkalalati

Ghalia Muhkhalalati holds a degree in computer science, where she attained the third highest grade in Syria for her year. She worked as a private teacher for displaced persons when the revolution began and arrived in Jordan in 2013.

Bayan al-Ahmad

Bayan was focused on completing her university degree. The war in Syria made that goal difficult, however, she was able to do so. The situation in her hometown of Al-Hasakah worsened and she was forced to flee to Jordan.

Maria Nelson

Maria Nelson was a 2014-2015 fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad program (CASA I) in Amman, Jordan. She holds a BA in Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University, with a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture.