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Posts Tagged ‘Syria’


(note: the above video contains gory images, it is shared by a group of Syrians I met on board the ferry)

They hardly look like refugees, they are not disheveled, they seem too cheery and they are in chatty mood, “I from Hama (Syria), he, my brother; this man, from Homs (Syria), our home, da da da da da….” speaking in disjointed English, 18-year-old Afwan emphasizes his point by making a gesture of shooting and mimicking the sound of machine gun in action; behind him, another man in his 20s rolls up his long pants to knee-length to reveal bullet wounds.

I am surrounded by a dozen of Syrians, mostly broad smiling teenagers, on board a ferry from Aqaba, Jordan, to Nuweiba, Egypt, on Friday; they are eager to share stories of their homeland, about the ongoing fights and casualties in the country that has been engulfed by popular uprising and severe crackdowns for months.

It is an expensive ferry, costing 75USD per person for a journey lasting one-and-a-half hour, yet more than half of those on board are Syrians fleeing what they described as “war zone”; Both Jordan and Egypt are just their transit point, as they are heading to Libya for a new leaf of life. “Why Libya? why not Saudi Arabia, or Jordan and Egypt?” I’m puzzled by their choice of final destination, to me, that sounds like jumping from a sinking ship to another.

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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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