The Struggle for Syria's Regions

by Kheder Khaddour , Kevin Mazur
published in MER269

In August 2013, as the United States was preparing to attack Syria over the use of chemical weapons, a chant echoed through ‘Alawi areas of Homs: “Strike, strike, buddy, we want to loot Tel Aviv” (idrab idrab ya habib, bidna n’affish Tall Abib). The couplet draws on a familiar position in Baathist discourse -- resistance to the American-Zionist project for the region -- but the means of resistance it espouses departs from the standard of national sacrifice in favor of something far more local. The term for looting, ‘afsh, is slang that comes from a word for furniture.

Books on Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER125

John F. Devlin, Syria: Modern State in an Ancient Land (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983).

Robert Olson, The Baath and Syria, 1947-1982 (Princeton, NJ: The Kingston Press, 1982).

Umar F. Abd-Allah, The Islamic Struggle in Syria (Berkeley, CA: Mizan Press, 1983).

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Syrian Drama and the Politics of Dignity

by Rebecca Joubin
published in MER268

Undeterred by pleas for mercy, the high-ranking intelligence officer Ra’uf pushes the junior ‘Azzam to his knees. Ra’uf forcibly shaves the young man’s head as other officers look on. He commands ‘Azzam to remove his shirt and pants, do pushups, jump up and down, and slide across the ground on his elbows. When another officer pounds him with a bat, ‘Azzam breaks down. Crying that he has had enough, he grabs a gun, shooting into the air and then at Ra’uf’s feet. He orders Ra’uf and the others onto the ground, gathers his clothes and runs away. When Ra’uf presses charges, an exceptionally kind mukhabarat officer says, “I saw how you humiliated him and induced him to carry a gun.”

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER268

A major victory for the hawks in the post-Vietnam era was to define “intervention” as military action and its opposite as inaction.

Thus, in the recurrent debate over what to do about the civil war in Syria, the options are reduced to some sort of US strike, on the one hand, and nothing, on the other. Or so the media presents the matter. When reports surfaced in August of a chemical attack on civilians in the Damascene hinterland of Ghouta, most outlets took President Barack Obama at his word that he had to enforce his “red line” by cruise missile or abandon the Syrian people to the regime’s bloody whim.

Breaking Point

The Crisis of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

by Omar S. Dahi | published September 25, 2013

One of the many plot lines lost in the summertime discussions of a US strike on Syria is the pace of refugee movement out of the country. As it stands, the refugee crisis is overwhelming and likely to stay that way. Another external military intervention would further accelerate the mass flight and exacerbate what is already a humanitarian emergency.

Khoury, Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism

by James A. Reilly
published in MER134

Philip S. Khoury, Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism: The Politics of Damascus, 1860-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

This is the latest in a growing number of studies which discuss the social origins of political ideologies in the Arab East. Philip Khoury sets himself the task of explaining the development of Arab nationalism in Damascus through an analysis of the class-conditioned political behavior of the city’s landowner-bureaucrats.

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Sulayman, al-Masalla

by Ulrike Stehli
published in MER134

Nabil Sulayman, al-Masalla [The Obelisk] (Beirut: Dar al-Haqa’iq, 1980).

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Portraits of Syrian Workers

by Elisabeth Longuenesse
published in MER134

The Dibs Company Workers

The United Arab Industrial Company, also known as the Dibs Company after its former owners, is a large textile factory located in a rural area south of Damascus. It was founded in 1955 and nationalized in 1964. In 1980, it had 1,660 employees, nearly 200 of whom were administrative personnel. The following portraits of Dibs Company workers are drawn from interviews conducted in March 1980.

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The Syrian Working Class Today

by Elisabeth Longuenesse
published in MER134

What is the position of the working class in contemporary Syrian society? I posed this question ten years ago and concluded at the time that one could only speak of a “class in formation.” [1] I was criticized then for having even raised such a question. After all, pre-capitalist relations of production in Syria have disintegrated, the artisan class has declined, there are increasing numbers of large capitalist enterprises employing an ever larger number of workers, and a class-based trade union movement emerged a half century ago. So it is tempting to conclude that the working class has in fact established itself as an actor on the Syrian social scene. But its obvious weakness in contemporary politics and society continues to raise a number of questions.

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Palestinians in Damascus

The Democratic Front and the PFLP

published in MER134

The assault on the Palestinian camps in Beirut ended in a truce signed in Damascus on June 17, which reflected the failure of Amal to defeat the Palestinian militias. The agreement also reflected Syria’s role in the battles by having the Palestinian side represented only by the Palestine National Salvation Front (PNSF). MERIP correspondent Mark Garfield visited Damascus in early July and spoke about the situation with Jamil Hilal, a member of the central committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and with Taysir Qubba, deputy head of political relations for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The DFLP is not affiliated with the PNSF; the PFLP is.

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