“Bilal” – by Stephen Boeshaar

Steve BoeshaarStephen Boeshaar worked throughout the Arab World for many years and is fluent in Syrian Arabic. After serving with the Peace Corps in Morocco in the 1960s, he ran English language instruction programs in Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, and Syria, and worked with Fulbright in Egypt developing university curriculum. Later, Steve directed the American Language Center in Damascus for 20 years, until the Syrian uprising finally compelled him to leave with his family in 2012. He currently lives in Florida and is working on a collection of “Syrian Profiles,” stories of the many lives he encountered along his path. The following is an excerpt. Steve hopes to complete the book later this year. He can be contacted at stephenboeshaar@gmail.com




Bilal is now in his mid fifties and, like many aging men in Syria, his waistline has gradually expanded with maturity and prosperity. I had known him for more than 30 years and I watched this ballooning in his weight over time with some degree of alarm. He really needed to take better care of himself; that was my personal (and unspoken) opinion. On one of my visits to his home, he eagerly motioned me over as he lovingly unwrapped some old, wrinkled snapshots taken in his younger days, back in the 1970s. Most people in the West have no inkling how slavishly well-to-do classes of the third world have tended to adopt and mirror our own goofy fashions and fads. When we grew our hair long, hippie-style… well, so did the rest of the world. Thus, modern day Syria, for example, is currently awash in hip-hop music and tattoos.

Anyway, it was funny to see the brownish photos of Bilal sporting a Beatles-style mop top and dressed in garish disco attire; but what was the most striking was how amazingly fit and svelte he looked in those bell bottoms. He had been as skinny as a rail. He used to go to the gym too, and there were photos of him flexing like a young Schwarzenegger. What a contrast with his current well-fed portliness.

Bilal was the son of a prosperous shop owner and his family had always lived in a pretty nice fourth-floor apartment in an upscale neighborhood in central Damascus. However, it would be an error to imagine that he had had an easy life, by any means. Bilal spent two years in a technical institute after finishing high school but finding work in 1970s-era Damascus was a tall order. For one thing, the Syrian economy was overwhelmingly socialist in those times. Syria maintained its long love affair with the USSR during its Communist era and that special relationship has continued on to this day with contemporary Russia. In those quaint times of total central planning, Syria was probably the closest thing to a truly Communist system—outside of the Soviet bloc itself. Any Syrian who actually had a job worked for the state. For years, Bilal struggled to negotiate an opening into that vast, monolithic bureaucracy but it was no easy task. What you really needed was not education or job skills but “wasta,” which meant a connection to some big shot with influence who could find you a niche in the anthill.

For a long while, Bilal’s quest was futile. For a couple of years in the early 80s, he was reduced to driving a taxi in an effort to make some cash—certainly one of the most difficult and frustrating means of making a living imaginable. Most taxi drivers in Damascus do not own the cars they drive; instead, they must pay rent to the proprietor, buy gas and cover repairs on the vehicle. After shelling out for all the expenses, they struggle to eke out a meager living from whatever daily pittance they can grind out over a lengthy work day—10 to 12 hours or more. Foreigners in Damascus will find a cab ride to be one of the world’s best bargains. You can travel all the way across town for a couple of bucks. It is dirt cheap, even now in these days of high inflation. Great for the passenger but the flip side is, of course, how can any working stiff in Syria conceivably make a living from these fares, which are ferociously controlled at rock-bottom rates by the municipality? Bilal learned those lessons the hard way, back in the days when a taxi ride might cost you no more than 10 cents. The poor guy spent two hard years killing himself for peanuts.

Like most young Syrian men, Bilal had been drafted into the nation’s gargantuan military when he turned 18. It had been one of the largest armed forces in the Middle East for 40 years. Ironically, it hadn’t fought a real war since 1973, when it was severely beaten by the Israelis. Some claimed it was not a real army at all, but merely a device for maintaining the regime’s control over the country and for furthering its regional interests—as when it was used to occupy Lebanon during the 1980s and 1990s. Syrian military service was brutal and demeaning. The army did not even provide food or clothing—which had to be paid for by the recruits’ families. Bilal’s father was relatively well off and was able to pay enough to ensure him an easy posting in Latakia, up on the Syrian coast.

It was a direct consequence of his army service that Bilal finally hit pay dirt in his quest to find a post within the mysteriously opaque civil service. During his stint in the north, he managed to develop a useful contact, an Alawite military officer who seemed to look upon him favorably. According to Bilal, he spent more than 10 years cultivating the favors of this powerful warlord, through a long and persistent campaign of services, gifts, cajolery and flattery. It was like raising an exotic plant, one that you had to fertilize and water with utmost care. In the end, the suck-up efforts paid off and Bilal was duly rewarded with a position in the Syrian Customs Authority. This appointment was a genuine stroke of fortune, even if a customs officer was only a poorly-paid cog in the machine in Damascus. Sooner or later, however, the employee might well be permitted the golden opportunity to work on one of the Syrian borders. A border posting was the Holy Grail in the customs universe. Bilal endured an achingly long penance at the desk job in the central office; he had no choice but to watch, uncomplaining, as less qualified but more favored men moved ahead of him. After two or three years of agonizing patience, Bilal was at long last granted a six-month stint on the Syrian-Lebanese border. His ship had come in.

Syria has busy borders with Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey. Consider the fact that tens of thousands of vehicles pass through those border posts every day—including large numbers of trucks and commercial carriers—and each one of these is a potential gold mine. Many of the truckers are carrying illegal or quasi-legal goods, making them ideal targets for shakedowns. The fact is, legal or illegal, the merchants and drivers who pass through these check points are expected to pay a bribe to be allowed to proceed. These payoffs are by no means an anomaly in the trade system; they ARE the system. It is the everyday grease that allows commerce to function all over the Middle East (and most of the rest of the third world as well). The customs agents are the lucky stiffs in the middle who regulate this seamy traffic. Regular travelers, whether ordinary Syrians or foreign tourists, are unlikely to even notice anything afoot—unless they get caught actually attempting to conceal items such as major appliances or weapons, for example.

Taxi men and bus drivers typically engage in petty smuggling of items like cigarettes or booze. They may have to cough up a nominal sum (or a couple of packs of smokes) but it is the big trucks where the real money is to be made. According to Bilal, the art of the trade is to hit up the drivers for a reasonable amount, without getting greedy. Everyone knows the going rates, more or less, and a timely payment will guarantee a cursory inspection of your vehicle, followed by a friendly wave through. The startling truth is that the system ensures that hardly a single solitary shipment ever gets opened and inspected. You can run just about anything through those borders, up to and including WMDs, if you play your cards right.

Bilal had struck pay-dirt. His fortunes (and his income) soared dramatically in those heady days when he was out at one of the border posts. Periodically, he got assigned to the crossings with Iraq and Jordan. But, sadly, he pouted, never the Turkish border, which was reputed to be the busiest and most lucrative. After years of desperate penury, Bilal and his family were suddenly living high on the hog. Another man might have saved some of this largess for a rainy day, another might have invested; but Bilal would always spend it freely—mostly on the stuff of the good life. He and his wife promptly bought themselves an expensive apartment and a new car. Later on, he got additional cars and small apartments for his two grown sons. Suddenly nouveax-riche, Bilal’s family saturated the house with costly, overstuffed furnishings and took to wearing expensive designer clothes and jewelry.

When we would meet, they would eagerly show us their latest purchases, apprising us in great detail how much they had paid. On those occasions when we stopped by Bilal’s house or went out for a meal with his family, we were struck by the degree to which the conversations invariably focused on material goods. The talk was always about cars, the price of real estate and the latest acquisitions for the home. Despite this slavish devotion to consumerism and material things, we never really felt irritated or offended by the litany of fiscal details. We understood, finally, that he and his family were not simply boasting or being smug, these material things constituted their only true passion in life. Without the cars, the clothes and the jewelry, what on earth would they have had to talk about?

Bilal’s overweight and the general state of his health became more of an issue after he hit 50. Despite its financial rewards, the customs job was pure murder. He had to put in crazy shifts, with long travel times to distant border crossings; sometimes he would not sleep for 24 hours. He often worked long nights. The job at the borders was highly stressful; shaking people down was profitable—but it was hard work. Moreover, the periods spent on the borders were short and unpredictable, mainly because of the intense pressures from within the bureaucratic corps. After all, every single officer in the customs service was busy jockeying for one of those plum assignments. When he was forced to return to Damascus for desk duty, Bilal’s income would plummet to near zero and he would again have to plot and spend his time and treasure maneuvering and cajoling, kissing up to the powerful functionaries who controlled the assignment rosters. He could never relax—and it showed.

Bilal, that young man who had once been so fit and athletic, had taken to smoking heavily early on in his customs career. He never exercised or watched what he ate. Frankly, he did not look well and his face showed an unhealthy pallor. It was just the way he was: working like a dog, living for the moment, buying stuff he didn’t really need, spending what he made while he had it. I guess he never thought about the future much.

As the first signs of the coming unrest appeared in Syria in 2011, we received some awful news. Bilal was in the hospital. Apparently, he had suffered a stroke and he had severe bleeding in his cerebral cortex. When we went to see him, he was still in a coma and he looked absolutely terrible. I think everyone assumed it was the end game, but, unexpectedly, Bilal rallied to recover… to some extent. The problem was that he had clearly lost some essential brain functions. He was now no longer able to care for himself; his long-suffering wife, who had struggled so long to raise their two boys, now had a new child to attend to, one who would never grow up. Bilal had killed himself at that job. He had never failed to protect and support his family, but now, work was out of the question. No more distant borders for him—no more windfalls; he had reached the end of his long and exhausting road.

We still sometimes visit Bilal; he does not talk but he smiles and follows our conversations with alertness. He is only a shadow of himself now but at least he is much thinner and the long years of strain and pallor have been erased from his face. Syria may now be at war, but Bilal has found his peace.

Comments (55)

Juergen said:

Everyday discrimination
Being Sunni in the Syrian Officer Corps

“Once, Bashar al-Assad paid a surprise visit to our unit,” Mohammad Jabar recounted. “The officer in charge introduced him to us by saying, ‘Here comes the messenger of God.’ I am Sunni: we only use the epithet ‘messenger of God’ to talk about the Prophet. Yet I had to listen to Bashar being introduced this way and smile. Being a Sunni officer in the Syrian armed forces required that I put a mask on my face 24 hours a day.”


June 17th, 2014, 11:39 pm


Mick said:

Being a non-Salafist in the Syrian officer corps:

Da’ud Rajiha, Christian, Defense Minister. Highest ranking military officer in the Syrian military. Killed by a Sunni extremist.

June 17th, 2014, 11:47 pm


ALAN said:

John Andrew Morrow
Is ISIL really ‘Sunni’? Not at all

June 18th, 2014, 2:52 am


Syrialover said:

This is terrific writing by Stephen Boeshaar. Thank you for posting it Dr Landis.

He is creating a reminder of who Syrians are and what it was to be a Syrian before the country was destroyed.

June 18th, 2014, 7:54 am


Uzair8 said:

What if the FSA/IF defeat ISIS in Syria and capture all the Humvees, tanks, heavy weapons and the $400+ million? In effect resistance axis money and goods will be used to overthrow Assad.

On a side note, Assad could, during a local victory, capture the money and fund his Shabeeha. I suppose FSA/IF would hide the money in Turkey for safe keeping.

June 18th, 2014, 9:47 am


Uzair8 said:

What if Syrian rebels raise funds by exchanging ISIS prisoners for cash? There may now be an incentive to capture more ISIS fighters.

June 18th, 2014, 9:50 am


Uzair8 said:


Are you enjoying the World Cup? Russia v South Korea last night?

Anyway, did you watch England’s match against Italy on Saturday? Remember Raheem Sterling (19 yrs) mentioned on here before? He was England’s best player. Keep an eye on him. England playing tomorrow against Uruguay. England’s Liverpool players will face their clubmate Luis Suarez…

Liverpool FC players who started against Italy:

– Gerrard
– Sturridge
– Sterling
– Henderson
– Johnson


– Lambert (new signing from Southampton)


– Lallana (Liverpool trying to sign him from Southampton for £25million)

June 18th, 2014, 9:59 am


ALAN said:

It didn’t take long for influential Jews to learn that buying a Western politician is much cheaper than buying a tank. When you buy an American or British politician, he often comes with the tank and an army of young soldiers willing to die for Zion.

June 18th, 2014, 10:03 am


Uzair8 said:

It seems the middle east is holding it’s own football tournament as a warm up for Qatar 2022.

Iran-Syria-Iraq Vs Saudi


June 18th, 2014, 10:04 am


Uzair8 said:

#5 SL

Thanks should go to Matthew who posted the main article.

June 18th, 2014, 10:15 am


Observer said:

Dr. Landis this is worthy of a posting. I know that you have a conflict of interest when it comes to Syria through family links. It puts you in a hard position at times.
I do not like either of the authors and certainly the neo con ideology has gotten us into a huge problem. But as David Brooks said: withdrawal seems to be the Stupidest thing the President did; let us read the article on its merit and forget about the authors.

June 18th, 2014, 11:51 am


ALAN said:

ISIS Secures US-Made Weapons, Ships Tanks to Syria Front
Perhaps even more dangerous, US officials say it is “probable” that US-made anti-aircraft missiles are now in ISIS hands, meaning all air traffic in the region is in serious danger.
السيد الدكتور جوشوا ! هل تعتقد بأن تلك الصواريخ يمكن أن تستخدم في أوكلاهوما؟ هل المطلوب ايجاد المبررات لاطلاق الحرب على الارهاب من جديد؟ كم من البلدان مرشحة للغزو؟ هل لديكم الاقتصاد و التكاليف و الرجال و العتاد؟ أم أنكم تلعبون البلاي ستيشن ؟ الوقت تبدل و لم يعد بمقدوركم التمتع بنشوة الانتصار ! انها عقلية غريبة حقا!

June 18th, 2014, 3:25 pm


ALAN said:

oh ! the game between UK And Russia already started

June 18th, 2014, 5:09 pm


ALAN said:

Washington is preparing for a nuclear first strike against Russia.
US war doctrine has been changed. US nuclear weapons are no longer restricted to a retaliatory force, but have been elevated to the role of preemptive nuclear attack. Washington pulled out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia and is developing and deploying an ABM shield. Washington is demonizing Russia and Russia’s President with shameless lies and propaganda, thus preparing the populations of the US and its client states for war with Russia.

June 18th, 2014, 5:17 pm


Abdurraqib said:

MICK, that’s quite disingenuous. Dawoud Rajiha was killed during a battle in Damascus, along with (Sunni Muslim) Hassan Turkmani, (?) Hisham Ikhtiar, and (Alawite) Assef Shawkat. He hadn’t been killed because of his Christianity, but because he was the commander of the Syrian army that the killer was against in a conflict

June 18th, 2014, 8:40 pm


Ghufran said:

USAF is ready to bomb Isis, some people believe Obama won’t do it, I think he will.

June 18th, 2014, 11:28 pm


Juergen said:

Why does the UN elect Syria to top UN human rights positions?

June 19th, 2014, 2:46 am


ALAN said:

/USAF is ready to bomb Isis, some people believe Obama won’t do it, I think he will./
this is the same conversation of Bandar bin Sultan 90s
ready for what? for how many years? What bombs? were? another front of shifting sands? without Iraqi and Syrian Support ? it is a complete fallacy! without land can not be defeated if the U.S. will not stand on the ground !will be a nightmare!The situation will be applied . metastases will be distributed. U.S. will never learn from their mistakes

June 19th, 2014, 4:51 am


ALAN said:

/USAF is ready to bomb Isis, some people believe Obama won’t do it, I think he will./
this is the same conversation of Bandar bin Sultan 90s
ready for what? for how many years? What bombs? were? another front of shifting sands? without Iraqi and Syrian Support ? it is a complete fallacy! without land can not be defeated if the U.S. will not stand on the ground !will be a nightmare!The situation will be applied . metastases will be distributed. U.S. will never learn from their mistakes
Iran, Iraq and Syria may indeed unite to rid Iraq of the current Wahhabist scourge threatening to take over the country and destabilize the region. However, as we have learned since the CIA, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia built and unleashed the terror group and its surrogates, al-Qaeda is tenacious and in the past has experienced miraculous resurgence.

June 19th, 2014, 5:23 am


ALAN said:

Jordan Could Be the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s Next Target

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, buoyed by its recent successes in Iraq, wants to expand its regional reach. Reports that Iraq has withdrawn forces from western towns close to its 110-mile (180-kilometer) border with Jordan have left Amman feeling vulnerable

June 19th, 2014, 6:42 am


Observer said:

Who cares what the fanatics on both sides do? As if HA and Sadr Militia or the Maliki Militia are less brutal and less fanatic and less sectarian than ISIS.

No one absolutely no one in the US except talking pundits making money talking have any interest in Iraq or the ME>

These are savages on all sides. Let Iran on the one hand and the KSA on the other duke it out.

June 19th, 2014, 8:50 am


ALAN said:

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha
Maliki’s days are numbered!
U.S. Signals Iraq’s Maliki Should Go


June 19th, 2014, 2:58 pm


ALAN said:

Iraq’s Insurgency and the Threat to Oil
Americans might have forgotten about the Iraq war, but they’re about to feel it at the gas pump.

June 19th, 2014, 3:19 pm


Juergen said:

Rafiq Schami on the recent developments in Syria

Mr. Shami, has the West failed in Syria?

Rafik Shami: No, not the West, but its values ​​of freedom, democracy and human rights. When the “West,” says one thinks the governments who make the best still deals with all sides. The hypocrisy continues. People in the West have in Europe, wherever I met them, showed attitude, but this attitude whether for or against the regime remains ultimately powerless. Governments set up contradictory statements to the public. They seem indecisive, confused, indecisive, but secretly they still work clearly and consistently together with the regime. Russia is often represented as a bogeyman. However, a serious American, German or British politician can really take an oath that his intelligence not work until today hand in hand with Assad?


June 19th, 2014, 4:30 pm


Ghufran said:

Two men in central Texas have been arrested on charges of trying “to provide material support to terrorists”, with one of the pair seeking to aid extremist groups fighting in Syria, US prosecutors said this week.
Rahatul Ashikim Kahn, 23, was arrested at his home in the Austin suburb of Round Rock and charged with terrorist activities, including “committing violent jihad”, according to court documents unsealed on Wednesday.
The other man, Michael Wolfe, 23 also known as “Faruq”, was arrested at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston on Tuesday. He was charged in a separate federal criminal complaint with “attempting to provide material support to terrorists”, prosecutors said.

June 19th, 2014, 9:12 pm


ghufran said:

20-30% of coastal residents now are refugees from other provinces mostly from Aleppo:
A Sunni Aleppan who works on the coast told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity, that he has felt little sectarian discrimination on the Alawite-dominated coast. He said, “As soon as I came to Latakia with my family, fleeing from the hell of war, I was able to find work in a car-repair shop. I have not been subjected to any notable harassment, perhaps because I have always announced my support for the Syrian regime. I later learned that Alawites here treat people from Aleppo better than they treat the people of the Hama countryside, for example. Sectarian alignments are clear, but do not go beyond glances, signs and simple harassment. Furthermore, I have not been subjected to detention or insulting questioning at security checkpoints, unlike a displaced person I know from the Hama countryside. The latter was detained and tortured for a few days, without being charged.”

This is what our aboud wrote:
Aboud Dandachi • 14 days ago

I lived in Tartous for 18 months from March 2012 to September 2013. At no time was the fact that I was a Sunni from a traditionally anti-regime area ever held against me. Alot of Homsis moved to the city and set up restaurants there. Thawra street was overflowing with doctors and medical professionals in every specialty, and teachers didnt have enough hours in the day to keep up with the demand for private tutoring.
Tartous has so far been spared any direct violence from the war, and I hope it stays that way. While Bashar Assad is a war criminal who should be hung by his long neck, the people of Tartous showed me nothing but hospitality the entire time I was there. In that small area next to the seafront, a person could live a somewhat normal life.

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/syria-coastal-markets-embrace-workers-aleppo.html#ixzz359KzN5c8

June 20th, 2014, 12:23 am


ALAN said:

It is quite obvious that KSA become an important and promising partner of Russia, which, as well the Kingdom of Saud builds around himself integrated organizations and intends to be an important pole in an emerging multipolar world. The nature of the interaction of these two poles is largely determined by the new architecture of international relations.

Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed on a draft agreement on the peaceful atom

June 20th, 2014, 5:43 am



By controlling all main terrorists nets in the Middle East and by creating with Iran and Russia the ISIL Milicia, in an excellent cover up operation, the dictator Assad and Russia hace proven to be the masters of the Middle East.

June 20th, 2014, 6:06 am


habib said:

1. Juergen

Whenever someone doesn’t bow to Sunni Islamist demands, Sunnis feel “discriminated”. You see that with Islamists in the West all the time.

June 20th, 2014, 9:15 am


ALAN said:

It is ridiculous, when do not find at the site of SC (from US) , which deals the Syrian affairs any comments or posting of the activity of the Syrian ambassador to Washington, Mr. Jaafari! It is Absurd!


Dear Oklahoma:You are so right and you are so wrong. It is not just American people who don’t want to see, don’t want to hear and worst of all – don’t want to think. Majority of people are lucking ability of “critical thinking”. It is their self-defense mechanism – less thinking – less questions to be answered – less feelings – less disturbance to each of their little bubble-world. More I live, more I’m getting convinced – we, humans are disgrace to God. For thousands of years mankind didn’t learn anything and making everything possible to avoid this learning. The history of mankind is the best argument against theory of evolution…Respectfully
Greetings! from Russia!

June 20th, 2014, 3:27 pm


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Israel accepts 1st delivery of disputed Kurdish pipeline oil


June 20th, 2014, 4:19 pm


ALAN said:

The view from zion …

In its quest to find three Israeli teenagers Israel has literally turned Palestine upside down. The timing could not have been more perfect as the main goal was to put a halt to the conciliatory moves of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.


June 20th, 2014, 5:05 pm


Juergen said:

Yet an other reason why I dislike his music…

June 21st, 2014, 3:41 am


ALAN said:

Dear Mr Putin !
Go ahead into Iraq ! USA must be kicked out of Iraq !!!
Kou Kou! Lukoil welcome into Iraq !!!

Putin confirmed Russia’s “full support for the Iraqi government’s action to quickly free the territory of the republic from terrorists,” the Kremlin said, adding that Putin and al-Maliki also discussed bilateral cooperation.

Putin’s expression of support for the embattled Iraqi prime minister comes as al-Maliki’s rivals have mounted a campaign to force him out of office, with some angling for support from Western backers and regional heavyweights.

June 21st, 2014, 8:30 am


ALAN said:

Washington! If Iran can protect Shiites in Iraq why Russia can’t protect Russian and Russian-speaking in the former Soviet republics?
Or why China can not be able to protect Chinese in the adjacent Southeast Asian countries and to restore the sovereignty a military way on Taiwan?
So the kindling “the Arab war” which now came to Iraq, US created to themselves a big problem of the geopolitical plan.
After all, having supported Iran intervention in Iraq, they should reconcile to similar interventions everywhere. From here – Obama’s fluctuations. And the USA as the country having now short-term interest of use of military force of Iran in the Iraq conflict, but seeking to dictate global standards of behavior, can face in the next weeks a number of rigid decisions on Iraq. Anyway, PAX AMERICANA ended.

June 21st, 2014, 10:46 am


ghufran said:

This is a good read from Turkish press, if you are against singling out a sect just switch the words in the article, Muslims
today are confused, oppressed and angry, terrorism and violence are now taking the form of self destruction. Militant views of Islam as a religion have made it easier for many angry and unemployed sunni Muslims to take guns and kill innocent people just because they are labeled as Rafidah or Majous by some evil sheikh who want young Muslims to die in a senseless war but won’t send his own kids to fight, he will send them to the West or “Bilad Al-Kufr” instead:


The good book of Al-Quran stated that ” you were the best Ummah human kind has ever known”, that was true or partially true when Muslims were studying and teaching science and medicine to the World but it is not true today when most terrorists are Muslims and most victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims themselves, Islam today in many parts of the world is becoming more of a cult than an actual religion.

June 21st, 2014, 12:52 pm


ghufran said:

Obama is pulling the plug on so called moderate rebels.
I said 2 years ago that there will be many participants when the project is destroying Syria but there will be very few volunteers when rebuilding is needed.
يا امة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

June 22nd, 2014, 12:40 am



Every royal court must have a clown, so please don’t begrudge the king of Syrian folks music his own clown.

June 22nd, 2014, 3:15 am


ALAN said:

Puffing the Venom
Encouraging sectarian conflict is a two edge-sword. It might topple Iraq’s Al-Maliki for example, but puffs of the venom will reach Eastern Saudi Arabia which inhabited by Shiite Muslims as well as Bahrain and Kuwait. No one can predict the results which will surely change current political and demographic maps. Saudi and Qatari media are ‘celebrating’ ISIS’s control in Iraq (Arabic speakers easily demonstrate these celebrations), for nothing, except because ISIS is fighting Iran’s allies.

يا امة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

June 22nd, 2014, 4:19 am


Juergen said:

Before the revolution he welcomed heads of state and Kings, now just potheads…


June 22nd, 2014, 7:30 am


ghufran said:

The first crack in diplomatic sanctions against Syrian government:
B. Shabaan received an invitation to visit Norway and attend a conference on security, she met with Norway FM, Jimmy Carter and Jeff Feltman (high ranking UN official and a previous top US DOS official).
When the history of the Syrian war is written and historians try to analyze why the uprising failed despite the unpopularity of the Syrian regime and all of the billions rebels received and all the sanctions, threats etc from the West, they will simply conclude that Syrians, and Arabs and Muslims in general, gave the West a clear message that they can only be governed by Tyrants, and when the choice came down to two contenders, Assad regime and the Islamists, most people and most nations reluctantly picked up the old devil they knew and lived with for 4 decades over the new Islamist fascists who only live to kill or be killed !!
يا امة ضحكت من جهلها الامم

June 22nd, 2014, 12:27 pm


Passerby said:

Sure is some clear informed thinking on this forum. Mercifully, it isn’t, shall we say, universal, so I’ll stick in my two bits…

How about we do the Turing Test on ISIS and look at what comes out of the box. Can someone point out to me anything whatsoever ISIS has done that isn’t the same exact thing they would do if controlled by the Saddam Regime, as Al-Qaeda insists?

June 22nd, 2014, 5:36 pm


Passerby said:

Science says the future is rolling dice as you go along, and the wings of butterflies changes our weather…

But here’s my prediction about Baghdad, it will be a liability, not an asset to the Iraqi “government” in a couple weeks and the Green Zone will be evacuated in a month.


The “national” army is incapable of defending or attacking anything, Sunni or Shia. And even of one doesn’t agree it’s the Saddam Regime controlling ISIS, they are certainly fighting by their side. And they know how to deal with Iraqi Shia troublemakers.

Blowing up some shrines would get Iran involved, but it wouldn’t save Baghdad, and it’s far from clear they have been able to hold the line in Samarra because of competence, the Saddam Regime never blew up shrines.

Will it dawn on the US that bombing ISIS/Al-Qaeda is a good idea? Yep, but too little too late to save Baghdad, or Iraq the easy way.

June 22nd, 2014, 11:11 pm


ALAN said:

Additional new commentator , with the Spiral ideas , are usually issued from the children of Sarah!

June 23rd, 2014, 2:31 am


annie said:

The Reyhanli Diaries
You spend a week with displaced Syrian children and it gives you an insight into the Syrian crisis that is a million times better than anything Assad’s enthusiasts in the West can come up with. Child after child says the same thing, airplanes bombing their villages. Mothers, fathers, uncles and cousins killed by Assad’s snipers. Hunger, cold, fatigue. Fear and uncertainty as they cross fields and mountains to get to the relative safety of Turkey, and then a quick dash past the Turkish gendarmes and their patrol cars as they crawl down and then up the three metre ditches that have been dug along the border to prevent diesel smuggling from Syria, where it’s cheaper.

read here : http://www.maysaloon.org/2014/06/the-reyhanli-diaries.html

June 23rd, 2014, 3:48 am


ALAN said:

Uzair !
/The act of terrorism at Karachi’s international airport on 8 and 9 June, – 29 people were killed/
whar is going in your country? Are the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack? Are the spirals already want to open new theater there ?

June 23rd, 2014, 4:20 am


ALAN said:

‘Allah chose you:’ ISIS & other jihadist groups recruit children in Syria for suicide missions

June 23rd, 2014, 7:19 am


Passerby said:

BBC video, outside Baghdad, there is no army, it’s all militias defending Samarra Baquba etc.

The army isn’t defending Baghdad, they are hiding there behind the militias.


June 24th, 2014, 12:17 am


John Baagnole said:

A very touching and poignant vignette of an ordinary Syrian. Well written.

September 12th, 2014, 6:09 pm


Reed Erskine said:

This is a touching and insightful measure of one man’s life in the unforgiving and ancient realm of the Middle East. We look forward to more of Steve’s closely observed and absorbing accounts of his long tenure in the heart of civilizations incomprehensible and intimidating to Western observers. Thank You Steve.

November 21st, 2014, 11:22 am


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