Assad's nickname goes viral
Beirut - A purported e-mail exchange between Syria's President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma in which she affectionately refers to him as her "duck" has been met with delight by activists and spurred a host of jokes on the internet.
The message, revealed by British newspapers earlier this month, is one of a cache of documents leaked by activists and purporting to be between the Assads, their advisors and family members.
In it, Syria's British-born First Lady refers to her husband, who is battling an unprecedented revolt against his regime, as her "batta", Arabic for duck.
The January 18 message is entitled "to my [bald] batta" and is signed "your batta".
No sooner was the e-mail leaked than activists gleefully seized upon it to mock the president, likening him to the cartoon characters Daffy Duck and Donald Duck, and using paper cut-outs of yellow ducks at anti-regime demonstrations.
Dozens of YouTube videos on the subject have been posted, including one showing Assad in the form of a duck with red lips holding a machine gun.
Another video shows demonstrators in the town of Zabadani, near the Syrian capital, waving a yellow banner with the word "batta" in Arabic and protesters chanting "you duck, may God damn your soul".
And at a night-time protest this week in the capital Damascus, video footage shows protesters holding up squeaking yellow rubber ducks.
Opposition websites and Facebook pages are also filled with jokes mocking Assad and making a word play on his name, which means lion in Arabic.
In one Facebook message, activists refer to the Syrian army as "Assad's duck brigades", while a Facebook page in Arabic is entitled "I am a duck and Bashar does not represent me."
The revolt against Assad's regime began as a popular uprising in March of last year but has transformed into an insurgency.