The situation in Syria is going from bad to worse. The reported bloodshed in Hama over the last few days is horrifying, especially as it is happening during the holy month of Ramadan. My Arabic teacher is Syrian and after listening to recent media reports I was exasperated, so last night I asked her what is going on with President Assad. Her answer was unexpected. She has a friend in Hama, a Sunni, who contradicts reports in the media about what is happening there. Do not believe what you hear, she warned. Arab television stations such as Al Jazeera, Future TV, and al-Jadeed are all against her country and are promoting untruths. According to her friend, the Muslim Brotherhood is responsible for the unrest. Her friend said that her family is currently too frightened to leave the house, even though her younger brother is in need of medical care.
My teacher also explained how 99 per cent of the Syrian people love President Assad, describing his compassion during a recent visit to injured soldiers in the hospital to commemorate the 66th anniversary of the Syrian Army's formation. She spoke proudly of her President, whom she distinguished from the system. The Syrian people love Bashar Assad too, she exclaimed, even when they are opposed to the system. The President's resistance against Israel is essential. And while the Syrian system may not offer freedoms, it does offer free education and free health care. She added that interest free loans are available for young professionals. Of course the Syrian people want political reform, she reasoned, but not a revolution and certainly not a new President.
This is only one local perspective on Syria. I believe that my teacher's position is heartfelt, albeit highly problematic and likely unrepresentative of those in the streets who are demonstrating for greater freedoms and not a Salafist revolution, although the two may not always be mutually exclusive. But her view is probably representative of many living in the capital city of Damascus and perhaps also Aleppo. In any case I thought it important to share her words for those following the Western media coverage of events in Syria, reports which tend to offer a myopic view of a complicated situation that continues to worry all of us. None of us support the bloodshed, but some Syrians do support their President.