“Syria’s National Day Celebrations at the Library of Congress”, by Ford Prefect

Syria’s National Day Celebrations at the Library of Congress
Written by Ford Prefect for Syria Comment

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”
Jalal Ad-Din Rumi. (Listen to this poem, translated by Coleman Barks, here)

And that “field” was the magnificent Library of Congress, which on April 23 played host to celebrations for the National Day (April 17) of Syria – a lovely evening of Syrian culture, architecture and music, organized by the Syrian embassy and overseen by Rafif Moustafa, the ambassador’s wife who planned every aspect with great care.

The event attracted over 400 attendees, including members of Congress, senior Hill staffers, Administration officials, ambassadors and diplomats, academics, journalists, members of the Syrian American community, and guests.

Syrian National Day at the Library of Congress, April 2010

Politics and rhetoric aside, the evening focused on Syria’s breathtaking architecture against the backdrop of the premiere venue in the US capital. In a refreshing change of pace from recent allegations toward Syria and frequent discussions over the country and its politics, guests at the event mingled and chatted about Syrian arts and culture over cocktails and delicious Middle Eastern bites.

The evening began with opening remarks from Dr. James Billington, the 13th Librarian of Congress. Dr. Billington highlighted Syria’s rich heritage and its important role as a cultural pacesetter throughout history. Dr. Nasser Rabbat, professor of Islamic architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), then took the audience on a pictorial journey through Syria’s spectacular history of architecture, from Aram to Phoenicia, from Seleukia to Roman Syria, and from the Arab and Islamic bilad-al sham to Syria today. Perhaps most surprising to learn was that for over 4,000 years, Syrian builders have synthesized past and contemporary traditions to arrive at an architecture that is unique, specific and highly identifiable to that part of the world.

Following the presentations, rising Syrian star Kinan Azmeh and soprano singer Dima Orsho took the audience on a musical journey that started with a haunting piece hailed as the oldest song in the world. In the early 1950s, clay tablets dating back to 1400 B.C. containing text from the “Hurrian” language were discovered in the ancient city of Ugarit, known today as Ras Shamra, Syria. These clay tablets contained a complete hymn of words and music to the moon god’s wife, Nikal. Here is a modern interpretation of that piece by Syrian American Pianist Malek Jandali.

Syrian musicians Kinan Azmeh and Dima Orsho

Kinan and Orsho both exemplify emerging Syrian talent. The New York Times has hailed Azmeh as a “virtuoso” and the LA Times has called him “engagingly flamboyant.” Kinan is a graduate of New York’s prestigious Juilliard School and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering and is currently finishing his doctoral work at the City University of New York. Orsho, born in Damascus, received her Masters of Music degree in opera performance from The Boston Conservatory and has appeared in operas and concert halls all over the U.S., Europe and the Middle East.

Their performance was a treat for audiences saturated with today’s synthesized music. Listening to music aged more than 3,400 years was not only satisfying but also unique and stunning to the ear. Their masterful blending of oriental rhythms with modern “jazzy” melodies has earned this duo worldwide respect and recognition in the field of music. The audience showed their appreciation with an enthusiastic standing ovation!

Finally, as the night came to a close, I reveled in the success of this cultural event in bringing people together beyond the ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing. Just a few steps away from the U.S. Capitol building, people came together to admire the unique place Syria holds as a contributor to history and culture.

Written by Ford Prefect for Syria Comment

Comments (31)

norman said:

That was wonderful F P ,Thank you ,

April 25th, 2010, 2:37 am


majedkhaldoun said:

Duodenal cancer,has20% survival in six months,and 5% in two years,For that I think Assad should visit Mubarak soon

April 25th, 2010, 3:33 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Did this “pictorial journey through Syria’s spectacular history of architecture” include the mazy architecture of Mazeh, Adra and Tadmor ?

One very angry professor would say about this, that it was a show for the white man.

April 25th, 2010, 4:08 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Amir, no, it did not include any discussions about the the mass detention camps of Palestinians in the occupied territories. In fact, it did not even include any discussion about Israeli cluster bombs, about Israeli constant abuses of human rights, and about Israel violations of international law.

Known facts about Israel and its lunatic killers are self-explanatory.

April 25th, 2010, 4:14 pm


Atassi said:

good work, and nice reply….

April 25th, 2010, 4:41 pm


Majhool said:

Was Fahd Ballan there?

Looks like a great event. Good work.

April 25th, 2010, 5:07 pm


Shai said:


Thank you so much for sharing with us this wonderful event that took place. Learning about Syrian culture is important also to us, her other neighbors in the region.

What a great poem you chose to symbolize this get-together. I apologize on behalf of Amir (well, not really) – but he obviously didn’t get your “field”…

Did any of the statesmen present speak at the event?

April 25th, 2010, 6:45 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Thanks Shai! We share one Middle East indeed 😉

How much more timely can Rumi be? He certainly transcends time and space.

No speeches at the event – just the joy of the journey through the unique history of that part of the world.

The musical performance was mesmerizing.

It’s OK about Amir, Shai, hammers can only see nails.

April 25th, 2010, 7:35 pm


Husam said:


If borders ever open up between Syria and Israel, you will be my first honorable guest. I am serious.

April 25th, 2010, 9:49 pm


Jad said:

Dear Mr. Perfect!
Very well written post, it’s refreshing to see the true face of Syria shines in a place as prestigious as the Library of Congress.
Smart thinking by Syrian diplomates for change from the usual corrupted officials inside the homeland.
Many Thanks.

what’s wrong with the late Fahd Ballan, he was an ok man and not as bad as many of the new singers we see lately. Right?

April 25th, 2010, 10:47 pm


trustquest said:

FP, with all due respect to you and your article I think out of decency and out of not completed normalization of relation yet and out of respect to the past and current non lifted sanctions against Syria and the current hostile US policy toward current system in Syria, at least in their views, they should not celebrate the Independence Day in the place which they think is not treating them unfair on all the issues that concern their country.

April 26th, 2010, 12:41 am


Ghat Albird said:

TRUTHQUEST is maybe suggesting that next time permission from the TRUE rulers of the 310 million Americans be approved before any celebrations on US soil.

April 26th, 2010, 12:55 am


trustquest said:

No Ghat, the issue you are talking about is completely different, I’m not running a campaign against anyone, but if a president of a country a month ago was making a joke of country head of state department his embassy staff and ambassador should not drinking wine in the congress library celebrating the Independence Day there.

April 26th, 2010, 2:33 am


Majhool said:

Hi Jad,

Fahd Ballan was a good and a simple man He just reminds me with the era when some aspects of culture (or lack of) was imposed on all of us.

Have you heard of any upcoming reforms? new electoral, or maybe a polical parties law?

April 26th, 2010, 5:11 am


jad said:

Hi Majhool,
“some aspects of culture (or lack of) was imposed on all of us”
We may disagree on his music and lyrics but I argue that putting Fahd Ballan face/name as ‘lack of culture’ is unfair because the Arabic music industry went way way way way way lower than (Irkibna 3al Houssan)and for him to sing in his local southern accent about a Horse or a Motorcycle is something we should all respect in sense that Syria has many regions that we are proud of each and every one of them and without any one of them Syria wont be the same. For me Syria strength and uniqueness is by its people’s diversity in cultures, customs, traditions, food, religions and accents.
Something else, have you heard Fahd Ballan singing to any Arab president or king? I did not and for that alone I respect him.

“Have you heard of any upcoming reforms? new electoral, or maybe a polical parties law?”
Usually people open their conversation with a joke, not ending it with one 😉

April 26th, 2010, 6:42 am


Off the Wall said:

Fahd Ballan had one outstanding, albeit unpolished baritone voice, with occasional dipping into base. His song ‘ana hawaytak’ is one of my favorite songs of that Era (and there are only very few of those). His voice was and continues to be much better than many voices out there today.

April 26th, 2010, 8:04 am


Shai said:


Thank you. And you will be mine. But we have quite a challenge ahead of us. We must first make blind moles see.

April 26th, 2010, 11:33 am


Ghat Albird said:

One gets the feeling that the game has already begun. Good luck to the USA.


April 26th, 2010, 1:16 pm


almasri said:

Jeff Gates says in the Veteran Today,

“Light is now seeping into the geopolitical crevices where this deception has long operated in the dark. The consistency of Israeli behavior over six decades has left the rule of law with but one choice: acknowledge the fraud and withdraw Israel’s standing as a legitimate nation state.”

Well, why do you think they were kicked out from Egypt few thousand years ago?

As a matter of fact, they were immediately recognized as thieves upon arrival in Egypt as the Qur’an tells us. What took very few Americans like Jeff Gates so long to see the obvious? And how long will it take for the rest of America to see the light? I thought humanity is progressing. It doesn’t look like it. Who is ahead in this case: Egypt or the US?

April 26th, 2010, 4:45 pm


jad said:

Your last comment is not cool at all.
Please avoid doing that, this kind of generalize and pointing out single group of people who belongs to a specific religion as bad, is the fundamental problem that brought and still bringing all kind of wars and misery to humanity.
This kind of comments is what derails the conversation into a whole different arena that most of us don’t like.

NO, Egypt still have a very very long way to progress on the social and policy making scale before you think of comparing it to the US (domestic only) in human rights and the rights of different ethnic and different religion groups to live in harmony in one society under the law.

April 26th, 2010, 5:37 pm


almasri said:

Thanks JAD @20, but you missed the point. There was no singling out of a certain group of people as evil in my last comment. And I’m not talking about today’s Egypt. You know I’m against it.

In fact, there were two groups of people in my last comment. The good people who were betrayed, and basically were sold into slavery by their own bad (evil) people . When the bad people appeared on the scene they were tricked, and were themselves put into slavery instead of the intended target of their plot that was actually elevated by the old Egyptians into a position of honor. So, in a sense the old Egyptians exercised the most fair form of justice and human rights by applying the well known ruling: he who digs a hole to his brother will fall into it. In addition to the fair punishment, an even greater reward was bestowed upon the agrieved party.

Nothing can match that in terms of fairness and human rights even up till today.

And so, the evil people became slaves as they should based on their evil plots. And the good people were rewarded.

On the other hand in today’s America, very few thieves (AIPAC) enslave 310 million Americans as in video of comment 12.

So in a sense the old Egyptians greatly served humanity by making an example of what should happen to treachery and deceit, and how nobility should be rewarded.

On the other hand, despite America’s so-called fairness of domestic policies and domestic human rights, it has failed miserably in these two areas and caused an unprecdented regress to humanity throughout the world causing great tragedies as a result.

So, old Egypt is far ahead than present day US. You can be sure of that.

April 26th, 2010, 6:13 pm


jad said:

Hi again Almasri,
Thank you. I do appreciate the effort you show to explain your comment.
It’s always cool to be as clear as possible, I always think of those who are reading SC for the first time and who knows nothing about anybody on here, it’s good to have a nice first impression before we go down hill not the other way around 😉

April 26th, 2010, 7:13 pm


Nour said:

الجذور المتناسية للمسألة الفلسطينية .. (وعد بلفور) طباعة البريد الإلكترونى
منشورات – منشورات
الإثنين, 26 أبريل/نيسان 2010 19:13
حسـن عثمان
ذكرنا مرارًا ونعود ونؤكد على أنّ المسألة الفلسطينية وحلها الجذري، هو بالتفتيش والعودة إلى جذور هذه المسألة، وانتشال هذه الجذور ومعالجتها، وتعني كلمة المعالجة هنا، تفكيكها وإرجاعها إلى واقعها الحقيقي نهائيًا، وليس طمرها وتجاهلها، مما ينتج عن ذلك ترسّخها وتنامي أثرها. وأكدنا مرارًا على أنّ المسألة الفلسطينية وحلها ليس بحدود 1967، وليس بإقامة “دولة فلسطينية قابلة للحياة”، كما يطرح ويُنادي الكثيرون من زعماء العالمين العربي والإسلامي، وغيرهم من دُعاة “السلام”.
لذلك ننوه ونشير هنا إلى ما طرحه السيد جورج جبور، رئيس الرابطة السورية في الأمم المتحدة، حول مطالبة زعماء الأحزاب البريطانية بتقديم الاعتذار لِما اقترفته حكومتهم السابقة من أذى وظلم بإصدارها للوعد، المُتعارف عليه باسم “وعد بلفور” سنة 1917، وتحمّل ما ترتب على ذلك من معاناة لأهلنا في فلسطين (القدس العربي – نيسان 2010).
إنّ ما أشار إليه السيد جبور، والذي كان طرحه سابقًا في العام 2002، هو أحد الطرق الصحيحة باتجاه حل المسألة الفلسطينية، على أن لا يتوقف الأمر عند حدود المطالبة بالاعتذار فقط، وإنما الاعتذار والسعي لمعالجة ما اقترفت أيديهم من إساءة، أي البريطانيين وغيرهم مما ساهم في زرع اليهود داخل فلسطين، كفرنسا، أمريكا وغيرهما من دول أوروبا، وذلك بعودة اليهود من حيث أتوا واسترجاع كامل الأرض الفلسطينية. حيث أنّ من يُمعن النظر في شأن المسألة الفلسطينية يُلاحظ بما لا يدعو للشك بتاتًا، استمرار العديد من الدول الأوربية وكذلك أمريكا من خلال تسخيرها للعديد من دول العالمين العربي والاسلامي التابعة لها، للعمل على استمرار واحتلال فلسطين وسرقتها كاملة من قبل اليهود القادمين من شتى أصقاع الأرض.
لقد عملت هذه الدول على طرح حل للمسألة الفلسطينية من وجهة نظر يهودية، وبما فيه مصلحتهم الإستراتيجية، حيث طرحوا فكرة “السلام” وإقامة دولة فلسطينية “قابلة للحياة”. وكأنّ الفلسطينيين هم مغتصبو فلسطين، وكأنهم ليسوا أصحاب حق في أرضهم. وللأسف الشديد فقد روّج لهذا المفهوم ولهذا التزوير الكثيرون من دعاة السلام، وزعماء العالمين العربي والاسلامي، ومفكرين وأكاديميين ، ورجالات دين من مختلف أصقاع العالم. كذلك تمّ الترويج لمفهوم المقاومة السلمية التي تبناها ياسر عرفات عُقب اتفاقية كامب ديفيد المخزية، وجسّدها باتفاق اوسلو. ويسير على خُطى هذه النهج الآن المخفر الفلسطيني (السلطة الفلسطينية) في مزرعة الضفة الغربية مدعومًا من قبل الكثير من دول العالمين العربي والإسلامي بما فيهم حكّام وسياسيين وأكاديميين ورجال دين ….
علينا أنّ نشير ونذكّر دائمًا ليس فقط بوعد بلفور اللاإنساني واللا أخلاقي، بل أن نذكّر بما جرى بين سايكس الإنكليزي، وبيكو الفرنسي، واتفاقيتهما اللعينة، نذكّر بما جرى في مؤتمر سان ريمو، وما جرى خلال الاستعمار البريطاني لبلادنا والتمهيد المبارك من قبلهم لدخول اليهود، والذي بورك من قبل، إبّان الاحتلال العثماني (اليهود الذين أتوا من شبه جزيرة إيبريا، وكذلك هجرة يهود أوربا الشرقية في (القرن التاسع عشر)، وكذلك الحديث عن عدم عدالة قرار التقسيم والمطالبة بإلغائه، هذا القرار الذي فرضته الأمم المتحدة المتعاملة، أو بالأحرى المنتمية لحكومة واشنطن والدول المنتصرة في الحرب العالمية الثانية. كما نشير إلى عدم إنسانية الأمم المتحدة، وما نتج عنها من قرارت جائرة بحق أهلنا في فلسطين، وانعدام هذه القرارات بوجه الاحتلال اليهودي المبارك من قبلهم، هذه الأمم والتي وإن أصدرت أي قرار بحق الاحتلال اليهودي، فهو غير مطالب بالتنفيذ.
مرة أخرى نشد على يد السيد جبور لطرحه الشجاع على أن يكون فاتحة لطرح مشكلة المسألة الفلسطينية من جذورها على المستوى الرسمي، حيث انعدم الطرح الرسمي بصورة شبه كاملة فيما يخص تحرير كل فلسطين من العدو اليهودي. وطبعًا عندما نتحدث عن جذور المسألة الفلسطينية نقصد بذلك : فضح خرافات التوراة، من خديعة “أرض الميعاد” أي خرافة (من النيل إلى الفرات)، وكذلك بدعة السامية، وتزوير الأنساب، وتزوير جغرافية الجنوب السوري، وادّعاء ما هو غير موجود. أيضًا أكذوبة ” أرض بلا شعب لشعب بلا أرض “، وتزوير حقيقة الفلسطينيين كشعوب بحرية غريبة عن المنطقة السورية، وصولاً إلى إغفال وتناسي الجذور المتنامية لهذه المسألة اعتبارًا من اتفاقية سايكس بيكو، ووعد بلفور مرورًا بقرار التقسيم 1947 وما تلاه من قرارات أخرى أفضت إلى اعتماد 1967 حدود “شرعية” لدولة يهودية في أرض فلسطين السورية. انتهاءً باتفاقيات “السلام”، واختراع إستراتيجية المقاومة السلمية والسياسية، لتحل كاملاً محل الكفاح المسلح الطريق الوحيد لاسترجاع الأرض وطرد اليهود، والخيار الوحيد لإبقاء الكرامة والعزة في حاضرنا ومستقبلنا.

كاتب ومحرر في موقع أوروك الجديدة
HasanOthman2@yahoo.com عنوان البريد الإلكترونى هذا محمى من المتطفلين , تحتاج إلى تفعيل الجافا لتتمكن من رؤيته

April 26th, 2010, 9:21 pm


Majhool said:

Dear Jad and OTW,

Sorry if it sounded that I was linking the late Fahd Ballan to “lack of culture” I certainly did not mean to say that. Fahd Ballan reminded me with that period, as I remembered him socking in his own sweat in lousy “video clips” that did not do him justice.

Why the lack of reforms is a joke? ( should I move this question to the top also?)

April 27th, 2010, 2:27 am


jad said:

Hi Majhool,
The joke is not the reforms the joke is to think that there will be any reform on any level of any kind in Syria and to be so blunt and ask about that. I forgive you though, I guess you didn’t remember that we are still under the state of emergency law since my and your grandfather’s youth and from what I see, b7ib bashrak that this lovely state of emergency will stay until our grand children..
Mr. Almaleh, didn’t even ask for the reform you are asking about and they put him in Jail, an 80 years old respected lawyer and a brave man was treated like criminals.
Mr. Alhosein a lawyer who defend human rights was stripped of his licence by his professional body and put in jail
A dentist, a writer, a doctor, an engineer, a philosopher, a thinker, an economist, one from every aspect of our Syrian society is in jail for ‘thinking’ of a better future and asking for 1/100000000000 of reform.
What reforms you think can happen in a country over populated with no vision? and you ask where is the joke? It is a very sad joke Majhool.

April 27th, 2010, 2:16 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Dear Truequest,
Please accept my apologies for the late reply as I have just read your comment # 11. I hear you and I appreciate your sentiments. The celebration was not provided by the US – far from it. It was possible through the hard work of the Syrian Embassy in here Washington. But I respectfully disagree with you about not celebrating the Syrian Independence Day at this or other venues in the US capital. We need to project Syria and reach out to more people to understand our history and our legitimate rights of ending the illegal occupation of the Golan.

Although the event did not address any current political events, it was, nonetheless, part of a sustained effort by the Syrian Embassy and Syrian expat community here in the US and Canada to proactively project Syria’s image and fight for its legitimate rights. We also vote and use our checkbooks to support candidates who do agree with us that Israel’s occupation of the Golan is against the US national interests and must end if peace is to happen.

Warmest regards,

April 27th, 2010, 6:24 pm


trustquest said:

My dear FP, allow me to disagree with you and please cosider other views, I think a lot of Americans from Syrian origin me included unhappy about the obnoxious ambassador or his way representing and projecting his country, nothing respectful about this guy or the authority in Syria he represents. It took whole day for a friend mine to get a visa to his daughter so she can accompany her grandfather and come back, do you want to give them 50 more years to learn? We are here watching the horrible treatment of people defending human rights and building civil society which is essential for the containment of the future of the country before reaching disintegration and we cannot and should not show them our smiles for their agonizing behaviors, the story is not only about Israel and the Golan Heights, life should not stopped there, it about them and us too, each have to do his part.
What I meant in my previous comments that if the current Syrian regime’s policy is against the US, let them have honorable stand and not making parties (especially the Syrian Independence Day) in the house who they hate, or in the house of representatives who consider them enemy, some decency is needed for the honor of the country.

May be when you read Jad #25, you know what I mean. It is not that Syria lack imaginations but to lock this imagination for ever is horrible.

April 28th, 2010, 2:04 am


norman said:


I took my son to Syria 6 years ago , he did not need a visa and did not have to pay anything at the Airport , his name was good enough ,

April 28th, 2010, 2:53 am


Husam said:


Your friend’s daughter, what was her passport? If American, a day to get a visa sounds like super quick to me. Her father was originally Syria, so? To Syria, she doesn’t exist if she is born in the US and going to Syria for the first time with her grandfather. What is your beef?

April 28th, 2010, 3:16 am


Ford Prefect said:

Fair enough. I respect your opinion and I guess we have two different views. The richness of Syria is mainly due to its diversity in everything – opinions included.

My US born and raised kids have been traveling to Syria every year for many yeas now on their US passports. Never needed a visa if the parents can prove they are of Syrian origin.

One day for Syrian visa from the embassy? Have you heard of any Syrian getting a US visa in one day? Is there any embassy in the world capable of issuing a visa in less than one day?

In fact, it is much easier to enter Syria with a foreign passport than it is to enter the US on a foreign passport.

April 28th, 2010, 3:20 am


Rima said:

The people of Syria and all Syrian Americans, especially artists, are sick and tired of this ONE clarinet player Kinan Azmeh and his gang managed by his father (Bashar Azmeh) who is running what’s called SADA – supposed to be a a non-profit musical cultural association for ALL Syrians not only ONE!

We are also really bothered by the conduct of the Syrian Ambassador to the US in Washington, DC on how he is utilizing all funds and contacts to that ONE person.

We are in the process to collecting all evidence to present our findings to higher authorities in governments. The goal is to stop this unacceptable behavior of monopoly and control which is hurting the image of our country Syria abroad.

P.S. We are establishing a new SADA (Students Against Dictators & Azmehs)

May 7th, 2010, 10:00 pm


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