Thursday, December 08, 2005


Andre Pavrot, ex- director of the Louvre Museum , used to say: all civilized man has two mother countries: his own and Syria. Syria has to declare as its own inventions in the last 9 thousand years, nothing but agriculture, bronze and the alphabet. (Colleagues writers: it is here where fraud started). Moving in time, and trying to cross the street in Aleppo between hundreds of yellow cabs playing Syria’s national hymn (the blast) one is tempted to think that civilization moved from Syria and never returned. Anyway, Syria is one of the few places where excentric suicidal people can be run over by 404 or a Buick ' 55 without much difficulty.

Getting to Syria from Turkey was to cross a political and cultural boundary. As always, the first impression is just aesthetic: a frontier moved by crowds of people, who proudly show a piece of cloth wrapped on their heads. On the other side, everything that moves and has tyres must be a cab and finding cars that are not cabs is difficult. My first contact with a driver was bizarre. A taxi driver stopped his car on the side of the road, jumped out of the car and exclaimed¨Welcome to Syria!¨(he wanted to sell a trip to Aleppo). ¨Where are you going?¨-he enquired. At that moment a Hudson 50 passes through smoothly disregarding time. I don’t know whether to hitch-hike or pray for a litghning to distroy me..I just claim ¨beautiful!¨, so the taxi driver starts scratching his head showing his ignorance. He didn’t know any city with that name!
When we were in Aleppo, where you can hardly see foreigners, a group of people approaches. We chat: ¨Argentina? Mar del Plata? Oh..thanks for prottesting against Bush, really, thank you...¨I feel proud. In Syria things are not calm at all. It is hard not to glance at the pictures of the president Bashar Al Asad when strolling around the city, usually the president is represented next to his father and the ex-president Hafez Al Asad, who led a totalitarian government for 30 years, installing a presidential dynasty. (not far away from Cafiero).

The current president is focus of international tensions in relations to the murder of the Libanese Hairi, and the main suspect for the international community (that is, for George Bush) is Syrian intelligence. As far as it goes, tensions are improving. Internal support to the president Bashar is growing against every single threat from the White House, with crowds of people in Damasco and Aleppo. As Irak is still being occupied, this is like deja vú. But, cretaing a paralelism would be very courageos .

It is clear that there is oficial propaganda, but it is true that most Syrian people proudly respect their president. The fact that an islamic society and worship to a president can coexist is very strange. Islam is (iconoclasta): there are no human representations in the decorations of Mosques. Islamic art is abstract and geometric, not influenced by leaders and saints.
However, going back in time, we discover that the theory of the divine origin of power appeared in Mesopotamia, so things get clearer. But, what do Syrian people think?

This week I met people from every social stage. Bayan, a sixth-year medicine student, is atheist, and in his efforts to escape islamic close society he thought about the formula that equals America to paradise. He complains about Syrian constitution, which states that ¨the country will be ruled by one political party, which will be led by one man¨. He believes that Syrian intelligence murdered Hariri , though the USA should not be part of this. Bayan hopes to finish his studies in order to get a one-way ticket to any place.

My second hosts were on the other extreme, three literature students who love their president as if he was their father, without criticism. On Wednesday we woke up suddenly: from the streets one could hear the applauses after Bashar´s speech answering to northamerican threats: ¨I am Bashar, I wont give up, and you must know that Syrian people will not give up as well¨. At the very moment, they were broadcasting a hymn-like song composed by distinguished Syrian artists, in favour of their president. My friends proudly translated: Damasco will be a pin in the intrusor´s eye¨.

The most interesting of my new friends is Okbaa. He is intelligent and sensitive, he also studies medicine, and is member of The Sirian Social National Party. The party was founded by a Libanese called Saadi, who was expatriated for 30 years to Argentina and Brazil before coming back in the 40’s promoting an ideal union of Great Syria. Saadi-just as Okbaa-thinks that Siria, Lebon, Jordan and Irak are the same civilazation, artificialy divided after english-french coloniaism. According to Okbaa, Hariri is the USA´s Troyan horse in Siria. A am amazed when my firiend tells me that, in case there was an American invasion he would not turn on the TV, he would get a rifle. Okbaa believes that his young president Bashar will lead the path to a modern, multi-party, democratic Syria.

There is something that is clear, people in Syria believe they can find their own way to a true democracy. I don't really think that is close to happen. Any way, nobody believes that democracy will come on top of American tanks. About Bashar: though he is a bit demagogic, he is not like Saddam, who sleeps with his gun under the pillow. He is a professional oftalmologist, and used to work in a clinic in England before he became president.

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