Saturday, 21 November 2015


I have tried not the write about Syria because I have never been there.  Sure, I am aware of its history, both modern and ancient.  How between the great wars it was a protectorate of France and how the Ottoman Empire ruled.  The Ottomans were smart.  They did not care which tribe one came from nor which god one worships.  All they cared about was service to be empire and that one did not rock the boat. Before that were Mamluks and Mongols, the Crusaders,  Ayyubids, Byzantines and Romans, the Seleucids, the Persians, Assyrians, Hittites and the Phoenicians.  

Syria is recent.   Only her people, their cultures and great cities ever existed.  As a nation, Syria never really existed: she was either the seat of empires or the subject of others.  After World War Two however, Syria the nation rose and fell; even briefly entering a union with Nasser's Egypt.  Under the Ba'ath Party and the rule of the al-Assad, father and son, some sort of heavy-handed normality was established.  Although non-aligned, many of your middle and upper classes received a secular Russian education.  Russia supplied your military but you did not cut links with the French either.  Despite US bans on technological transfers, French oil companies still were free to help develop your oil wealth.  I even hoped one day to visit you, to see ancient Damascus, whose roots go deeper into history that any other city in the world.  I would have also loved to have visited the site of the ancient rebel Palmyra, to see the temples and palaces that remained of Queen Zenobyya's oasis realm.  The city that fought the might of the Roman Empire and almost won.  Yes,  I would have devoted wished to have seen you.

All this was so until the Arab Spring.  Ah, what misery it is to have neighbour turn against neighbour, tribe against tribe.  To endure not only a ruler whose peoples' blood means nothing but also the malice of other nations who would do nothing to help one side or the other.  Instead the conflict was nurtured, and how eagerly the different factions suckled the sour milk of hatred.  The longer the memories of past wrongs,  the more bitter the hurt unleashed.  Did you not notice your only reward was the mirth of your enemies?

Now a new peril has emerged, ISIS, who wish to recreate the Caliphate that never was.  Between the power-at-all-costs fanaticism of al-Assad and the mono-cultural and murderous fanaticism of ISIS, where do the people go?  The choice is either to become a fanatic or to flee.  So many have fled now.  Your neighbours are either full of your people or their gates are barred completely.  Others, especially the young who still have hope, look further afield to Europe but here the welcome is mixed.  Some people and nations welcome you with an open heart.  Others would sooner throw you back into the burning fire that was your home.  Your war spills into the streets of Paris and beyond.  For what?  How will such cruel deeds extinguish the fires that now blaze?

For still Syria burns.  It has become a playground of Hell and a purse for profiteers.  More bombs seem to be the answer offered to a question that is now forgotten: how to bring peace to these lands?

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