- By Bethany Allen-EbrahimianBethany Allen-Ebrahimian is an assistant editor at Foreign Policy. She spent four years in China before joining Foreign Policy and holds a master's degree in East Asian studies from Yale University., Kavitha SuranaKavitha Surana is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy, where she produces breaking news and original reports with a particular focus on immigration, counterterrorism, and border security policy. Previously, Kavitha worked at New York magazine’s Bedford + Bowery blog, CNNMoney, The Associated Press in Italy, and Fareed Zakaria GPS and has freelanced from Italy and Germany for publications like Quartz, Al Jazeera America, OZY, and GlobalPost/PRI. In 2015, she was awarded a Fulbright trip to Germany, as well as a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation to report on migration and integration. She also reported from Senegal with a grant from the Bureau for International Reporting in 2014. Kavitha studied European history at Columbia University and holds a master’s degree in journalism and European studies from New York University. She has studied in Italy and Peru and speaks Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
“I’m a citizen of Syria, just like anyone else.”
That’s what Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s teenage son Hafez al-Assad told Brazilian news outlet O Globo on July 17, while he was in Brazil for International Math Olympiad, a prestigious international competition.
Hafez participated as a member of the Syrian national team, which placed 56th overall, far behind South Korea, China, the United States, and others.
President al-Assad succeeded his own father, and according to O Globo, pro-regime commentators hailed Hafez’s membership on the Syrian team as a sign that he, too, was superb leadership material.
What actually happened, however, is that the younger Assad performed abysmally, ranking 528 out of 615 total participants.
He also came in dead last on the Syrian national team.
Participation in math olympiad — even mediocre participation — is a resume crown jewel that can earn admission to prestigious universities around the world. For that reason, International Math Olympiad is almost as famous as the actual Olympics in some countries, at least among the educated classes.
“I’ve always lived like a normal kid and my friends see me as a normal person,” Hafez told O Globo. “I’m just as normal as other people.”
While Hafez has lived like a normal kid, his father has waged a total war on the civilian populace in rebel-held areas and targeted schools and hospitals in air strikes. More than two million Syrian children have been displaced.
In April, the al-Assad government launched an attack on the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun, which the United Nations said likely involved Sarin gas.
“I know the type of man that my father is,” said Hafez. “In these difficult times, a generation like ours can bring peace.”
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