The Lionators of Syria!

No, this is not some fancy conspiracy theory that I am about to outline here, it is the reality we have been facing for many years now under the rule of this reform-minded president and his clique of brothers, cousins and in-laws. The Damascus Community School (DCS), popularly referred to as the American School, is currently being squeezed out of existence, or at least, its Syrian students are, so as to fill the empty seats in the Shoeifat School owned by, who else?, the President cousin, Rami Makhlouf, AKA, the Raminator of Modern Syria.

Recent developments in this regard include: refusal to renew the work permits of the American teachers at school, challenging the license under which the school has been operated for decades now, and using the case of an unfortunate accident that took life of a 12 year old student from the well-known al-Samman family, who have my sincere condolences on this tragic loss.

In this latter case, the attitude of regime officials is hypocritical to a nauseating degree, because if you want count the number of students who die or get hurt as a result of poorly planned excursions in the Syrian public school system, or as a result of their participation in various Baath camps, including the infamous Tala’eh and Shabibah, the number will be in the hundreds, you heard it, hundreds, every goddamn year.

To be more specific though, and so as not to create a wrong impression, the cases of death run between 10-20 per year, the remaining aces are of those who get seriously injured even maimed. The figures are based upon estimates of a colleague of mine who works for the Ministry of Education and who has, for years, tried to raise awareness in this regard to no avail.

The link to the Shoeifat School is also based upon contacts with people who are familiar with its inner workings. The reason I have all these contacts is because I used to teach at various diplomatic schools in the mid to late 90s (including a short spate at DCS itself), and I know many of the people who continue to work in this field. Indeed, my contacts tell me that the high fees charged by Shoeifat are discouraging people from applying, and that, often, people with means, like the Sammans, still prefer the already established and reputable DCS to this new project that continues to be mismanaged by Rami’s people. So, here is Rami now working, as he usually does, to shut down the competition in a continuation and furtherance of the project to transform Syria and everything Syrian into the private estate of the Assad-Makhlouf clan.

And do the voices of reason out there want to do? They want to give these people more time to prove to us that they are indeed reformers.

Every development out there, small or big, seems to inform us in every conceivable way that these people are thieves of the pettiest variety there is, and still, we continue to be told to look at them as reformers, and to give them more time to work out their magic.

Well, they are working out their magic all right, and just look where this is getting us.

Now Nour, the girl who died in that tragic accident, will become a symbol around which regime officials will attempt to rally angry Syrians against the American imperialist pigs, using the grieving father as an involuntary spokesman, in a heinous act of necrophagia for which we have long become accustomed. Our transmogrification into virtual Eaters of the Dead continues apace. This is the essence of the Assad magic. Abracadabra everyone!

Our mice are lions, and our thieves are Robin Hoods, and our killers are but saviors of all that is good. But do tell me please, are you any good? ‘Cause, you know, you can’t be saved if you are not good.

20 thoughts on “The Lionators of Syria!

  1. anonymous,as I understand, the child was travelling in the back of a pick-up truck and fell off.. This very dangerous practice is, incredibly, commonplace in Syria.. Whenever I am back home, it never fails to amaze me how ignorant people are about health and safety.. it sends shivers down my spine every time I drive behind these delapidated pick-ups with several children jumping about in the open back!…

  2. Indeed, one can easily list a number of real horror stories and family tragedies in this regard.

  3. It is time for Syria to have real trafic laws and i suggest translating a trafic book fro one of the states in the US and not to try write their own,i lost many freind to stupid driving habitts people have in Syria.

  4. As alumni from DCS I am shocked at both the news of the accident and this new information regarding the regimes intentions to shut down DCS…

  5. Hi,I would like to introduce myslef as a former student of DCS and a former resident of Syria for some 6 years. During the time I was there, I had the opportunity to see Syria both open up and close back down. In the short period that I was there, I was able to see Syria make the same mistake over and over again. 1 step forward, 2 steps back. The story about the girl from what I know goes like this:She was a 6th grader on a field trip to Palmyra. While there, the chaperones decided to take a small trip to some caves about 15km away from palmyra. I have no idea why they took pick ups. They should have been able to rent a bus, but anyway, when they were in the pick up, one of the other kids took the girls cap and as a joke, was taunting the girl that he is going to throw it off the truck. I would guess when he made a quick movement as if he was going to throw it, the girl jumped up, lost balance and fell off. She didn’t die imediately, but she died at the hospital. They say that she would have lived if this happened in Damascus or one of the bigger cities. Since it happened close to Palmyra, there was no one with the right skills and equipment to help her.This is very tragic and I cannot imagine how the parents must feel. I am sorry for their loss, but I also agree that the closing of DCS has nothing to do with the death of this little girl, but more with the political games the Syrian governemnt likes to play. I still hope that someone will listen to reason and recognise the tradition that DCS has in Damascus.

  6. HI Patra and Gimly, I hope that by focusing on this matter we can actually stop the plans to close down DCS. So keep on reaching out to your friends and encourage them to create more noise about this matter. But, be careful of course, I don’t want you to get into serious trouble at these frenetic times in Syria.

  7. Listen Ammar, I’m a graduate of DCS (from 1978-1994) and the funny thing is, I don’t ever remember seeing you there. Your name isn’t even familiar! So please, can you not use us as scapegoats in your little hate-charade? We still live here, we didn’t “leave”. If you love your country, you’d project a better image of syria to the rest of the world, not crash it down. You’d encourage people to come invest, you’d try to boost tourism. Seriously man, what is wrong with you?P.S. I sure hope you don’t remove my comment because it doesn’t serve your best interest. Youre professional enough to be so bold, then post my comment!

  8. Dear Ammar,I’m not part of DCS, i was part of a differnt American School in another country, and i’ve pretty much lived my entire life outside Syria. I find many things here that are wrong, and i don’t agree with them, and from what i noticed you have serious issues with the al Assad family or the Government. If you object to them then come here and object, don’t use the death of an innocent girl to try and spread hatred amongst our people. My personal opinion and will be forever that responsibility lies in the School. I currently reside in Syria, in the capitol Damascus. and in a time like this where UNITY is called for, you promote hate. I, just like any TRUE Syrian, would love to see Syria become what it is meant to be, and the way you and people like you do it is honestly disgusting. Anyways I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to post in your blog, and not deleting it as that goes against what you beleive in which is freedom of speech and opinion.PS… The spelling of the school you refered to is CHOUEIFAT, but you should know that since you are from a prominent family and you do have an “American” education.

  9. In addition, you need therapy dude. You have some serious issues!! As a proud Syrian I’m ashamed of you and your kind.”REAL” Syrians work in their country, serve their country, and embrace their country. Your a used up ‘has-been’ and you don’t deserve to have the Syrian nationality!Shame on you!!

  10. Mina has just shown us all what is wrong with Syrian society…If you criticize, you are immediately considered a traitor. Why can’t people draw attention to what is wrong in order to advocate change without being personally attacked?

  11. Mina, there is nothing really “funny” about not seeing me between 78 and 94, I have only taught in DCS for a few months in 1998, before that (95-97) I was at PISOD, there was a lot of traffic of teacher and students between PISOD and DCS at the time. Anyway, I was scheduled to stay with DCS over 1999, but I preferred to take a break from teaching and go back to being a writer. I am indeed very glad that you are still living in Syria, I wish I had that option, but I was forced out of the country with my family on September 7 of 2005, after receiving direct death threats form Assef Chawkat in a face to face meeting, so there was nothing to misunderstand. But no, I am not out for revenge. My problem with the Assads is that they are robbing the country blind. Still, do feel free to defend them if you want, there are some commentators on this site would do so too, but please don’t, and this applies to Abdurrahman as well, give yourself the right to doubt my patriotism just because you happened to still believe in the Assads and to conflate my criticism of the Assads as an assault against the entire country. A lot of people tend to do that, I know, but it is really quite unfortunate, especially when educate people like you guys do it. What, do you really think I don’t want people to come and invest back home? Do you really think I can ever be happy as I observe the continuing ceaseless rape of my country? Do you think that I don’t have family members still left in Syria, such as my Mom, my aunts, my cousins, my in-laws, not to mention my friends, that I worry sick about? As for the story of that little girl, yes, indeed, I did think about how things will look if I “used” this incident as an excuse to attack the Syrian regime. But the problem is that I happened to know for sure what was involved here in the background, and it was too disgusting and I couldn’t be silent. Still, I sincerely apologize for all those who felt offended by this, especially if they are family members and friends. The strange thing is that you both knew that you could trust me not to delete your comments, because I believe in human rights and free speech and all that. But, I beg of you, tell me, how can a person who believes in such things be accused of being unpatriotic, and not being worthy of the citizenship of his country? I spent nine years in the US (86-94) without ever applying for American citizenship or even the Green Card, and when I returned home in September of ’94 I was accused of being an idiot for failing to do that. Now I am accused of being a traitor for standing up to the very people who are busy robbing us blind and putting our best people in jail, or sending them to exile. And Mina, of course I have issues, don’t you? Anyway, I find blogging to be very therapeutic, you should try it. But Mina and Abdurrahman, and though you both gave yourselves a license to doubt my patriotism, I actually don’t doubt yours, and I do applaud your concern for the welfare of the country and for your decision to stay there when a lot of people are leaving voluntarily. I believe Syria needs you, and I believe Syria needs me as well. It is too bad that our rulers know very well how to play this game of patriotism and how to encourage us to sort each other out along patriotic lines, so they can live happily ever after, or until they run the country aground, which is what is happening right now, and we can wallow in the misery of our daily squabbles along sectarian, ethnic and class lines. Too bad! Anonymous, thank you for your support.

  12. I am not Syrian, but I have a great love for its people and for DCS. What sickens me about this whole story is that you used the death of Nour Al Samman for your own political discourse. Don’t pretend sympathy for her family or indeed to care for DCS.Those who care about DCS would like to see the true story come out, not the fiction you created to further your own political agenda. That serves no one but yourself.It is true that DCS was fighting for its survival before this accident; the accident will not help that particular situation. It is not relevant to this death the standards in Syrian schools as the teachers were not Syrian nor does DCS operate under anything but US standards. To somehow excuse what happened in this context is below contempt, as it is to create a version which somehow implies blame to another child for the accident. I can not find words for that.What does impress me is that those true DCS alumnus, which if I understand you are not, not only support their school, but condemn you for this sickening attempt to capitalize on a beautiful young girls premature death.

  13. I did not delve into the details of Nour’s death in order to avoid sensationalizing the issue and delve into particulars that I wouldn’t be able to know anything about. Still, the overall context that I have provided is not fictitious and as close to the truth as you can ever get in these situations. Indeed, I am not the one who is using Nour’s death to further any agenda. Still, I respect your feelings and share your disgust, but you are aiming your disgust at the wrong person. As for me, and if I have any apologies to make in this regard, it is to Nour’s family, if indeed they feel offended by my position on this matter. Indeed, had I given the matter some more thought, I would have probably avoided making any mention of Nour in this context, but my lapse, if anything, has been motivated by my realization as to how this situation will end up being used by Rami’s henchmen. But please by all means do shoot the messenger. I can always understand why people can be angry when they are reminded of the filth all around them. But I guess, to you, I must be part of that filth. So be it. I leave the all claims of saintliness to you, you can revel in it for as long as you like, while the raping of my country continues, one little piece, the size of DCS perhaps, and sometimes even lager, at a time.

  14. By the way, the fact that you are a DCS alumnus does not give you the right to speak in the name of all DCS alumni, don’t you think? So, if you want to wax self-righteous on me and condemn me, go ahead, but do it in your name, don’t hijack other people’s voice.

  15. Hi Ammar,The only intelligent reading I have read so far came from you. As I was in Damascus during the incident I could not make sense of the whole story. When I saw the piece on TV it was very obvious how the government turned the tragic story into a piece of propaganda, and what is so pathetic that people out there turned into zombies who are driven by media like sheep. No one give a damn to find another reading into the incident, no one question why it was in the news first and who is benefiting from this. The media and the street, all were against the American, not against the person who is responsible for the decision of making students ride the pick up truck, but the whole American government and the American hegemony against the Syrian are the responsible party. Of course, not even the lack of service there or the pumped road has anything to do with it. I have left the country 25 years ago and till now there are no signs to tell you where to go specially in that area of the country, and this is not that government fault or responsibility. One person summed it wrongfully as: the people are represented by their kings and vise versa, so what American school teachers do in Syria is a reflection of the what the American government conspiracy against the poor and good hearted people of Syria. Again the bloodthirsty Americans are responsible for this girl’s death. When the story came on the news there was a follow up that the School has no permit to operate in the first place and they did not obtain permit for the trip. Also, most who I heard from did not question how a school in this caliper left to operate all this time without permit. Some family members said that it was the fault of the school authorities that they insisted on the trip as part of the curriculum. It was clear that the strip of society who benefited from this system and others who lives on the government crumbles find the system rather normal and everything government say and do are natural and for the best of the country. The street and the elites are stripped completely from critical thinking and all thoughts have one face and one side. The inside fear of most citizens does not allow for questioning the story or commenting on. The story was highlighted and got some explanation with a taxi driver on my way to airport. He was telling of an army officer who rule as an owner of land, he used his army to clean his land and improve his property and all this is a good thing the taxi driver views because the guy is turning the land into a beautiful property. He helped his taxi driver’s son to be a judge by ordering the minister of justice to his son on the list, and that is according to him also a good thing. Your hear stories about officer who forced the authorities to build a road to his mansion and that is no blood sucking of country resources the use of public money but a good thing the man doing to improve the area and his surrounding and benefiting neighbors. Ammar, those last comments from Mina and anonymous is a reflection of these types of people who could be also the children of those echelon who can see the truth but benefiting are agent for the government. At least these people can bring their thought and disagree with you instead of questioning your loyalty. We know that they live there and carry foreign passport and claim nationalism.Please keep your voice loud, you are above those and you do not have a Swiss bank account or have a history of stealing. We are proud of citizen like you and family like yours.

  16. I knew that angel. No one threw her hat. It was her friend’s that blew in the wind. As a friendly favor, she tried to catch it. The truck driver saw her get up, and pressed on the truck brakes sharply. She fell, and her skull was severly fractured. If she HAD survived, her life would be a shell. DCS will always remember her, and we loved her. Please lets not quibble over the corrupt men that run Syria.

  17. Indeed, Hady, you are quite right. I should have known better, and should have tried to raise the issue of DCS in some other context. Thank you for your kind, calm and sobering reminder.

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