The Evolution of Kurdish Politics in Syria

by Christian Sinclair , Sirwan Kajjo | published August 31, 2011

Over the weekend of July 16-17, representatives of the opposition to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad met in Istanbul to choose a “National Salvation Council.” Among the diverse attendees were delegates speaking for Syria’s Kurds, the largest ethnic minority in the country at more than 2 million people, some 10 percent of the population. All of the multiple Kurdish parties in Syria envision a pluralistic state in which their cultural and linguistic rights are recognized. Those at the Istanbul gathering wanted the name of the country changed from the Syrian Arab Republic to the “Republic of Syria.” When the other delegates at the conference refused this request, these Kurds walked out in protest.

The Bourgeoisie and the Baath

A Look at Syria's Upper Class

by Volker Perthes
published in MER170

Syria's Torment

by The Editors | published August 10, 2011

There are two political-intellectual prisms through which the recurrent conflagrations of the modern Middle East are conventionally seen. One casts the region’s stubborn ills as internally caused -- by the outsize role of religion in public life, the persistence of primordial identities like sect and tribe, and the centuries-long accretion of patriarchal norms. The other espies the root of all evils in external interference, from European colonialism to the creation of Israel and assorted ventures of the imperial United States.

Syria's Parliamentary Elections

Remodeling Asad's Political Base

by Volker Perthes
published in MER174

On May 22 and 23, 1990, Syrian voters were called to the polls to elect a new parliament, the fifth People’s Council (Majlis al-Sha‘b) since Hafiz al-Asad came to power in 1970. The new Majlis would consist of a total of 250 instead of the 195 members in previous councils. The official media made clear that President Asad had “granted” these additional seats to encourage independents to stand as candidates. The Baath Party and its allies in the six-party National Progressive Front (al-Jabha al-Wataniyya al-Taqaddumiyya), which held some 160 seats in the outgoing council, would content itself with about that number in the new assembly; roughly a third of all seats would be reserved for independent, non-party candidates.

Scuds versus Butter

The Political Economy of Arms Control in the Arab World

by Yahya Sadowski
published in MER177

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Disappearances

Syrian Impunity in Lebanon

by Virginia N. Sherry
published in MER203

Some of the cases are old but certainly not forgotten. The most recent inquiry that I received about a “disappearance” in Lebanon came in April 1997 from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The caller was a Palestinian whose brother, Rushdi Rashid Hamdan Shihab, “disappeared” in Sidon in October 1987. “At 10 am, he left his car with a mechanic at a gas station, saying that he would return in the evening to pick it up,” his brother said. Shihab, the father of three who was 42 at the time, did not return to the station that evening. And he was never seen again in Lebanon. Family members traveled to Jordan and Syria, seeking information about his whereabouts, but came up with nothing solid.

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Syrian Involvement in Lebanon

by Volker Perthes
published in MER203

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Myths and Money

Four Years of Hariri and Lebanon's Preparation for a New Middle East

by Volker Perthes
published in MER203

“The price of prosperity has already been paid,” read an ad that Lebanon’s Investment Development Authority ran in the summer of 1996. “Now is the time to harvest.” The ad also mentioned, euphemistically, that the price had been “a period of unrest.” The message was meant to convince international investors that Lebanon has reemerged as a stable location for big finance and capital. At the same time, it reflected the feeling of many Lebanese that the civil war (1975-1990) had been due to external, regional, rather than internal, domestic circumstances, and that Lebanon therefore ought to be compensated for all the suffering.

Theater and the Thirst for Dialogue

by Saadallah Wannous
published in MER203

Born in 1941 in a village overlooking the Mediterranean just above the port city of Tartous, Syria, Saadallah Wannous attended local schools until the age of 18 when he was awarded a scholarship to study journalism at Cairo University. He later attended the Theater of Nations in Paris.

Private Capital and the State in Contemporary Syria

by Fred H. Lawson
published in MER203

Throughout the late 1980s, Syria’s economy suffered persistent difficulties. Shortages of imported machinery and spare parts led to underproduction and quality control breakdowns in the country’s larger factories. External indebtedness rose to some $4.9 billion by 1988; payments on foreign loans fell more than $100 million into arrears by early 1989 and about $210 million behind by the winter of 1989-1990. Foreign exchange became so scarce in the spring of 1989 that the central administration started rationing its meager stockpile of hard currency, giving priority to those enterprises most likely to generate export earnings, particularly the assembly of light manufactured goods and agricultural commodities.

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