Syria and Syrians Today and Yesterday

Below is an interaction between a Guest to my Pool page and me.  The responses remain relevant in regard to the current crisis in Syria.


Guest (not verified) said 10 months ago

“Syrians are a sophisticated people.  They would not support the president as they do if there were not good reasons to do so.  They want unity and peace, and they want the government to be given a chance to introduce the reforms.”

For crying out loud – are you completely oblivious to the nature of the Syrian regime? Do you think people there had a choice about what type of government they ‘enjoyed’? Your comments confirm that you know, as you said on another blog, ‘little about the politics’ there. I think it’s time you desisted from offering specious political commentary. Yes your photos are wonderful, you obviously love Syria and its culture but enough is enough – do you really think your friends are going to be frank with you in the current climate? Helas!


Dear (“Helas!”) Guest,

Sorry I was unable to respond to your comment more fully yesterday. You raise points that are worthy of discussion.

For example, on the question as to whether my friends in Damascus were “truly frank” with me considering “the current climate”, I don’t know the answer to that.  I believe they were sincere, but I can’t possibly know what might have been left unsaid.

However, from being in Damascus over Easter, I was able to gather information which is rarely given any attention in the Australian media.  I have recounted all of this already on my Pool page, so forgive me for repeating some of it here.  For example:

1. Soldiers, police, and security people are being targeted and killed by armed people. (As I have related, the brother-in-law of an old friend was killed along with his two sons and a nephew simply because he was an officer in uniform; also, a close friend rang on Easter Sunday to tell me that soldiers had been shot and killed near his home and in a nearby military hospital.  The story Syrian Australians are talking about now is the recent killing of the head of the Homs secret police and three or four of his officers – they had gone to meet some men who had said they were going to surrender their arms, but it was a ruse.  This particular head was quite young, newly appointed and had recently returned from France after completing a PhD.)

2. For many Syrians, the mainstream Arabic media have lost their credibiliy. There is a propaganda war being waged against Syria.

3.  A majority of people support the president and strongly support the reforms. They want the government to be given a chance to implement the reforms, and for stability to be restored.  They believe in a united Syria. Nonetheless, many people in Syria are confused by what is going on. They are not sure who is still protesting and who are behind the killings of many of the civilians and soldiers etc.

4. There is a push from ‘forces’ and individuals outside Syria to cause violent upheaval in Syria and to stir up divisions within and between communities.  Those individuals and ‘forces’ mentioned include Bandar bin Sultan, former vice-president Khadaam, Hariri in Lebanon, Qaradawi in Egypt, Salafists, Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya etc, the US and Israel. The Lebanese army has captured armed men trying to cross the border into Syria.

I make a point about the Syrian people being ‘sophisticated’ because I sense that in the West, it is often assumed they aren’t. For many years, through satellite TV channels, people in Syria have had access to a much broader range of opinions on ME matters than we have had in Australia.  And they live ME politics.  Of course, like most people in the world, they would be naturally cynical about politicians and people in power.  In Syria over the years, I have heard extemely cynical remarks by locals about the government. Power, money and politics inevitably lead to a dirty mix to some degree, everywhere in the world. (Ideologies and ideologues that claim people can be freed from the “human condition” responsible for this have proven to be very dangerous.)

In Australia, we have a prime minister who supports Israel without qualification. And this has been the case for most of our recent leaders.  Why?  Because of money, power and influence?  In regard to other critical issues, such as climate change, our two major political parties are likely to determine their policies in response to the pressure of powerful lobby groups, for example, the coal, car, oil, and mining industries.  And what about the power of the media?  It is accepted by many people that a party can’t achieve power unless it has the support of the Murdoch press and other major media outlets.

It is true that I know little about politics (though I have an abiding interest in it as it was one of my university majors). But who really knows about what is going on in the political world … anywhere?  There is the surface political world, and there is the stuff being done behind the scenes.  When I think of the ME today, I relate it to some extent to South and Central America and south-east Asia in those decades when the US State Department, the Pentagon, and the US “military industrial” complex played a huge role in determining outcomes across those regions.  Other things which could be added to the mix of influences today would include, for example, the oil industry, the finance industry, the security industry, and Israel.

I have a friend whose father-in-law was a political prisoner in Syria many years ago. Perhaps if I had been born in Syria, I would have been a political prisoner there at some point in my life, too (I have been arrested in Melbourne for commiting a political offense).  But I strongly believe Syria now needs stability, reform and progress, not regression. War is where violent protests, sectarian divisions and the machinations of outsiders can take the country. The mix of power, money, and politics will almost always be ugly, to some degree. That is why concerned individuals who have honourable motives and honourable mentors have to continually beaver away in a non-violent and inclusive manner at contributing to their country’s progress and well-being.




Below is a Slide Show of images taken from Syrian TV most of them after the bomb blasts in Damascus on Saturday 17 March.  People in the streets are responding to the bombings.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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