Syrian refugees return to vote in presidential ballot

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Syrian refugees return to vote in presidential ballot

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Thousands of Syrian refugees in Lebanon gathered at the Masnaa border crossing point to briefly enter Syria and vote in the presidential election.

The ballot is expected to extend the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Lebanese media reported last week that Interior Minister Nouhad al-Machnouk had said that Syrian registered refugees who entered Syria to vote would lose their refugee status when returning to Lebanon.

But that did not deter the crowds at Masnaa. Waiting in line to cross the border, Syrian national Ghadda Maki said: “It is a national duty to vote, so we overcome this period of crisis happening in Syria.”

Approximately 90 minutes drive from Masnaa, at Lebanon’s Arsal camp, refugees told of their concerns about the integrity of the vote. Some said that their countrymen would have been coerced into voting for Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for decades.

Ahmad Naser, a refugee at Arsal, said: “Everyone inside and outside Syria knows what will happen to him if he doesn’t cast his vote.”

In Jordan’s Zaatari camp opinion was divided on the presidential election.

“Assad is laughing at us,” said Mohammad Theib, a Syrian refugee at Zaatari. “This election is being supervised by Russians and Iranians who are involved in killing the Syrian people, who participated in displacing us. None of us dares to vote in this election.”