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General News    H2'ed 5/14/11

The tide has turned in favor of the Assad government

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The tide has turned in favor of the Assad government

 

Franklin Lamb

From Damascus

 

As many of us observe the great Arab and Islamic awakening of 2011 in stunned amazement, as it rapidly spreads across the region,  this observer agrees with those who declare, " well it's about time--Godspeed  to the  rebels and goodbye to the despots."

 Indeed, most of the despots had been installed and propped-up by the US government and its allies without many American citizens' awareness or liking.

 What I continue to find in Syria and what I saw during my first 24 hours in Damascus shocked me.  It was not at all what one expected to find having read a fair bit of the Western and some of the Arab media reports, and arriving from the Syria-Lebanon border at Maznaa.

One expected to see fear, tension, and people hiding in homes, ubiquitous police and partially hidden and disguised security personnel in the shadows, watching from behind tinted glassed cars, curtained windows and from roof tops. I expected to see military vehicles, empty streets after dusk, reticence to discuss politics, tense faces on the streets.

 None of this was to seen in Syria's capital and villages to the west.

Today, Damascus is as it always has been during my visits, bustling, clean, parks filled with families and couples, ubiquitous green spaces with beautifully planted and manicured gardens, packed outdoor cafes and coffee houses with young and old seemingly discussing any subject including current events and appearing very much at ease.

 

The streets of parts of Damascus as late as two in the morning appear like Georgetown on a Friday night. Of course, it did not take long for an American acquaintance to say precisely what I was thinking:   "which American city would anyone feel as carefree and comfortable meandering around at any hour of the day or night with no policeman in site, as in Damascus.  Not my city for sure!"

 

 Life in Damascus, even during this period, is a far cry from Beirut in many aspects including the welcomed fact that Damacene drivers do not insanely honk their horns constantly and insult one another, people actually wear seat belts, drivers stop for red lights and don't always race their cars if they see 20 feet of unoccupied road space ahead of them and drivers here seem to respect pedestrians and don't appear to frantically search for every chance to gain an inch on the vehicles next to them by  quickly cutting in front and  pretending not see the other driver.

 In short, Damascus appears energetic but relaxed and tension free.

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Since 2013, Professor Franklin P. Lamb has traveled extensively throughout Syria. His primary focus has been to document, photograph, research and hopefully help preserve the vast and irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts in (more...)
 

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