Assad’s Syria – many circuses, little bread, no freedom!

Damascus_festivities1_2It was dazzling, I am told, that public celebration declaring Damascus the capital of Arab culture for 2008. Pavements, throughout the city, even those finished mere weeks prior to the celebrations were (re)dug and redone so that more of our illustrious officials can cash in on the event, or, to be more precise, so that some can cash in more than others. All in all, the entire budget dedicated to this event needs to be spent, and officials will always find ways to achieve that. But in this, Syria may not be different than any other country, I guess. 

Where Syria is different these days, both quantitatively and qualitatively, and which more than justifies the selection of Damascus the capital of Arab culture for 2008, is in its levels of repression, corruption and inflation. As the most repressive Arab regime, the fourth most corrupt Arab country (preceded only by Sudan, Iraq and Somalia), and with galloping inflation rates quickly gnawing away at whatever credibility the regime has left in popular consciousness.

Now more than ever Syria is a country held together by fear, and nothing else.

The participation of leftist intellectuals and writers, such as Noam Chomsky, Milan Kundera and Isabelle Allende, in the celebrations come to underscore how political ideology continues to trump human rights even among those who build their careers highlighting human rights abuses in their own countries and/or perpetrated by their own governments.

Addendum: we just received this email from Allende’s assistant:

Dear Ammar Abdulhamid and Khawla Yusuf,

Isabel has made no plans to visit Syria in the near future.

Sincerely,

Juliette Ambatzidis
Assistant to Isabel Allende

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7 thoughts on “Assad’s Syria – many circuses, little bread, no freedom!

  1. Ammar,
    I don’t get, on what basis do you feel you have the right to strip syrians of what might be their only little joys, such as Fairouz coming, or listening to Milan Kundera or Allende lecturing at home?
    Isn’t it the people we’re supposed to be fighting for?!

  2. These little joys, Yazan, are coming at the expense of the Syrian people, not for their benefit. Roman emperors were in the habit of using the same logic you just did to justify holding circuses during times of national crises brought about by their own corruption and ineptitude. The same logic and rules are clearly visible here.
    You know what, the day when we become willing to boycott such events rather than participate in them under the illusion of “little joys,” when the day comes when our people would realize that much, and not just little, joy can be found in certain simple acts of defiance that can help pave the way for freedom, that day will mark our first real step towards becoming a real people, a free people. Until then, we will continue to be our own worst enemies, the Assads are the tyrants, but we are the enablers of their tyranny. We refuse to see through their very transparent charades, and we continue to find excuses for them, but in reality, we are just afraid and unsure of ourselves. We know that there is something kissing in our lives, but very few of us are willing to call it by its name: freedom.
    As for Allende and Kundera, the Syrian people already have access to most of what the twain has written, their books are all over the place in Syria. My wife and I have been touched by their writings long ago, and we did not need to meet them in order to appreciate them. My wife, Khawla, carried very few books with her when she left Syria, most of them were novels by Allende. Khawla burst into tears when she knew that Allende, a woman who wrote so many touching and revealing books about a tyranny not unlike ours, would be paying homage to this regime and its henchmen at the very point when they are busy cracking down left and right against all voices of freedom and dissent.
    If Allende and Kundera wanted to reach out to the Syrian people, they did not need to travel to Syria, they were better off publicly rejecting the invitation and declaring their sympathies with their Syrian counterparts.
    Instead, they opted to come in a show that will unmistakably be marketed as a stand of solidarity with the Assad regime and all its henchmen and its policies, regardless of how the twain might try to nuance their statements there, that is, if they even bothered to do so . The Assad regime will use their visit to mask its corruption and authoritarianism and gain back some much needed legitimacy in the international scene.
    But don’t mind me, Yazan, after all, I am just rambling. There are those who will always argue that security and stability at whatever price are far more important than freedom. And these people continue to be in the majority today, and the little joys of which you speak have been made specifically for them. So long as they content with less, less and less is exactly what they are going to get, until they are content no more, by which time, there might be nothing left to fight for, not even freedom.
    Babs, the classification I referred to above is made by Transparency International. You can check their website for more information in this regard.

  3. In wars you only die one. In Syria you die everyday. I feel the agony wherever I’m or may go. I don’t need festivals, all I need is a clean air to breath, a lovely home to be in, and an equal place for all of us.
    I know what they’re trying to do, they’re trying to show their selves as great leaders that made a lot for the county. All the people are happy, celebrating and dancing in the streets of faked freedom. Well I’m not ready to dance yet, and for Damascus, it’s now just a capital for the gangs, and for the Arab nomads. While in my heart it will always be the essence for the world cultures, and of course the capital of my beautiful Syria.

  4. I’m happy to hear this clarification because the memory of salvador allende should not be sullied.Bashar regime is even worse than Pinochet’s regime.

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