Banknote design choices are always fraught with politics. As another example of the subtle choices involved, here's a story about a
recent change in a Syrian banknote design. I added an image of the old note. Can anyone find an image of the new one for us? -Editor
The Central Bank of Syria began circulating the country’s new 1,000-pound note, and one major question is being left unanswered in
English media reports — why the currency was redesigned without a face from the Assad family.
The old 1,000-pound note featured former president Hafez al-Assad, father of President Bashar al-Assad. In 2013 the Central Bank made
the decision to replace it with an image of an ancient Roman theater located in the southern Daraa province, the birthplace of the
The new photo of the Bosra Amphitheater in Salkhad, only 40 kilometers east of Daraa city, now adorns the face of one of Syria’s most
commonly used bills. The decision left government supporters outraged, causing some social media users to change their Facebook profiles to
the old bill with Hafez’s face on it.
According to the Central Bank, the old note with Hafez Assad needed better paper quality and security features. In a press conference
Tuesday, Central Bank Governor Adib Mayalah elaborated and added that printing new notes shows the Syrian economy is capable of overcoming
the difficulties it's facing, especially given the American and European sanctions on Syrian currency.
But the statement failed to give a reason it would require a new image on the face of the bills, or why — of all the Syrian landmarks to
use — they chose a Roman theater in the province where the uprising began.
Jeffry Frieden, international monetary and financial relations professor at Harvard University, told Al Bawaba he couldn’t think of a
security reason to change the image.
"Whether it was done as a snub to Assad, or as something of a sop to the opposition, ... I have no idea,” Frieden wrote. “But I
cannot see a legitimate security-based argument, so it would be interesting to try to figure out what is actually going on."
Turns out, there’s a more likely explanation than what’s being offered by officials.
The Syrian note has been subject of a smear campaign by the opposition in which they write offensive words — “Curse your soul, Hafez” —
about the former leader by his image. The slogan was chanted by demonstrators at the start of the revolution.
Not only was the trend embarrassing to the government, it also presented a legal challenge for authorities. Possessing the paper notes
with the insult could lead to one’s arrest, according to Arabic news al-Khaleej Online, leaving residents more reluctant to use them.
Opposition claims the campaign is what pushed the regime to change the image.
It’s hard to say how successful the campaign was. A resident in Syria’s capital Damascus had never seen offensive words being written on
a bill but believed Syrians would be in big trouble — arrested, possibly beaten — if they were caught with one. It’s likely the campaign
took off in areas no longer being controlled by the government.
Regardless, the decision seems to be a big one that couldn’t have happened without the approval of Hafez Assad’s own son, Bashar.
To read the complete article, see:
Why was a face of the Assad family
just removed from Syrian currency? (www.albawaba.com/news/why-was-face-assad-family-just-removed-syrian-currency-717212)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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