Syria's Day After: Sex, Lies, & Videotapes
Welcome to the new Syria, the Syria that defeated the cosmic conspiracy against it!
Those who stood by Syria’s leadership are finally in a position to harvest the fruits of prosperity and progress. In fact, a survey of prominent loyalists’ media outlets will leave you fully convinced of just how vibrant, how full of promise this new Syria is.
Start with Yomyat Kzefeh Hawen Fi Dimash (Diary of a Mortar Shell in Damascus), a loyalist media news site established in early 2014. Gone is the obsession with the sexual practises of the opposition, the infamous jihad al nikah or sexual jihad. Today, the focus is on the sexual practises of the victors. From wife swapping in Damascus, to sexual acts in public parks, and in public baths. From prostitution rings in Damascus, rural Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Tartous, to prostitution rings involving celebrities, Lebanese clients, and ‘adult parties’ organized in restaurants and night clubs. And just in case you think this has always been the case, Yomyat will remind you that incidents of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape have increased by 50% since 2011. How dynamic and modern is this new Syria!
Yomyat is equally consumed with documenting lies, the lies it believes officials are constantly using to defraud Syrians from the prosperity they deserve. Yomyat finds corrupt officials everywhere; in the medical field, in the judiciary, public works, housing, agriculture, industry, tourism, academia, banking, customs, and even in sports. In the news items of Yomyat, we meet corrupt bakers, butchers, and makers and sellers of food products. If you read too many of these, it’s hard to resist the conclusion that the entire country is now corrupt.
Because of the lies of corrupt officials, the new Syria, according to Yomyat, has significant urban and rural poverty. Yomyat doesn’t hesitate to share a UN report which estimates that 80% of the population live below the poverty line. After all, asserts Yomyat, the average income of a government employee is SP50,000, even though a family of four requires at least SP325,000 a month to cover basic necessities of life. Even if you did have sufficient income, Yomyat will make sure you understand that you still have to deal with the shortages; various forms of shortages with various types of official explanations (more lies). Gas shortages, electricity shortages, which come with official reminders to not use gas to warm your home, and to not use electricity to warm your home! Perhaps the implicit message is to simply not attempt to warm your home. Then there is the new culture of queues. Gas queues, people literally dying as they wait in gas queues, bread queues, the unique Syrian phenomenon of queue-rage, and more.
Sahbit al-Jalalah (Her Majesty) another loyalist news site shares detailed and graphic reports of crimes, new crimes that are befitting of the new Syria. Murders, at times for a mere mobile, in Damascus, Jaramana, Hama, Homs, Swaida, and Jableh. Decapitation was once the exclusive trademark of ISIS, but today even common criminals decapitate their victims. Aleppo is described as not only one of the oldest cities in the world, but also as one of the most dangerous.
And then we have the videotapes, videotapes documenting all kinds of ‘new’ and not-so-new behaviour. Maggie Khozam, a once fervent Christian loyalist with peculiar views on genetics and linguistics, is clearly disappointed. Her videos bluntly attack what she regards as the regime’s betrayal of Syria’s secular values, official financial policies, corruption at the Ministry of Reconciliation, but reserves her most scathing attack to a video of Mohamed Qanbad, a member of the People’s Assembly. The video shows Qanbad while he is distributing water bottles to the displaced inhabitants of Eastern Ghouta. Qanbad made the thirsty men gathered around his truck repeat slogans praising the president and condemning Saudi Arabia before they could receive the water bottles. Khozam is disgusted. “Are you supposed to represent the civilized generation?” she contemptuously asks. She adds, “This video is proof that there is no such thing as reform in Syria … and there is no doubt that the president has seen this video … if Qanbad remains a member of parliament after this video it would mean that the entire state from its head to its base is corrupt and should be trashed.”
It is this context that explains the president’s latest speech; a ‘new’ speech that goes out of its way to de-emphasize victory: “We have this romanticized perception at times that we were victorious, though the war is not over.” Not only is the war not over, three additional wars are added to it, including a war against corruption. Perhaps the most significantly ‘new’ aspect of the speech, however is its use of sarcasm (once reserved solely for enemies) to attack those “… who sink deep in flaunting their criticizing muscles…” The day has arrived when the loyalists are attacked. Commenting on the 30 interruptions of chants, poetry and applause in praise of the president, the loyalist celebrity Bashar Ismail posted on his Facebook account, “The hypocrites who kept interrupting the president made me turn off the TV …”.
The day has also arrived when even the loyalists have stopped listening.
*/Dr. Omar Imady was born in Damascus. He is presently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Syrian Studies at the University of St Andrews.
The views & information contained in these posts & articles are strictly those of their authors who are solely responsible for their accuracy and should not be regarded as representing the Centre for Syrian Studies or the University of St Andrews.