Geopolitics

Syria’s 'Day Of Glory' Awaits Demise Of Assad Monarchy

Essay: Syrian-born filmmaker Charif Kiwan provides a Mediterranean history lesson and salutes those daring to defy the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. But he knows the dictator will not cede power easily.

Giant billboard of Assad in Damascus
Giant billboard of Assad in Damascus
Charif Kiwan

I'm writing from Syria. The day of glory (as celebrated in the French Revolutionary anthem "La Marseillaise") is still a long way off. But the flag of freedom is flying high. It was raised by the children who broke the code of silence by writing on their school walls that the king had no clothes. As a result, dozens of these children were arrested in Damascus, Daraa and Alep; hundreds of adults then took to the streets and were in turn arrested or massacred; soldiers refused to shoot at protesters defying the state of emergency that has been in place since 1963. The king stands naked, and the story has reached the end.

But the king is still hanging on, because unlike his other Arab counterparts, the Syrian president has two bodies: the body of a tyrant and the body of a resistance fighter. The first is dying, sick with the same disease that carried off Ben Ali and others. But the second is standing strong, embodying national aspirations fed by the nostalgia of a latter-day Syria cut to pieces by the evil 1916 Sykes-Picot agreements that "remodeled the Middle East."

The first is hated because it is associated with a regime that has turned repression into anthropophagy and nepotism into incest, while the second is the object of a certain national pride. This pride is born out of the endless humiliation the country has endured since the Arab defeat in June 1967, making the young blue-eyed leader, the country's ultimate general, the only Arab leader capable of standing up to the old crusader, George W. Bush. He is also the only Arab leader to support the suicidal guerillas of Hezbollah and Hamas, determined to pave the way for the liberation of Jerusalem. And finally, the only Arab leader claiming to work for the advent of an undivided Arab nation, rid of the Zionist entity.

The king is very much alive. He just has to hide his body of a sick tyrant underneath the one of besieged resistance fighter holding out in a Syrian Masada that he built for himself. I'm worried that once again the whole world will help him out. Of course, in each of their interests, Americans, Europeans and Israelis will be tactful and helpful in order to prevent the region from going up in flames because of the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah-Hamas axis, while the Libyan front is still wide open.

As for Syrians they will have to resign themselves to this fate, because they know very well that the Assad regime's fall will come at a price: the implosion of the Syrian republic, this mysterious entity created by the French empire in 1941, which Syrians have tried to turn into a viable state that can somehow reflect their national aspirations.

Despite being misappropriated, distorted, demeaned, these national aspirations are engraved in the souls of Syrians. It's what led them to accept the dictatorship of the Baath party. But the young protesters challenging the emergency laws created by the Baath party half a century ago seem less resigned then their fathers. Their slogans call out against the Syrian regime as well as its anti-Israeli partners, Iran and Hezbollah. These same young people also accuse the army of high treason for deserting the occupied Golan Heights front to defend an illegitimate regime.

The king will only die when he'll no longer have a substitute body at his disposition, when he will no longer be able to use the liberation of some occupied national territory as an excuse, or have a reason to invoke the need for national unity. But this doesn't depend on the children who've taken the initiative of breaking their fathers' chains of voluntary servitude.

Who then does it depend on? Look and you'll see, says the Syrian wise-man Mousa Abadi, who risked his life to save the children of France being hunted down by the militiamen of a certain General Petain (leader of the Vichy government which collaborated with Nazi Germany during WWII).

I'm writing from France. Here, the day of glory has long since arrived. But we have trouble hearing the children on the other side of the Mediterranean, so mistreated by their king now laid bare. The thought haunting us is whether these children wear beards or not, whether they might one day try to invade our lands, whether they favor good relations across the Sea that unites us. We are also busy trying to ease our conscience by waging a just war against a Libyan tyrant to whom we were trying to sell, just a few short years ago, French-made fighter planes and nuclear power plants.

Read the original article in French

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Mariam Nabattu, a religious studies teacher, must work at two schools in central Uganda to make ends meet.

Patricia Lindrio/GPJ Uganda
Edna Namara and Patricia Lindrio

KAMPALA — Allen Asimwe has dedicated more than two decades to teaching geography at a large public high school in southwestern Uganda. Her retirement age, as a public servant entitled to benefits, is just six years away.

She doubts she will wait that long.

“I am determined, I want to quit,” she says, calculating that she could earn more by shifting full time to the salon she opened six years ago to supplement her income. “Given the frustration, I cannot continue in class anymore.”

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