Geopolitics

In Damascus, War And Shame Conquer Love

Damascus, before the war arrived ...
Damascus, before the war arrived ...
Farah*

-Essay-

DAMASCUS — Last month, I was in a bar with a friend, and I met a nice guy who, a long time ago, I knew only by name. We exchanged numbers, and after a couple of random meetings I could sense his interest in me, and his willingness to take things further.

I'd love to have a partner and a happy relationship, regardless of where it might go. He is an educated writer, artist, a feminist – in short, a perfect fit for me! Except for one detail: He used to be strongly loyal to Bashar al-Assad and his regime. He was fiercely opposed to the revolution and would defend the regime in any way. No wonder we never crossed paths: We had different circles of friends and acquaintances; We lived in different worlds.

When I finally asked him about his views on the current situation in our country, he told me: "Only when the war reached my neighborhood in 2013 did I realize that both sides were liars. Today, they both mean nothing to me." He was very aware of my political views and my history with activism, so we didn't take the conversation any deeper.

We never talked about it again, avoiding any "bad vibes," but I must say that his words stuck in my head. They resurfaced every time I pictured us together and left me with no choice but to erase that picture completely.

After five years of living in these circumstances of war and political conflict, I have reached a point where I can easily be around people who may not share my way of thinking, but only if the meetings are occasional and never last too long.

With this man, I simply couldn't reconcile the idea that he had been so loyal to the regime and so misled. I couldn't see where his educated brain and artistic soul were back then. I simply couldn't take it further. After three weeks of dating, I called him, and we met for lunch in a restaurant near his workplace. Although I spent hours before our meeting rehearsing the speech I was planning to give, all I managed to say was: "I can't see us together. I am unable to start any relationship in the current period. I have tried but we can't be anything other than friends." I couldn't tell him the real reason.

He smiled and gave me that look, the one full of anger and questions. But as we continued to talk, I eventually told him the real reason: that the problem was a moral one. I apologized if this seemed immature. He expressed his disappointment, but we ended up shaking hands and kissing goodbye.

Sense of shame

Now that I think about it and put myself in his shoes, it seems unfair to judge our relationship according to his history. But the Syrian revolution has been so deeply ingrained in us that we can no longer deal with it as a mere difference in political opinion. We carry a deep wound and an overwhelming feeling of shame towards our friends who have died or gone missing.

My whole mentality is based on these facts, on what I have seen with my own eyes, so there is a huge part of me that this man can never understand. This same reasoning applies also to me in some way; I will never be able to understand how he still has respect for certain regime leaders and can defend their actions.

I haven't heard from him since our lunch. I don't regret anything I did. I know my actions weren't heroic, but they raise questions that we will all someday have to think about. How will any one of us manage to move beyond the war? I don't think I ever will.

*Farah (a pen name) is a young Syrian woman who lives in Syria's capital city Damascus with her family.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

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

4.9%

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

📣 VERBATIM

"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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