While rumors as to the whereabouts of Syrian President Bashar Assad continue to swirl following an attack that killed four senior regime officials, on Thursday Syrian state media broadcast images of the embattled leader allegedly swearing in the country's new defense minister.
SCROLL DOWN FOR QUESTIONABLE PHOTOS OF BASHAR ASSAD.
Assad's appearance on state TV, however, did little to settle rumors because the ceremony did not take place before the public. As the Associated Press notes, "The state TV announcement appeared aimed at sending the message that Assad is alive and well. It said Assad, dressed in a blue suit and tie, wished the new defense minister good luck but it did not say where the swearing-in took place."
This photo was released Thursday to corroborate the official story on Syrian media:
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, meets with Fahd Jassem al-Freij, Syria's new defense minister, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, July 19, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)
Assad appears to be in the same room as in this photo from May 9, 2012, when the Syrian president met with U.N. envoy Kofi Annan:
This photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria Kofi Anan, left, meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Syria, Monday, July 9, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)
Though another new photo showing Assad and Syria's new defense minister, also released Thursday, seems just questionable enough to raise eyebrows:
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, Syria's new defense minister, left, is sworn in before Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, July 19, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)
If so, it probably wouldn't be the first time Syria has doctored official photos. Check out the slideshow below for pictures released by SANA, Syria's official state media, that seem to have enhanced Assad's image in some form or another.
Note: Author is not a qualified image expert, just a man with eyes. Launch Fullscreen to get a better look at the photos below.
This photo has been <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/07/tour-worlds-worst-photoshop-propaganda/39932/" target="_hplink">lampooned</a> plenty, but a lot of weird stuff is going on here. Most egregiously, despite sunlight flooding the photo from background windows, Assad doesn't cast a shadow. Maybe dictators don't have shadows like vampires don't have reflections? However, the lack of shadow on the rug becomes even more obvious when you turn your attention to the drop shadow outlining Assad's right leg. Unless he's just levitating. Also, the table. Somehow, that shadow is even worse than Assad's! Perhaps it's actually a magic carpet that doesn't hold shadows. Yeah, that's <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkYNBwCEeH4" target="_hplink">the ticket</a>. And as <em>The Guardian</em>'s image expert, David McCoy points out, the two men <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011/jul/12/syria-doctor-odd-photo-assad" target="_hplink">aren't even looking at one another</a>. "Assad [right] appears to have had the edge detail on his hair smoothed out, in contrast to the harsh, overly sharpened edges visible elsewhere on his body," McCoy says. Clenched fists! <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, new governor of the central city of Hama Anas Abdul-Razzaq Naem, left, is being sworn in in front of Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, in Damascus, Syria, Monday, July 11, 2011.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)
Apparently, the fountain of youth bubbles somewhere in Damascus, if you believe the Syrian president's face in this official photo. Glossy women's mags would be put to shame by the smoothness of Assad's skin in this snapshot. You won't find a wrinkle or blemish around the whole of this face, save for the area immediately around his eyes. The skin tone and evenness are almost unnerving. Then again, you can see where they stop, a hair to the left of his collar and just above his tie, where a sudden change in color stands out. And it's hard to say if any special effects have enhanced Assad's hairline; at 46-years-old, the Syrian president is likely experiencing some hair loss. Assad also doesn't seem to have been gifted with a strong chin, but thanks to what looks like a nice Photoshop shadow, his jawline is positively Clooney-esque here. Unfortunately, he no longer has an Adam's apple. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad takes part of a religious ceremony marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, at al-Rawda mosque, in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday Feb. 5, 2012.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)
"This referendum is as legit as the tone and texture of my forehead." More importantly, note the possible human being/strange poster on the right side of the photo. It could be a banner, though reasons why a photo of a random guy's back would be prominently featured in election coverage remain murky. The lack of hues/smoothness/undefined vanishing point and depth of field on the poster make it all the more questionable. <em>In this Feb. 26, 2012, file photo provided by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad casts his ballot next to his wife Asma at a polling station in Damascus, Syria, during a referendum on the new constitution. </em>(AP Photo/SANA, File)
Assad's ability to maintain a killer hairline and a flawless complexion at his age, all while juggling the stress of a crackdown that has left at least <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/syria-crisis-death-toll-17000_n_1658708.html" target="_hplink">17,000 dead</a>, by some estimates, is just otherworldly. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad prays during a ceremony marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Mohammad, at al-Rawda mosque, in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. </em>(AP Photo/SANA)
"Yes, everyone in Syria is happy!" No real funny business seems to be in play in this photo -- just selective imagery at its finest. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, waves to his supporters after he attended the prayer of Eid Al Adha, at the al-Nour Mosque in the northern town of Raqqa, Syria, on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)
Fahd Jassem al-Freij and Bashar Assad
This is the latest development in Syrian state images. This photo comes from the alleged <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/syrias-bashar-assad-whereabouts_n_1686381.html" target="_hplink">swearing in</a> of Syria's new Defense Minister, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, after his predecessor was killed in a bomb attack on Wednesday. Not quite as bizarre as last year's thousand-yard stare-fest, but still strangely sterile. Again, clenched fists, same stance. The shadows aren't quite as strange as the previous photo, but a couple of things still look fishy. The table seems to head toward the correct vanishing point, but the reflection of the door handle and frame in the floor seems sharply angled. Ostensibly, there's a chandelier behind Assad, per the reflection in the floor behind him, and another somewhere in front, per the highlight on the top-left corner of the door. That's unclear, however, given that there's no highlight on the table. Perhaps the chandelier is just above the camera. And perhaps that cream-colored pillar is just out of frame. The placement seems strange, and the highlight, too, with what you see in the mirror. But who needs mirrors when you've got that floor? You could do your makeup in that floor; and with that lighting and the help of SANA, you'd probably look like a Disney Princess when all is said and done. It probably sounds like gunshots when you walk in heels in that mausoleum. But Assad wouldn't know anything about that. <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Fahd Jassem al-Freij, Syria's new Defense Minister, left, is sworn in before Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday, July 19, 2012.</em> (AP Photo/SANA)