Syria and the two headed monster

Silvia Veroli | October 11, 2013

Below is an English translation made by Silvia Veroli herself. The Italian original can be found here

“In Syria we are now faced with a two-headed monster: the Assad regime and Al-Qaeda. Contrary to what many believe, the two more often cooperate than fight. Moderates are their common enemy. In order to understand this point, go to Google Earth, look up Raqqa City and zero in on it. You will find a big structure at the outskirt of the city, this is the governor’s palace, but it has been occupied by Al-Qaeda for months now, and this is common knowledge, but Assad’s air force has so far targeted hospitals, schools, and civilian neighborhood and never once did it target the palace. If AQ is Assad’s enemy why not target its positions? They are pretty known. But Assad needs AQ to fight moderate rebels and score points with the international community”. 

So speaks Ammar Abdulhamid whose parents are known stars in the drama industry in Syria and who lived for a while in Moscow then in United States where he majored in astronomy and history. During his promotion of his controversial novel “Menstruation” (Italian edition Tropea, 2004) Abdulhamid, who says he a liberal, noted that he had a long spiritual experience taking him on a discovery of Catholicism and Islam before he became an atheist. On his return to Syria, he worked as a business consultant, founded a publishing house, and wrote short stories, poems and novels in English which gave him fame, good reviews and the label of heretic. Menstruation tells the story of a twisted pair of Westernized Syrian intellectuals, a wife freed through a Sapphic discovery of love, and a young man confused by his unusual sense of smell and his ability to recognize, from among a thousand, a menstruating woman. After almost ten years since that time, Ammar is now back in the United States, in exile. The Arabic version of Newsweek include him among the most influential personalities of the Arab world today primarily as a political activist and a blogger who now calls himself an agnostic. Syria, on the other hand, is no longer the country that was in 2004.

What happened to you in 2005?

“It happened that Assad’s brother-in-law and then head of his military security apparatus told me to leave the country, or let’s say he gave me a chance to leave the country before something bad happens. I had written a number of articles critical of Bashar Al-Assad, calling for civil disobedience, and accusing Assad of masterminding the Hariri assassination in Lebanon. I also described Assad as  a “moron” and a Fredo Corleone in interviews with international press. I ended up coming to the United States with my wife and our children. But this did not stop us from continuing, from our base in Maryland, to write and to operate our network of pro-democracy activists inside Syria known as Tharwa (meaning “Wealth” in Arabic), which was dedicated to promoting better relations between the country’s different communities.”

The religious element was in the past central of Ammar’s narrative, today it also connotes the Syrian issue, and has underlined the sentiments expressed by Pope: 

“Unfortunately, His Holiness seems to be ill-informed about the situation. He has also waited too long to stake a position. His genuine concern for the future of the Christian community is shared by so many of us, especially as they seem to be held hostage both by the Assad regime and AQ. But by focusing solely on the fate of Syria’s Christian communities, His Holiness unwittingly encourages this trend, and in effect helps consecrate the isolation of the Christian communities and their further victimization by extremists from both sides. We really need to hear His Holiness speak out in a clear manner in support of the democratic aspirations of all the communities in Syria, and to call on the international community to adopt serious measures to stop the fighting, stand up to extremists on both sides, and bring all sides to the negotiating table.”

The writer activist has no conciliatory words even for the U.S. President: 

“President Obama belongs to a neoliberal school that believes that America should not be the world’s sheriff. So far, this seems reasonable, but the problem here is that he seems to think that he can withdraw from the world now without creating an alternative that can fill the void he would leave behind. As result, in Syria, that void was filled by Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and AQ, not the most wonderful assortment of powers. President Obama seems to want UN to fill that void. Passing the buck to the UN is shirking responsibility for leadership. It means giving up responsibility. This attitude stems from a vision of the United States that puts her in a position similar to that of Israel, making her a fortress nation surrounded by helpless enemies who can only scratch and bite. This is a foolhardy attitude that invited and encourages attacks against the U.S. The only apparent result of this strategy has been the weakening of Al-Qaeda, but developments in Syria, Yemen and Kenya indicate that this trend has been reversed. Why? Obama’s policy on Syria bears much of the blame. But the president and his administration seem oblivious of all this, and they see victory in their deal with Russia over Syria, even though the deal amounts to a capitulation.”

And what about Putin?

“The butcher of Chechnya wants what’s good for the butcher of Chechnya, namely: to shift the attention of his people away from the corruption, mismanagement and authoritarian tactics of his junta by playing on anti-American and anti-Islamic sentiments and making Pyrrhic diplomatic victories. Perhaps in 2017 when the Russian people commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, they’ll see the wisdom of casting away this fake Czar and his ministers”.

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