Father, Where Art Thou?

I have been meaning to talk to you. Oh, if I could only talk to you. If you could only see what is happening. I am sure you can, wherever you are. See how everything seems to be falling apart. Everything that you built, everything that you gave me, what you asked me to take care of before you left, what belongs to us. Nothing seems to be like it used to…

If you could only stand in my shoes. If you could only feel my hatred, my rage, as I see these people on the streets, screaming my name, desecrating my picture, calling for my death. How can they be so ungrateful to me, to you? After everything we have done for them, all that we have given them. The history of this great nation that we have instilled in them. The pride of being from this noble land. Isn’t that enough? We have prospered, we are stable. Why isn’t that enough?

But you were once in my shoes, I remember. How you managed things in Hama[1], so gracefully, so swiftly. Nobody ever heard of anything again. Mother told me to follow in your footsteps, and I have, but what am I doing wrong? There are no more empty cells in our prisons, no more empty spaces in our morgue.

…What more am I supposed to do with these rascals, filling the streets, thinking they know what they are talking about wanting the regime to fall?

…What more am I supposed to do with these scoundrels, writing about humanity, rights, human rights, thinking that all this belongs to our country? It belongs to the West, and when the West comes, I tell them what they want to hear, and they buy it, as they always have. Do you think our people are ready for free speech, for freedom of assembly, for rights?

…And what more am I supposed to do with these children, your son may have taken it a bit too far, displaying their wounded bodies for the whole world to see, but how are we to shape the future with such insolence roaming the streets, haven’t their parents taught them who they owe respect, who to pay allegiance to?

Things have changed since you’ve been gone. I’ve been trying to work on the economy, improving people’s lives, tourism was booming and tourists flocked to see Old Damascus. Yes, there may be some corruption, but which country doesn’t have corrupt elements in its midst? Some of those who used to be close to you have now left to other ventures, some like Abdel Halim[2] even think they can call themselves opposition members, portraying themselves as some sort of saviors, when they were as implicated in the system as we are. And of course more Sunnis in the opposition like Burhan Ghalioun[3], who thinks he can lead a country as easily as he leads a class at Sorbonne.

Part of me wants to believe this is a conspiracy of some sort. But part of me feels we’ve been betrayed or cursed by some evil force I have no control over. Erdogan seems to believe he is Sultan Erdogan, that I head a province in his empire, as he preaches to me about rights, about reform. Unleashing the Turkish Kurds on him in the north doesn’t seem to have the effect that it used to. Israel doesn’t seem to be able to back us up anymore, its head is spinning with the mess in Egypt and Iran’s nuclear drama. I only hope it knows what awaits it if we fall. Russia we have on our side for the time being, but the U.S doesn’t seem to buy our lies anymore.

Things in the region have changed. I hope you’ve been keeping track of those who’ve died and been toppled, I would rather not talk about it all over again. I don’t think I’ll end up like some of them did, I mean, I know the people hold a special place in their hearts for us. Amid all the chaos, we have had regular demonstrations supporting us, to show the rest and the world how strong we are. Today we need to pay many of them, I like to see it as providing certain incentives to participate, but they would go regardless, I am certain.

Somewhere things haven’t changed, yes, you guessed, our little brothers across the border. Lebanon is still a mess and will always be. You should see how those who used to crawl to get our blessing are now whining night and day for our demise, and those who are still our allies, are scared for their fate if we fall. I know those who truly care for us, and there are those who are loyal, the Hezb being one of them, but they aren’t many, and you know that.

I know that we will not easily give up what we have acquired, what you built and gave us. But I also wonder if I will end up like Hosni or Zein al Abedin. Your grandchildren are safe though, you don’t need to worry. I just wish things could go back to the way they used to.

Oh father, where art thou when I need you the most?

[1] In 1982, former Syrian President Hafez Al Asad, father of current president Bashar, crushed a revolted by the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Hama killing tens of thousands of Hama residents. Also known as the Hama Massacre.

[2] Abdel Halim Khaddam served as Syrian vice president from 1984-2005. He is currently living in exile in France.

[3] Burhan Ghalioun is a Syrian professor of political sociology at Sorbonne University and current head of the opposition Syrian National Council.

3 Replies to “Father, Where Art Thou?”

  1. Your story is unfair, and you know it. You see the difference between the popular revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain, and the armed provincial rebellions in Libya and Syria, don’t you? A minority view was imposed on the silent majority of the population of Libya with help from the mightiest military on earth, do you qualify this as a popular movement? A clearly fringe-sized Syrian armed rebellious faction is stirring revolt sentiments in some provinces of Syria, what are the Syrians supposed to do: wait for the calamitous fate they could share with Libya? Do you think the silent majority of Syrians, including populations from Damascus and Aleppo, women, the young, intellectuals and artists, farmers and merchants, are supportive of the Deraa extremists whose leadership is in Turkey and bank accounts probably in Qatar?
    Assad, just like Kaddafi, is surely a dictator, but can we from the comfort of our homes wish a civil war on multi-confessional Syria? Can we wish for the Syrians what happened to the Libyans? A minority imposing its will on the silent majority by force and foreign intervention? You see, the process in Egypt and Bahrain did not succeed, however hope is still there the people will ultimately triumph, because a civil war was not instigated and the people did not call on NATO to destroy their country. In Libya however, hope is gone for at least decades, and the rebel thugs will reign in no way better than the previous dictatorship, I fear. Keep hopes alive in Syria! Say no to the armed rebels, they clearly do not have the silent majority behind them. Let the Syrians peacefully come to the streets and the squares, and even if it does not succeed the sacrifices will not be lost, they will become the ferments of future upheavals and changes, and hence keep the hopes alive. Diving into civil war is evil, it is surely not a courageous rebellion.
    We saw the people gather and write and make speeches and draw cartoons and make festive dinners and make communal prayers in the squares of Cairo and Alexandria.
    In Libya, until the rebels took over forcefully by arms the city of Benghazi, all we saw are people running and telephone footage. That is what you are now seeing in Syria. Don’t you see the potential for misinformation. Don’t you see any resemblance with Libya’s events?
    If the people of Syria were firmly behind the actions of the traitors in Turkey, they would come to the streets and assemble in Damascus and elsewhere and organize siting and camps, and show the will of the people: they are not less courageous than the people of Egypt or Tunisia.
    They are just not convinced by the methods of the Syrian Rebellion, and as I hope the best for the people ofSyria, I sure hope those rebels will not get to their goals, even if they have to be crushed. No to civil war, no to military external intervention. Keep the hopes of the future Syrian Spring alive!

    1. Thanks Martial for your comment, I can see you follow the events of the Middle East region very closely.
      Perhaps it would be better to take note of other points of view while you do so, since there are always two sides of the story. Of course other points of view are always hard to find here, and majority/minority arguments are simple and easy classifications to use. Yet these days, as the Arab people have found the courage to shout their side of the story, after years of oppression, shattering so-called minority/majority myths, we face a more interesting and dynamic political discourse. No story is unfair except to those who are unwilling to see the truth.

      No person in their right mind wishes a war onto another country. I hope that isn’t what you took away from the post, because in no way is it implied. Moreover, for someone who hails from the Middle East, I don’t wish a war nor on Syria nor on any country. Countries of the Middle East have seen a lot of wars, and some have even seen civil wars hands on, it is from this “comfort of my own home” that I will speak of civil war or any kind of war.

      1. I mostly agree with your points.

        I also did not mean you personally were wishing a civil war or an aggression on Syria. That is obvious to me, you are writing out of genuine empathy with the Syrian people.

        However, although I am neither blind, nor insensitive to the suffering of many Syrians under the current Syrian regime, I can’t naively accept as facts all the media onslaught on Syria, which I can easily identify as a propaganda machine aimed at softening the target, and making it ripe for Western post-colonial intervention. Whether by illegal aggression like in Irak ’03, “humanitarian” war like in Libya ’11, or CIA managed internal coup like in Iran ’53.

        If you see and identify the end result sought after by Western powers, helped by client Arab countries, all the rest becomes a travesty: the fraternal activism, the human rights blabber, the massacre pseudo-stories, the exaggerated “demonization” of the regime, all of that is just useful decoration to make the crime pill easier to swallow for us people with no power.

        With your permission, I ask readers of your blog entry a few questions that should help clarify the issues :
        a) Are Saudi Arabia and Qatar models of democracies? How can they be pressuring for regime change in Syria in the name of human rights and democracy?
        b) Are the US, France, the UK, sincerely worried about justice and democracy in the Arab World, in Africa, in the Arabian Gulf? How come they support Saudi Arabia? What about Saudi Arabia’s military help in crushing the popular MAJORITY movement in Bahrain? Why don’t they impose sanctions on Israel when it strikes civilian population with phosphorous bombs in Gaza or Lebanon?
        c) If those countries then, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, France, the US, the UK, are leagued in their menacing stand against Syria, what should one conclude? Does it raise any alarms? Does Irak ring a bell? How about Suez ’56?
        d) Is the civil war in Libya preferable to the autocratic regime under Kaddafi? Wasn’t possible to hope the Libyans change their government peacefully in the future without jeopardizing their countries human, social, and economical well-being? Wasn’t better to hope for a Tunisian-style popular upheaval, or even Tahrir-style? Even though these processes are far from perfect or completion, why is it OK to prefer civil war, death and destruction for a few states, and let the others reform slowly?
        e) Are we Arabs should always be dealt with with contempt, reshuffling our governments through wars and coups? Is it only of our making, or are the Western interventions the main agents of fragility?
        f) And finally to the Lebanese owner of this blog : don’t you think it is “Kafkaiesque” to hold a whole country hostage for 6 years now and with no end in sight, to a grotesque international tribunal on an internal assassination of an ex head of government? Is it really what is in the interest of Lebanon to have this sword of Damocles above its head forever? Was this the only crime committed in Lebanon, was it the gravest? Are the powers insisting on dividing the Lebanese with this device so much interested in justice and progress for Lebanon? Should’t we just tell them to buzz-off and move on with what would really be forward-looking for OUR country?

        All of these questions are related. They show in my opinion the thread of control through division that the major powers with interests in the region have been weaving and will keep on weaving in the foreseeable future.

        For the Syrian opposition to be patriotic and constructive, it have to be broad-based, genuinely popular (not ethnical, regional, etc.), peaceful (Syria is a fragile country), and ABOVE ALL independent, exactly contrary to what we have seen from the current “rebels” roaming in Turkey, Tunisia, and Paris. How can you take them seriously if they ask for a no-flight zone, à la Chalabi (Irak), or for UN protection (read NATO intervention) à la NTC (Libya)? Absolutely unpatriotic!

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