Syria's Disabled Future

by Edward Thomas | published May 14, 2013

Jamal is not yet a teenager. His school closed in 2011, soon after the Syrian revolution turned into an armed conflict, and his father found him a factory job. One day in 2012 as he returned from work there was a battle going on in the main street near his home. Jamal immediately started carrying wounded children smaller than he is to shelter in a mosque. Then Syrian army reinforcements arrived, clearing the streets with gunfire and hitting Jamal in the spine. The youngsters who took him to the hospital advised him to say that “terrorists” had caused his injury. But Jamal did not want to lie -- he told the doctors that a soldier had fired the bullet. The doctors told him to shut up and say it was the terrorists. But they treated him anyway.

Testimony of a Syrian Censor

"Journalists in Syria are an extinct species"

published in MER149

He does not wish to be identified because he believes that the long arm of the Syrian government will reach him anywhere in the world. Take his word for it, he said, he knew them better than anyone else. He ought to; he was once a censor in the ministry of information. He is also a writer and journalist who would like to continue as such.


Censorship as we know it now in Syria began with the first coup d’état in 1947 which was led by Husni al-Zaim, and which was followed by a series of coups. With each new coup, censorship increased and was further tightened. By the time of the last coup, led by Hafiz al-Asad in 1970, the whole state structure was transformed into one large intelligence and censorship apparatus.

The Syrian Heartbreak

by Peter Harling , Sarah Birke | published April 16, 2013

There was a distinctive sense of national pride in Syria. It flowed from the confidence of a civilization dating back to the times of the earliest alphabets and visible in the country’s wealth of archaeological sites, including some of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It came from the depth of local culture. It stemmed from the music of Syrian Arabic, the elegance of Syrian manners, the finesse of Syrian cuisine and the sincerity of Syrian hospitality. It proceeded from modern geopolitics, too, as Damascus carved out for itself a role bigger and bolder than its scarce resources should have allowed.

Sivan, Radical Islam; Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt

by Michael Gilsenan
published in MER151

Emmanuel Sivan, Radical Islam: Medieval Theology and Modern Politics (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985.)

Gilles Kepel, Muslim Extremism in Egypt: The Prophet and Pharoah (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985.) Translated from the French by Jon Rothschild.


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The Many Roles of Turkey in the Syrian Crisis

by Aslı Ilgıt , Rochelle Davis | published January 28, 2013

On October 4, 2012, the Turkish Grand National Assembly approved a motion, by a vote of 320 to 129, authorizing deployment of the armed forces in “foreign countries,” essentially where and when the government saw fit. It was an expansive, vague-sounding mandate, but in fact there was only one target: Syria.

Repercussions in the Middle East

published in MER152


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Fissures in Hizballah's Edifice of Control

by Mona Harb , Lara Deeb | published October 30, 2012

On August 15, Beirut awoke to the news that more than 20 alleged members of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) had been captured by a group calling itself “the military wing of the al-Miqdad family.” The group had sent footage to the al-Mayadin television network, which was quickly picked up by other local and international channels. In the clip, men dressed in camouflage and black ski masks, and gripping Kalashnikovs, surrounded two prisoners seated in a dark room. A man with his back to the camera posed questions to the prisoners, who replied that they worked for the FSA, on orders from Khalid al-Dahir, a Lebanese parliamentarian affiliated with the Future Movement, the Sunni-majority political party led by Saad al-Hariri.

Human Rights Briefing

by Nabeel Abraham
published in MER160

The bus arrived at Tadmur Prison where the military police awaited us. The warders helped us off the bus, whipping us brutally and mercilessly until we were all out. They removed the handcuffs and blindfolds, and then we were taken into a courtyard overlooked by the prison’s offices, where our names were registered. All the while we were being whipped from all sides. Then we were taken through a metal door into a courtyard, known as the torture courtyard. The military police searched our clothes. One by one we were put into the dullab (tire), and each person was beaten between 200 and 400 times on his feet.... When they had finished beating us, we were lined up in single file.

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Karsh, The Soviet Union and Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER163

Efraim Karsh, The Soviet Union and Syria: The Asad Years (London: Routledge, 1988.)

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To Save Syria, Work with Russia and Iran

by Aslı Bâli , Aziz Rana | published August 15, 2012

As the violence intensifies in Syria, external powers, including the United States, are embracing increasingly belligerent positions. Indeed, in recent days the United States and Turkey have announced plans to study a no-fly zone after calls by many American commentators for a more direct military role.

Although there is no doubt the government of President Bashar al-Asad carries the overwhelming responsibility for the unfolding tragedy in Syria, the attempt to militarily defeat the regime is the wrong strategy if the goals are reducing violence and protecting innocent civilians.