Posted by Joshua on Monday, October 30th, 2006
The following news item about corruption in Syria will stand next to Makhlouf's Syriatel scandal. Muhammad Hamsho is an old friend of Bashar's. He was, and may still be the Apple Macintosh agent in Syria, which is probably how he became Bashar's friend. They used to go jet skiing together on the Latakia coast during the days that Bashar al-Asad was better known as Mr. Computer. Hamsho's wife is a muhajiba and he comes from a Sunni family, but he has already been arrested and released for shady dealings, despite the fact that he is a deputy in parliament. According to Ammar Abdulhamid, his businesses are known to act as a front for the President's Brother, Maher, who will probably be the real person behind the new "private" TV station. La plus ca change….
Damascus, 30 Oct. (AKI) – Syria's Information Minister Muhsin Bilal has ordered the closure of the country's only private TV station barely eight months after it first went on air. The Sham statellite channel broadcasting programmes – made up of Arab soap operas – from a free trade zone in Damascus shut down on Monday. According to government sources Bilal's order was communicated "verbally" to the station owner, Syrian parliamentarian Muhammad Akram al-Jundi, and to its director Maamun al-Bunni.
No reason was given for the government's demand, the sources said.
Despite broadcasting since its launch on what it said was an experimental basis, Sham had become the fifth most popular Arab TV channel in Syria.
According to some Syrian newsreports the station's demise can be attributed to moves by a Syrian entrepreneur Muhammad Hamsho to launch his own television station, Dunia. Hamsho who is close to President Bashar al Assad's government will now be able to attract advertising which previously went to Sham, the reporst said.
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(Click on photo to enlarge) I was sent this photo by Alex via a pro-Jeajea list-serve. The Lebanese do have a sense of humor. After reading news items like the one above, such photos seem particularly mordant. Or following news items like the one below.
Razan Zaiytoune, who produces "Shril" sent out this note on Michel Kilo's trial today. Le Monde article also writes about his trial today, for those who read French (thanks to Eric Brunner-Williams)
Lawyer Khalil Matoq announced to SHRIL that the cases of Michel Kilo, Mahmoud Issa, Suleiman al-Shomar, and Khalil Hussein were referred today - 30 October 2006 – to the 2cn criminal court in Damascus. The first hearing court will be tomorrow to interrogate them in front of the court, Despite the appealing of the decision of the refer judge "qadi al-ihala".
Lawyer Matoq stated that this action controvenes the law and criminal trial procedure and that the criminal court should not put its hand on this case now and should wait until the final judgment from the supreme court.On the other hand, the 2nd refer judge in Damascus ratified today the decision of the investigation judge of the prisoner Anwar al-Bunni, and referred the case to the criminal court.
Farid Ghadry claims Syrians are rushing to convert to Shia Islam. – Iran has "significantly expanded its influence in Syria," he claims, by "encouraging Alawis and Sunnis to convert to Shi'ite Islam."
Syrians have been observing over the last year a dangerous phenomena mostly witnessed by an alarming number of non-Shia turning to Khomeini-style Shia in return for financial rewards," the opposition Reform Party of Syria said. "Whole villages and urban areas are adopting the Hizbullah model whereby clinics, schools, and social services are provided by Iran in return for Syrians to convert to Shi'ism." The regime of President Bashar Assad has given Iran "carte blanche" in Syria.
Comment: I cannot help but interject here. At Brookings a week ago, I was asked about the conversion stories. I said that I do not believe that they have any basis in fact. The one small village in the Jazira to convert to Shi’a Islam did so over 6 years ago, before the Iraq invasion and before the Lebanon War. We still do not know why. I am sure a number of Syrians visited Shiite mosques out of respect for Hizbullah's effort this summer, but I seriously doubt many have "converted." Anyway, it is technically incorrect to talk of conversion, because there is no official ritual for changing denominations in Islam. If a Sunni wishes to embrace Shiism, he simply goes to the Shiite Mosque, where one prays slightly differently. Turning from Shia to Sunni Islam is similar to a Protestant who switches from one church to another – or, for that matter, a Catholic who wished to become a Protestant. They are all Christians; one does not have to get re-baptized to switch churches. It is not a matter of conversion, merely of switching denominations. The ease of switching from a Sunni to a Shiite mosque does not belie the fact that socially the switch would not be easy at all.
The following quote is from an Haaretz editorial Sunday:
It makes sense to respond in a positive tone to Assad's peace signals while putting out quiet feelers through indirect channels from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, to determine his intent. Israel must take U.S. military and political considerations and Washington's requirements of Syria, into consideration in any fruitful process that develops between Jerusalem and Damascus.
Former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov expressed conviction that peace in the middle East cannot be established without Syria, calling for ending the occupation of the Syrian Golan to achieves this peace.
In a lecture he delivered Sunday evening at al-Assad Public Library in Damascus, Mr. Primakov said it is necessary that peace should be comprehensive and Israel has to accept to return the occupied Syrian Golan. However, he asserted, Israel was not ready for such peace.
The former Russian Premier called for a just and comprehensive settlement in the region as military power had proved failure to achieve anything.
Mr. Primakov praised the deep, insight vision of President Bashar al-Assad and His Excellency's practical stances vis-à-vis the peace as a continuity to the approach adopted by the great late President Hafez al-Assad who Primakov described as one of the greatest politicians in the region and the world in the 20th century.
The former Russian Premier saw that uni-polarity in the world would not last long as the world is on its way towards multiplicity and it is not acceptable any more that the US decides the fate of the world.
Mr. Primakov said Israel failed in its latest war on Lebanon whether in destroying Hezbullah party or inciting a national sedition against the party.