Archive for August, 2011

A late afternoon weekend market in Hama, Syria, back in 2006. In the background is the city famed Noria (ancient water-wheel).

These past days, I have been following the news from Syria in disbelief.

What surprises me the most is not the Syrian government’s defiance against international pressure, sending in tanks and shells to quell rebellions in Hama and other cities; the unexpected are images of Syrians taking to the street openly.

“We don’t talk about politics,” this line parroted by nearly all Syrians I met during my travel there in late 2006 still ring in my ears, and the violently muted reactions of Syrians whenever I broached into domestic politics filled pages of my diary.

Back then, I had arrived in Syria shortly after the 34-day war in neighboring Lebanon, the fighting ground for Israeli and Hezbollah military forces. The Syrians displayed their solidarity with Hezbollah, Lebanese, and Palestinian victims in the conflict by putting up “anti-war posters” in the streets; laymen became learned commentators of the conflict, everyone had a piece to say about the US-Israel conspiracy against the Arab and Muslim world, and anti-Zionist views abound.

But, the moment I tried to veer the conversations to domestic politics, I rammed into a wall of silence. “We don’t talk about politics,” came the reply, end of candid conversations, and in a forced-polite manner, I would be showed the door out of teahouse, carpet shop, cobbler stall, local home, etc. (more…)

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