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'Despicable PR stunt': State Department criticizes Assad Instagram account

A screenshot of the official Instagram account of the Syrian president's office.
A screenshot of the official Instagram account of the Syrian president's office.Syrian Presidency / Instagram

The State Department railed against the latest attempt by the Syrian presidency to win over hearts and minds, calling the Assad regime's recently created Instagram account "nothing more than a despicable PR stunt." 

Asma, wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a photo posted to syrianpresidency's Instagram account a week ago.Syrian Presidency / Instagram

"It's repulsive that the Assad regime would use this to gloss over the brutality and suffering it's causing," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday. 

President Bashar Assad joined the social media photo sharing app with the username "syrianpresidency." The account's description reads: "Welcome to the official Instagram account for the Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic."

So far, the account has posted 73 pictures and has more than 5,300 followers. The first image was posted a week ago.

The photos are glossy snaps of Assad and his glamorous wife, Asma. The power couple can be seen meeting and greeting various officials, visiting Syrians in the hospital, or attending political rallies. 

Harf encouraged people to ignore the polished images, which she said are "not indicative of the horrific situation on the ground that [Assad] is causing for his own people." 

President Bashar al-Assad in a photo posted to syrianpresidency a week ago on Instagram.Syrian Presidency / Instagram

“To see what's really happening right now in Syria, to see the horrific atrocities in Homs and elsewhere, we would encourage people to take a look at unfiltered photos of what's actually happening on the ground," Harf added.

More than 100,000 people have been killed, the United Nations has said, in a conflict pitting a government dominated by minority Alawite Muslims against rebels dominated by Sunni Muslims. 

Much of the country is now carved up between rebel and government-held territory. Millions of people have either been displaced or become refugees in neighboring countries.