March 28, 2011
I spent Friday night watching the TV footage from Syria. We are after all in the Twitter, Youtube, Facebook era. Everything is live. In 1991, during the Shiite and Kurdish uprising in Iraq, there was only one satellite dish, and that was in Baghdad. Nobody watched Saddam's massacres.
Now we have footage from Damascus, Deraa and across Syria. Syria is rioting. The crowds in Deraa have turned the Baath regime's slogan of ‘God, Syria and Bashar" into ‘God, Syria and Freedom". The fact that the city of Hama is rioting is a very important sign. In 1982, President Bashar Assad's father Hafiz Assad quashed an uprising there with such force that some say 10,000, others, 20,000 people were killed.
I went to Hama in 1982 via Damascus and Aleppo. The Damascus-Aleppo highway passed through Hama. I will never forget what I saw. The city center looked like Dresden or Berlin during the Second World War. Burnt out buildings, water seeping everywhere from burst pipes... As we approached the military checkpoint, the Syrians in the shared cab couldn't stop crying.
Hama has always been a pious city. It is an important Sunni center. Because it has been ‘blacklisted" by the Baath regime I anticipated that with the ‘winds of freedom" sweeping the Middle East, any uprising there would be put down with a force comparable or perhaps stronger than Gaddafi's.
The revolutionary wave reaches Syria
It is hard to tell what developments in Syria will bring; whether it will be a repeat of the situation in Libya, or Iraq in 2003. How far will it go? That is the question. A friend asked me this yesterday and I replied: ‘I don't know. What's happening in the region confounds all predictions. Analyses based on the past simply don't work."
But there are some ‘yardsticks' we can use to predict what might happen. For example, the Syrian regime will undoubtedly resort to force to stop what is happening. The political-economic leadership, which is based on the Assad-Makhluf clan and the Alawite religious minority, has no choice but to use disproportionate force to remain in power. (Makhluf is the family of the president's mother. Assad's maternal cousin Rami Makhluf is Syria's richest man. Rami's brother Mahir and sister's husband are the country's top security and intelligence chiefs.)
Will Syria do what Tayyip Erdogan suggests?
Will the Bashar Assad regime act on the recommendations of his close friend, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, and start reforms? This is a serious subject of debate. Whether he has the ability to carry out reforms, most of the promises Bashar made over the past 11 years in this area have been on paper only. That's because if Syria were to seriously pursue democratization, it would be impossible for the current mainly Alawite power structure to remain. We're talking about a country that is 75 percent Sunni and whose traditional merchant class based in Damascus and Aleppo is Sunni. Syria is much more important than Libya due to its geopolitical position, its population and the possible consequences of what happens there -- that would directly affect Iran, Lebanon and Israel.
For the past two years Turkey has emerged as an active regional player and power on the international stage, and Syria is a cornerstone in its new Middle East policy. For this reason, what happens in Syria, how it happens and what path is chosen – or not - will have a far greater impact on Turkey's near and medium-term foreign policy than anyone else's. The events in Tunisia, and in particular Egypt, further polished Turkey's international profile. Libya tarnished that somewhat. Just when the government's Libyan policy was coming together, Syria could really give Turkey a headache. My friends no doubt will have more questions for me in the coming days.
Photo - Michael Thompson
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Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
October 18, 2021
Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.
[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.
• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.
• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.
• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.
• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.
• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.
• Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good
Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.
⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials
.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.
✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."
— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.
📈💥 IN OTHER NEWS
Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians
The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:
⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.
☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.
🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.
Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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