Monday, July 18, 2011

Ship of Fools - My Thoughts on Syria's Opposition Abroad

As'ad Abu Khalil is right in this regards, this guy is an awful orator - and he is representative of many who speak for the Syrian opposition abroad. In fact, I can almost guarantee that he was given credibility as a speaker and an opportunity to speak precisely because many of the older generation of Syrians are so devoid of imagination, so lacking in intellectual ability, that they think the world is impressed by anybody who has a title of "Doctor". This isn't just in Syria, however, but endemic in the Arab world and it is especially rife in Egypt - that's what I've noticed anyway.

Notice that when you speak to somebody who did a Phd in the Middle East that they always insist on being referred to as "Doctor". In fact, notice the plethora of "Doctors" who pepper Arabic satellite channels. Especially "Doctors" on Islamic channels or on government propaganda channels. We have managed to transform an educational title into something that is disgustingly elitist. In the UK, many of my lecturers would be embarrassed if I called them that, they always insisted I call them "Bob" or "Dave" or "James", and I still do.

I was at the demonstration in front of the embassy last week and whilst chatting to a friend of mine, who happened to be a doctor, I saw several people approach him to ask for his card and see if he would be interested in attending their meetings and discussions. One person said that their group already has "four doctors" and that they are always interested in bringing in more "doctors and intellectuals". Naturally I was ignored because I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt but that suited me fine because I could listen to his stupidity without his realising it. If the cross-section I have come across at these demos is representative of Syrian 'intellectuals and doctors', I despair for the country. One of them has this bizarre party called the Wasat Movement, which represents absolutely nothing as far as I can tell and is utterly generic and bland. This man gives out a business card which has "Poet" as his title. What a silly, pretentious man! To give you an idea of how self important and petty this man is, he once had a vicious argument with another opportunist journalist who works for Levant News (an opposition website), Mohammad Fattouh, about who was to speak to the news camera. He was furious that somebody would try to steal or share the limelight with him. Another 'interesting' personality you can come across in the demonstrations, Obeida Nahass, calls himself a "Syrian politician and journalist" on his Twitter profile. I think I will put down that I too am a politician, and a four star general, on my Twitter profile. Many of you might have seen his son on a lot of protest posters or online, a blue-eyed, blond haired toddler with the Syrian flag painted on his face and shouting defiantly- I even saw a pro-regime acquaintance put that on his Facebook profile.

My impression is that these people are opportunistic, unimaginative to the extreme, and politically clueless. I can so easily see them becoming puppets of the United States or Israel, so desperate are they to assume any kind of power whatsoever. That doesn't mean I don't support the toppling of the corrupt and brutal Syrian regime, but with an opposition like this abroad, the future prospects for Syria remain as bleak as they are with the Assad family still in power. On a positive note, the internal opposition in Syria will, I believe, wash away completely these Cold War relics and political dinosaurs. There are people whom I think are completely amazing, people such as Razan Zeitouneh, Haitham Man'aa, Haitham al Maleh, Michel Kilo, Aref Dalileh and the courageous people running the Local Coordination Committees within Syria. The seeds of a future lie with them, and not with these clowns I see at the London demonstrations.

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