Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Jolly Freak Show!

In 2001, and shortly after the outbreak of the Palestinian Aqsa Intifadah, the streets of Damascus got filled with real spontaneous demonstrations organized by student groups, artists and lawyers and professionals from all stripes announcing their support to the Palestinian people and their just demands.

Although, I wrote against the violent character of the Intifadah at the time, I couldn’t but sympathize with the demonstrations taking place in Syria, because they were in a way an expression of a genuine internal frustration with regard to the regime and its security and authoritarian predilections. Many young people in Syria were really itching to be relevant, to count for something, to be active, to take some initiative, to feel that they are participating in the making of their destiny somehow. At least, some seem to have thought, by supporting the Palestinians, they will be supporting a line already endorsed by Bashar and the ruling regime and they will be moving within the established framework of action and, as such, they will not give any reason for anyone to be worried and, therefore, oppressive.

But, what these young people, artists and professionals failed to understand is that, under authoritarian rule, any form of independent initiative is something to be feared and combated, even when it falls well within the established redlines. Why do you think the Baath Party insists on being represented in each and every union and society out there? Total control is only way to ensure obedience and compliance with the will of rulers bent on and addicted to oppression, while independent imitative can easily become uncontrollable and can turn against the authorities.

For this reason, let’s, please, fight any temptation to think that the recent demonstration that took place in Aleppo was anything but another regime-organized freak-show mean to shore up the regime’s sagging internal popularity. The regime is driving the country into a new period of international isolations and sanctions and, as usual in these instances, the regime needs to have popular endorsement of itself and its policies in this regard. But the more demonstrations the regime feels that it needs to field in the streets the higher the levels of its internal angst and uncertainty, and the more embattled it really is.

The Assads want to appear tough, and, in this, they will succeed. They will appear tough and untouchable right to the very end. Let’s just hope that this will be only their end, and not the country’s.

Meanwhile, another jailed author, namely Ghaleb Amir, is reportedly suffering from serious health problems.


Fares and Tony has already noted in their blogs, I have written an article a few days ago for the Daily Star dealing with the Assads’ inborn penchant for crisis and mayhem. I have also given a rather long interview to al-Hurra that will air on Wednesday. It seems fitting here as well to thank my friend, Egyptian Sandmonkey, for his kind words and his photo of me that he has recently posted on his blog.