here, there, everywhere

Is It Safe Yet?

In At home, Middle East, Syria on June 17, 2007 at 9:19 am

The biggest problem with living in Syria was that I was muzzled from commenting on anything political, muzzled because I wanted to stay and check it out without getting kicked out.  But now that I’m out of the country I’ve finally got my tongue back.

Last month the country had an election, or rather, a referendum.  About 4 weeks earlier there was a first election where civic officials, ministers, and the current president were voted in for another 7 year term.  So the referendum was something like this:  Do you want the president to stay president for the next 7 years?  Answer: Yes or No

The week before the referendum all these tents appeared around the city and every night there was a party.  Free t-shirts, coffee, marches, banners, dancing, lots of music pumped out of crappy speakers, road jams everywhere.  One song went something to the effect of, ‘Save our president and Nasrallah, too.’  Then the election/referendum.  The vote was almost unanimous, 97.4% said yes. N ow I heard that seven years ago the vote was 99%, so where did those 1.6% yessers go?  Everyone who voted got a free candy.  You also had the option of voting in blood.

To celebrate the “victory” there was another week of partying following the referendum.  The same crazy gigs going on around the city, songs, dancing, etc.  I got stopped by the police at one of the marches because I was writing ‘something’.  They tried to read my writing – English speakers can’t even read it so how could these guys?  I was allowed to go and so I did because the march was boring.  But it is fun seeing fireworks every night, fired off by two-year olds unattended by their parents.

There are lots of billboards with pictures of different people and English slogans, things like, “I believe in equality”, “I believe in freedom”, “I believe in children”.  Then a picture of the president beside all of them, “I believe in Syria.”  I think his phrase should be prefaced with, “Yeah? Well fuck you! I believe in Syria!”  Having said that, I do think he is a decent guy and even though his hands are severely tied by his cabinet, the country could do much, much worse.

I think our Prime Minister could use this P.R. engine, it’s simply amazing at how much support you can get for the only contender.

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