“Tea on the Axis of Evil,” a film by Jean Marie Offenbacher

A new film documentary about Syria, “Tea on the Axis of Evil”, will be screened on Friday Oct 9 at 9 pm as part of the United Nations Film Festival at the Kennedy School’s Wiener Auditorium. The 67 minute screening will be followed by Q&A with filmmaker Jean Marie Offenbacher.

film clips on YouTube:
Syria Film Clip: Damascus College Students

A Second Clip: Men and Women

A third clip: Everyone comes to Syria to look at Stones, but the people are the richness

Excerpts from the film and notes on the filmmaker’s three years in Syria are at www.reorientfilms.org

notes from the selection committee

Comments (25)

Shami said:

LOL Dr Landis why did you choose this picture ?well done Dr.

September 26th, 2009, 10:37 am


Amir in Tel Aviv said:

The “Axis Of Evil” has nothing to do with the Syrian people, which
I believe is warm and welcoming people.

You can blame Israelis for the actions of Israeli bodies (government
and army), because Israelis directly elect their representatives.

You cannot blame the Syrian people for the actions of their national

Therefor, that term applies to the Syrian unelected and dictatorial
leadership, and not to the Syrian citizens.

September 26th, 2009, 11:45 am


Syrian Nationalist Party said:

Mediocre work, but refreshing, its rarity makes it valuable. One can appreciate the intent.

September 26th, 2009, 1:17 pm


Milli Schmidt said:

Oh God, these young women are so incredibly dreadful, they are prime representatives of the decadence of the Syrian/Lebanese elites. Awful. They no nothing – and if they do, they hide it as it would just diminish their attraction. By the way, a coffee, in the place that they are in, costs 11 times as much as a regular Arab coffee in a regular restaurant!

The guys are a bit better, at least there is some sincerity there and some genuine, positive interest in their country and others. Also interesting, towards the end, how the post-colonial chip-on-your shoulder shines through, this is something that is easily forgotten, despite or because its pervasiveness.

September 26th, 2009, 6:44 pm


hassan said:

I hope this film makes a difference between the government of Syria and its people because its people are not brutal murderers.

September 27th, 2009, 2:10 am


jad said:

This is part 4 of 6 parts from a French program (A visage découvert : Bashar Assad) on France 5 last June about President Bashar Assad through his personal life and interview.
I can only see a humble and respected Syrian man who is very unique in this crazy world.

September 27th, 2009, 4:09 am


norman said:

The story between Syria and Iraq,

Back to Article Click to Print Sunday, Sep. 27, 2009
Can Former Iraqi Baathists in Syria Ever Go Home?
By Andrew Lee Butters / Damascus

At the height of the civil war in Iraq, a tidal wave of refugees crossed the border into Syria, changing the face of the capital, Damascus, with their clothing, accents and shell-shocked appearances. Years later, many of the 1.5 million Iraqis remaining in Syria have become a part of the fabric of life. Many own homes or businesses and have children who speak Arabic with a Syrian accent. But one sector of the immigrant population still feels ill at ease: the 400,000 or so Iraqis with ties to the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

Former Iraqi Baathists in Syria have become the subject of an escalating dispute between the Iraqi and Syrian governments that began when suicide bombers blew up government buildings in Baghdad in August, killing 95 people. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the bombings on former Baathists in Syria and accused Damascus of harboring and supporting groups that are orchestrating attacks in Iraq. Syria denied the allegations and offered to turn over any suspects in the bombings if Iraq could provide evidence of their guilt. A standoff ensued, dampening the slowly warming relations between the two countries and putting cooperation on a number of issues on hold. (See pictures of Iraq’s revival.)

Apparently lost in the dispute, however, are the facts that Syria has been slowly changing its attitude toward securing its border with Iraq and that many former Baathists are now seeking repatriation, having expressed a desire to participate peacefully in Iraq’s nascent democracy. Of course, not all Baathists have turned from hawks to doves, and many observers believe that Syria won’t stop all insurgent operations on its borders until a regional peace settlement is reached with the U.S. and Israel. But Maliki’s government has shown little interest in even opening a dialogue with Syria or the former Baathists about their eventual return to Iraq. (See a video of displaced Iraqis vulnerable in Syria.)

Iraq may have good reason to be less than trusting. Syria has long been a haven for refugees from around the Arab world, particularly those without clean track records. In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Syria not only allowed anti-American Baathists to organize and hold political conventions in the country, it also permitted jihadist insurgents from other countries to pass through its territory to launch attacks in Iraq. At the time, American officials compared the region where the Euphrates River crosses the Syria-Iraq border to the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

In the last few years, however, Syria has started to clamp down on insurgents trying to infiltrate Iraq, and in August a U.S. military delegation visited Damascus to discuss increased cooperation on border security. Even more promising has been the change of attitude of many former Baathists in Syria, who are broadly split into two factions: a hard-line group led by a former vice president in Saddam’s government, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, and a more moderate but less powerful group led by Muhammad Younis, a former adviser to Saddam’s executive council. Younis’s group began reaching out to the Iraqi government in 2007, holding a conference to reevaluate the mistakes of the Saddam regime, reject their old Baathist ideology, and adopt more democratic policies. (See pictures of Saddam Hussein.)

Following the August bombings in Baghdad, al-Douri’s faction has also shown signs of moderating. In an interview with TIME earlier this month, the unofficial spokesman for the group, Nizar Samra’y, said it is more concerned about the growing Iranian influence on Iraq’s government than in forcing U.S. troops out of the country. “We need to have a strong state in Iraq that works [toward] an Iraqi agenda not an Iranian one,” he says. “We know America has an interest to return Iraq as a strong country and to stabilize the region. If America withdraws from Iraq now it will have a criminal responsibility.” In order to stabilize the country, however, he said the U.S. needs the help of the former Iraqi political leaders and army commanders in Syria. Those leaders are now willing to negotiate a return to Iraq, so long as they have security guarantees and the laws that prevent former Baathists from working in government are revoked.

The U.S. has been quietly pushing the Iraqi government to begin a process of national reconciliation to reduce the risk of sectarian violence as the U.S. withdraws its forces. But Maliki’s decision to blame Younis for the August bombings and demand Syria extradite him is a sign that he has no interest in negotiating with former Baathists, says Fadil al Roubai, an Iraqi political analyst in Syria. “It’s a political accusation to keep Syria from pushing Iraq to engage this wing in the political process,” he says. (See pictures of U.S. troops’ 6 years in Iraq.)

Syria is not about to hand over former Baathists for prosecution, either. Syrian officials point out that their country protected many members of the current Iraqi government when they were exiled by Saddam, including Maliki himself, who spent 20 years in Damascus. “There are [now] 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria,” Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs tells TIME. “When they came here we didn’t ask them what party they belonged to. We just opened our doors.”

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September 27th, 2009, 10:13 am


trustquest said:

These videos bring to us the new phenomenal change taking place in Syria. It is the start of identity crises. Instead of being proud with their mix and accept each other there is a separation and concentration from some on their hope of modernity and consider conservatives are not from them or claim they are on the margin, and the conservatives think the liberals are not from them and they are incidental.

September 27th, 2009, 11:24 pm


Shami said:

Trust,in the syrian universities and the private university of Deir Attiyeh i saw non hijabi and hijabi girls hand in hand,there is no visible tension,i m impressed by the high number of hijabi students and even university professors(it’s like 80 % of girl students).
I also saw army officers families gathering in nadi al dhobat and here too i noticed an high number of hijabi women and girls,it was not the case few years ago ,when drinking alcohol was the Rule.Of course we all know that these dhobat are for figurative purpose,as non alawites but the shift is clear.
I also had the opportunity to speak with alawite people and here it’s clear that they dont fell themselves good inside the Syrian society.

September 28th, 2009, 10:42 am


jad said:

“I also had the opportunity to speak with alawite people and here it’s clear that they dont fell themselves good inside the Syrian society.”
Isn’t that sentence a bold sectarian statement?
First you denied Alawites being Syrians, then u talk for them that they are not feeling good in the Syrian society while they are with or without your permit Syrian like you are!?
Dude, don’t you think before you write all the sickening BS you do on here??
I was right when I told you that you are not Shami and you don’t deserve the name, most Shwam are liberals when it comes to the mixed society they live in and they dont have the sectarian way of thinking you are showing on SC.

September 28th, 2009, 11:03 am


Shami said:

Jad,in muslim geography al Sham is all Syria ,Palestine ,Jordan and Lebanon included.
Jad lol,the damascenes are not so easy ,most of them ,hate the Alawites as whole thanks to the sectarian policy of the regime,even those very close to the regime ,the regime is aware of it ,but they both lie to each others.
In Aleppo ,the anti Alawite feeling is lower because the corrupt Alawites guardians of the regime bureaucracy and armed militias are less visible.
As i said Jad ,i’m not sectarian at all ,believe it or no and i love the alawites as people as i love the sunni and christian syrians,anyway ,it will change nothing ,i’m only one person.
Jad ,people are normal,as much tolerant and neutral they are ,they can only hate the wrong,the bad,the corrupt….and if the regime mixed it with “Alawite ” it’s its fault.
And honestly Jad ,the sentence that revolted you ,is it not near the truth ?
Why should we hide the truth in order to appear false ?

September 28th, 2009, 11:22 am


trustquest said:

Shami, I wanted to talk sociology
If you noticed, the documentary is very smart and left people talk and when they talk to present what value they have, you would see very disturbing things, example the old man talked about the greeting in homes and other cities and the little girl about the cup tilting like it is a value (which it is a habit coming from the most primitive Bedouin society). The lady who talks in the second video appeared to me like criticizing the west for how he is looking at her society, which is really also disturbing because it is not the west it is the guy who prepared the documentary, it is exactly like any one of us visit Syria they starts calling us American representing the whole population. This is reflection of their isolations and what ever excuses they can bring up it does not change the ground. It is like they try to know themselves but they are helpless.

Regarding your observation it might be true but it does not matter how people feel against some sects, what does matter is the change where it is going to end. For example if majority of people become conservatives and liberal section shrink to great extent, then a change in the order will happen or some clash could happen. The problem is diagnosed and felt by many Syrians intellectuals who urging for free expression and for civil society to absorb tensions. You also have to realize that authority in Syria wants to feel like what they wish not like what you really feel, it is called organized feeling.

Ps, the smoke coming out of the young lady mouth and nose is very dark and it could be very fatal and someone should say something otherwise if we keep silence we contribute for more young doing those awful distasteful and killer thing since SC is a trusted source.

September 28th, 2009, 4:46 pm


Shami said:

Dear Trusquest,
We can only agree with your perspicacity ,but so is our world ,we have the conservative and the Liberals ,the bigots and the moderates,the left and the right,the sufis and the salafis,the orthodox and the catholics,the sunnis and the alawites ,these philosophical trends we can not erase them by force ,the important for us is to make all these people live together in a democratic and tolerant spirit.i would say it’s natural for our people ,because we are accustomed with centuries long heterogeneity and we lived neighbors ,friends and economic partners in the same streets,suqs and buildings despite our different religions and ethnicities,our best family friends were armenians and we still visit each others as grandsons.Or Look for example how me and Jad bear each other despite our different views and symbols.Trustquest ,in 1979-1980 ,the Turkish army used as pretext the street and university battles between far right and far left in order to make their coup, Turkey in which these differences are more exacerbated (far left and far right ,25 millions people from religious and ethnic minorities,extremist seculars and conservatives) we are seing the emergence of an advanced democracy at our borders,which is able to impose the law on the powerful army,such improvment was unimaginable according the turkish realities few years ago ,and who did it ? A conservative party of Islamic trend.

September 28th, 2009, 7:07 pm


Shami said:

Now of course,as you noticed ,what we saw on this report is not nice and wished and i think such reactions came in general from sons of new riches who want to claim their superiority on the masses or something of that kind…
And i add my voice to yours ,death to argileh !!!it kills our youth ,it’s in my opinion i sign of desperation and trouble.
Other important we used to say “smoking like a Turk”this year ,a turkish prohibited smoking in all public places ,even inside the coffe houses.

September 28th, 2009, 7:20 pm


Shami said:

Other important event we used to say “smoking like a Turk”this year ,a turkish law prohibited smoking in all public places ,even inside the coffe houses.Should we fear that the world would change this sentence to smoking like a Syrian ?

September 28th, 2009, 7:26 pm


Shami said:

And is that not pitful that so cute girls smoke like a soviet era factory ?

September 28th, 2009, 7:34 pm


trustquest said:

I think the documentary captured the whole situation with the lady smoking the arqeeleh.
You wonder what they add to the tobacco mix of the arqeeleh to produce this dark smoke; I thought some years ago that the Hamra cigarette is the worse in the world but those are way more terrible. There is an extreme nowadays in every aspect of life there, the role of government is not clear at all, they issue limited number of laws and regulations but they don’t have the vehicles to let people know about these laws, limited public press and no private press, no interaction with people no feed back, no use for media outlet except to serve the regime this is usually should be temporary situation but Syria is living a continuous temporary situations.

The achievement of Turks is great but this is no incentive to the Syrians, unfortunately they can not make change they are only counting time and the optimists think this is better than nothing, but I don’t think so. Recent report from their own organizations stated that only 7.4% of the young and adults (13- 35) read books, and only 24% is employed and earn below 5000 SP. This is very sad situation can be flipped in single decree or removing emergency law, but no, the important thing is the chair and the rest is not of important.

September 28th, 2009, 9:32 pm


why-discuss said:

Tobacco culture is a source of revenue for lots of syrians in the village in the countryside. If ever there is a ban, many poor people will suffer. A real dilemma.

September 28th, 2009, 10:49 pm


Shami said:

WHY DISCUSS ,Syria is a very rich country in natural and human resources ,what you are saying is not valid for Syria ,may be for Afghanistan it could be,i’m not sure even.The syrian people should be at least as richer than the Omani people.
Do you know for example ,that many if not most of young smokers began to smoke during their military service ,instead of learning positive values ,they learn to smoke ,to bribe(their officers of course) and insult .
WD,syrian regime friends in Lebanon use the same pretext for the culture and production of drugs in the bekaa valley and even the important stolen cars business there .
WD ,believe me that Syrian and Lebanese people have good nature,sons of old civilizations ,and are productive people ,they deserve the best of the best and worse than we have it’s not possible.

September 28th, 2009, 11:02 pm


why-discuss said:


I agree with you that Syria has lots of alternative resourcesand that the young generation is generally healthy, but they must get away from tobbaco consumption! when you see all these teeenagers (more and more girls, with no military service habits) sitting in cafes in Damascus or other cities regularly smoking Narjile without knowing that it is more harmful than cigarettes, it worries me. If the government does not put a break to this practice, I can forecast lost of lung cancers and other diseases in the future.
Yet the culture of tobacco is an important source of revenue for the state and for the farmers. The government should set up education and incentives to move to another kind of culture and I don’t see this happening soon.
Turkey has recognized that in the future the consequences of the consumption of tobacco will overload their medical system. They know that banning tobacco consumption in public places may have a negative on the farmers. They may have started to shift them to another type of culture. I wonder if Syria will follow before it is too late for the young generation.

September 29th, 2009, 4:32 pm


Shami said:

Cher WD ,nous sommes sur la même longueur d’onde.Et tes craintes sont miennes.

September 29th, 2009, 5:41 pm


trustquest said:

WD, it is easy said than done. Syria dose not has the qualifications available to Turkish government neither it has the same type of people and does not has the same strength or ability not to mention the types of people. Civil society living in Syria has envisioned solutions but thrown in prison, reaction from the regime was always the refusal of anything could make them loose grip on power. It has been turned to a dilemma for the both sides and the regime is too stiff and offensive against working or sharing responsibilities, knowledge, communication, education, or anything you name it with others. Any solution we bring is not going to work unless there is an acknowledgment of the need of free press, free expression, civil society participation and reestablishment of law and order, which is all seem are not doable for the current regime. It is catch 22 and the looser is the country, each year we see more deterioration and tipping point is on the horizon.
How can anyone envision a remedy in habits and behavior without the involvement of society at large and without the tools like media outlets needed to express their ideas? Without giving society the margin and freedom needed from participation to criticism, it seems to me now it is in the hands of God. Time after time we have seen the regime care less about what could happen 10 years from now and the ones who wish its demise are laughing silently and playing the waiting game, for this it looks to me like the people have been out casted for long time, like the ones wearing the Hejab and conservative counterpart, are the smarted and best readers of the future.

September 29th, 2009, 7:43 pm


why-discuss said:

A wave of antishia in the emirates.

Many Lebanese resident in the emirates (some after 22 year) have been expelled just because they are Shias. A shameful religious discrimination!

Le dossier des expulsés des Émirats prend une tournure politique et confessionnelle…
Envoyer à un ami Imprimer

Le comité des Libanais expulsés des Émirats arabes unis poursuit ses rencontres avec les responsables et les vecteurs d’opinion pour sensibiliser les autorités sur leur problème. Le comité a ainsi rencontré hier l’uléma Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah pour lui expliquer les dommages causés à leurs familles à la suite de la soudaine décision des autorités émiraties de les expulser. Selon le comité, la décision de ces autorités doit encore toucher une centaine de Libanais essentiellement de confession chiite, ce qui laisse supposer qu’il s’agit d’un plan global visant soit à créer une crise économique au sein de la communauté chiite libanaise, ceux qui sont établis dans les Émirats étant généralement considérés comme des soutiens de familles, soit d’écarter des Émirats une communauté susceptible de causer des problèmes en cas d’attaque contre les sites nucléaires iraniens, d’autant que les Émirats à majorité sunnite abritent aussi une minorité chiite. Citant des sources diplomatiques arabes, l’agence al-Markaziya affirme que la décision des autorités émiraties intervient dans le cadre d’un plan international visant à assécher les sources de financement du Hezbollah, qui, toujours selon l’agence, commence à porter ses fruits. L’agence ajoute encore qu’officiellement, les autorités émiraties justifient leur décision « par la protection de la sécurité nationale », mais il s’agirait en réalité du démantèlement de réseaux soupçonnés de financer le Hezbollah, un peu comme ce qui se passe en Afrique, où une vague d’expulsions et de pressions a touché les Libanais installés dans ce continent au profit des Israéliens qui contrôlent désormais les ressources de nombreux pays africains, notamment en Côte d’Ivoire et au Sierra Leone. Les sources diplomatiques arabes citées par al-Markaziya font aussi le lien entre ce plan concocté par les Israéliens et la faillite de l’homme d’affaires chiite Salah Ezzeddine, proche du Hezbollah. Certaines informations laissent entendre que la faillite de Ezzeddine aurait été causée par un trafic de diamants qui aurait mal tourné à cause des Israéliens, d’autant que cette faillite a surtout nui à des dizaines de familles chiites libanaises.
Les autorités libanaises craignent que d’autres pays arabes suivent l’exemple des Émirats et prennent des mesures contre les ressortissants chiites libanais présents sur leur territoire, car cela aurait des répercussions négatives sur l’économie du pays. Elles multiplient les efforts pour tenter de régler ce problème qui pourrait devenir très grave par les voies diplomatiques et dans la plus grande discrétion. C’est pourquoi elles ont déconseillé au comité des expulsés d’organiser des manifestations et des sit-in devant les ambassades pour protester contre ce qu’ils considèrent comme une décision injuste. De même, l’ambassadeur des Émirats à Beyrouth a été convoqué à trois reprises au palais Bustros sans qu’aucune information ne filtre sur la teneur des entretiens. Ce qui est sûr, c’est que la grogne des expulsés ne cesse d’augmenter. Ainsi le chef du comité des expulsés, Hussein Alayan, établi aux Émirats depuis 22 ans, a confié à l’AFP qu’il a été sommé de quitter Charjah sans pouvoir faire ses bagages ou rapporter avec lui quoi que ce soit. Selon lui, la décision d’expulsion aurait été prise après les élections législatives du 7 juin et le seul dénominateur commun entre les expulsés est qu’ils appartiennent à la confession chiite et « par conséquent, ils appuient la Résistance », a-t-il affirmé. Lorsqu’il a demandé des explications, Alayan a été informé « que la décision vient d’en haut ». Il annonce que le comité ne pourrait pas se taire trop longtemps car la décision des autorités émiraties pose un problème économique et social à de nombreuses familles.

Rappelons qu’environ 100 000 Libanais travaillent aux Émirats.

September 30th, 2009, 11:14 pm


why-discuss said:

It is certain that a serious engagement with Iran and Syria will put lots of pressure on Israel.
Obama is quietly moving to engage with both countries in an effort to put more pressure on Natanyahu’s governemnt in his dealing with negotiations by invalidating its main security concerns. Already Israelis spokesmen are preparing Israel public opinion but minimizing Iran’s threat after having claimed that it was a survival issue! They now must find another threat so continue buying the silence of the international community in front of their stubborness and illegal behavior.
Israel will undoubtedly counteract and would possibly engage in a new war if it feels cornered and its allies in the congress are not able to stop the course of the engagement. How resilient Obama would be in not bowing to the Israeli lobby, that is a question we all ask.

September 30th, 2009, 11:52 pm


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