Tag Archives: syria

Remarkable: Syria refuses to be intimidated

9 Jul

I took this picture in the summer of 2000, when I was in Syria and Bashar al-Assad had just succeeded his father as president. Sad memory somehow, as I remember the spirit of optimism, the zest and the high hopes. Picture: eastbymideast.

I have to be honest: A month ago, I was not sure whether the Syrians would be able to withstand Bashar’s massive intimidation campaign and killing spree over time.

Yes, Bashar al-Assad does rely on the same futile mechanisms and means to thrash his people off the streets as Mubarak, Saleh and al-Qadafi (which, as we remember, really did not get those guys anywhere except out the door). And yes, Bashar is going for an all-or-nothing strategy, which easily might leave him with „nothing“ rather than „all“. But to be left with „all“, he has to exert all force he can afford, and that’s why I had been fearing that in the end he would indeed win.

Nevertheless, looking at yesterday’s events I start to think that he is in line to drop out after all, because Syrians refuse to be intimidated: A stupendous number of 450’000 demonstrators were counted yesterday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. An in Hama of all places; A city still traumatized by Hafiz al-Assad’s bloody massacre of 1982.

The country’s business elite so far still backs the regime, as the regime’s stability basically equals their income’s stability. But according to an article by Sami Moubayed, the business elite’s loyalty is restricted to profit only. As the big centers Aleppo and Damascus are facing rising unemployment, this loyalty might very well go down the tubes. Furthermore, the regime has diligently ensured over decades that be no leading voices, stakeholders or social representatives next to it, as it feared possible opposition. Ironically, this might now prove hurtful, as the regime might nowadays actually profit of a voice uniting the incomers’ communities of Aleppo’s and Damascus’ urban melting pots, urging them not to oppose the regime.

With Moubayed’s assumptions about upcoming urban developments, and about half a million people protesting in hama on Friday, I am hoping for the best. I have no idea how Bashar can spin or shoot his way out of this mess. 


The doctor is in

23 Jun

"You have myopic astigmatism, sir."

I found this on the Middle East Institute Editor’s Blog*. This is just too laconic to neglect, as Bashar of course is an ophtalmologist. What’s more, this cartoonist seems to be irritated by Bashar’s neck. I can relate.

By the way: German news magazine “Der Spiegel” ran an interesting article in this week’s issue highlighting the difficulties specific to Syria’s opposition. The regime employs an absurd amount of  intelligence services, making trust hard to be established among activists. Yet the sheer amount of intelligence personnel also leads to competition and stalking among the services until ultimately, no information seems reliable. The Assad regime has applied this method for decades. Since the Assad family’s power is not based on religious, democratic or royal legitimacy, maybe it is based on ensuring that just very few people know enough to put one and one together.

Anyhow, I remember well the stereotype of the “wary Syrian”.

* The Editor’s Blog didn’t know who to credit for this cartoon, so neither do I. Just like them, I’ll credit as soon as I know more and hope I’m not infringing.

The Empire strikes back III

14 Jun

So, yes, you’ve heard: The MIA Gay Girl from Damascus is actually a Straight Guy from Virginia. The story’s was over the news yesterday, on German outlets as well as American. Western and Arab outlets mainly seem to focus on the internet-inherent problem of constructed realities and reliability of information. Media over here apparently loved the idea of gay activism in a Muslim country so much that they forgot to double-check their facts. What we got instead was trigger-happy  journalism.

I am now wondering how Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its supporters will use this incident to denounce political activism and the internet community. I could imagine that Syrian political activists aren’t all too happy about a fictional character stabbing their non-fictional cause in the back.

Will keep you posted about articles discussing this issue.

The Empire strikes back II

8 Jun

… And today the blogoshphere is abuzz with the latest on Amina Arraf: Andy Carvin has found out that no one in the Syrian LGBT scene knows her. He has also unsuccessfully tried to contact friends of hers, and now there’s an entirely new scenario in the room: Is Amina Arraf even real? Is hers just a fictional blog? Or is she a real person socializing online only? Andy Carvin shares his very interesting thoughts on tweetdeck.

The Empire strikes back

7 Jun

About a week ago, I read this article portraying gay and lesbian activists in Syria. I admired the courage to share one’s thoughts openly, to not hide behind pseudonyms, nevermind the fact that homosexuality is a crime in Syria. I was hoping these guys wouldn’t get in trouble with a regime that, during the past week, unleashed various measures of fighting back public insurgence. The ruling forces continue to use tactics such as cracking down protests, cutting off and then resuming Internet access, possibly staging incidents and using state media to disseminate their own version of the truth (this list probably goes on endlessly).

Said article and various others on the gay and lesbian scene had presented a young woman blogging openly on her life as a gay Syrian and on the current political events. Needless to say, one was left wondering whether her openness might make Amina Arraf an easy target for authorities at some point, especially since the regime seems to resort to taking every possible step to reinforce its prevalence. The fact that Amina is half American does not make the situation less worrisome.

This morning, I read on Global Voices that Amina Arraf has dissappeared, that her family does not know her whereabouts and that they’re worried she has been seized by authorities. Her cousin posted the news on Amina’s blog, and she will probably continue to update it with news on Amina.

This might come off a bit cheesy and unprofessional, but I really hope the hard-pressed regime does not immolate this young woman as a demonstration of power.