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Burning Country

Burning Country

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Highlights

  • Today about 65 per cent of Syrians are Sunni Arabs. Alawi Arabs are 10 to 12 per cent. The mainly Arab Christians, mostly Orthodox and Eastern Catholic, but also Assyrian, Chaldean and Armenian, including a small Aramaic-speaking community at Maalula, constitute 10 per cent. Kurds, almost all Sunnis, speaking two main dialects, account for another 10 per cent. The remainder are Druze, Ismailis, Twelver Shia, and Turkmen. (Location 171)
  • To some extent the origins of the Arab–Israeli conflict, the Lebanese civil wars, and the current chronic instability in Iraq and Syria can be traced to this early twentieth-century bout of imperialist map-making and sectarian engineering. (Location 221)
  • Gradually an Alawi/military-Sunni/business ruling class began to coalesce. Meanwhile a savage new purge of party and army, this time targeting radical leftists, and their replacement by Alawis loyal to Assad, further sharpened sectarian competition in society as a whole. Under Assad, loyalty was prized above all; corruption and incompetence therefore flourished. (Location 340)
  • ‘Assad’s Syria’ (as state propaganda called it) was fascist in the most correct sense of the word. It sought to replace class conflict with devotion to the absolute state. (Location 383)
  • While Internet access as a whole increased during Bashaar’s first decade (from 30,000 users in 2000 to almost four million in 2010),13 many websites (including Hotmail and Facebook) were blocked. (Location 503)
  • Kurds remained a key target of the ‘Arabist’ regime which, despite its opportunistic support for Kurdish movements in Iraq and Turkey, had always repressed its own Kurdish minority. The arms of the police state were regularly raised against Kurds, striking heavily against political and cultural expression. (Location 518)
  • Ultimately, high levels of corruption, nepotism and bureaucratic inertia stifled Bashaar’s economic reforms. Their main consequence was an entrenchment of the business monopolies of powerful regime loyalists in place since Hafez, and a further integration of the state and private capital. The most notorious crony capitalist was Bashaar’s maternal cousin, Rami Makhlouf, estimated to control some 60 per cent of the economy.31 (Location 681)
  • A second Day of Rage was called for 15 March. This time thousands gathered in simultaneous demonstrations across the country, in the central city of Hama, in Hasakeh in the north and Deir al-Zor in the east, and in Deraa in the south. In the Damascus Old City, 200 mainly young people chanted ‘God, Syria, Freedom and that’s all’, a play on the pro-regime slogan ‘God, Syria, Bashaar and that’s all’. They also shouted ‘Selmiyyeh, Selmiyyeh’, or ‘Peaceful, Peaceful’, words that would soon be heard across Syria.9 The response was anything but peaceful. The demonstration was violently dispersed, and the mukhabarat made several arrests. (Location 771)
  • It was the southern city of Deraa that would catalyse the revolution. The city’s conservative Sunni population had traditionally supported the Baath, but suffered increasing hardship as a result of state neglect and the influx of drought refugees. (Location 789)
  • Fifteen schoolboys, all under the age of 15 and all from prominent families, had been arrested on 6 March for graffitiing walls with the revolutionary slogans they’d heard chanted on Tunisian and Egyptian streets. The children were tortured in detention, their fingernails ripped out. (Location 792)
  • Several thousand family members and their supporters responded by gathering in front of the Omari Mosque in the city’s Balad district on 18 March, demanding the children’s release and the resignation of Atef Najib and the city’s mayor.13 Security replied with water cannons and live ammunition, killing at least four people, the first deaths of the uprising.14 (Location 796)
  • It was in this context – of shaping the narrative the regime would doggedly stick to in the years that followed – that Bashaar addressed the People’s Assembly on 30 March.22 (Location 851)
  • Some Syrians saw the Islamic Front’s formation as a necessary move to deny the jihadists of Nusra and ISIS a monopoly over the vocabulary of armed Islam.41 (Location 2312)
  • While Obama was ignoring Syria, his administration was engaging with Iran. In the dispute over its nuclear programme, Syrians generally supported Iran. Given the international lack of concern over Israel’s nuclear arsenal, they saw the sanctions imposed on the country as unjust. In normal circumstances they would have welcomed the Obama administration’s easing of sanctions in favour of negotiations with Tehran. But these were not normal circumstances. ‘Syria is occupied by the Iranian regime’, said former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab after his defection. ‘The person who runs the country is not Bashaar al-Assad but Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian regime’s Quds Force.’24 Why, Syrians asked, was America dealing with the Islamic Republic now, just as its regional policy took a fiercely sectarian, expansionist and anti-democratic turn? (Location 3654)
  • On 20 July 2015, a ISIS suicide bomber struck the Turkish border town of Suruç, killing 32 people, mostly young Kurds affiliated with the Federation of Socialist Youths who were preparing to take aid to Kobani. Three days later a Turkish officer was killed in a cross-border firefight with ISIS. On 24 July, Turkish F16s began bombing ISIS targets in Syria, and government officials announced that American planes would be permitted to launch missions against ISIS from the Incirlik airbase. (Location 3766)

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title: Burning Country longtitle: Burning Country author: Robin Yassin-Kassab, Leila Al-Shami url: , source: kindle last_highlight: 2022-02-28 type: books tags:

Burning Country

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Metadata

Highlights

  • Today about 65 per cent of Syrians are Sunni Arabs. Alawi Arabs are 10 to 12 per cent. The mainly Arab Christians, mostly Orthodox and Eastern Catholic, but also Assyrian, Chaldean and Armenian, including a small Aramaic-speaking community at Maalula, constitute 10 per cent. Kurds, almost all Sunnis, speaking two main dialects, account for another 10 per cent. The remainder are Druze, Ismailis, Twelver Shia, and Turkmen. (Location 171)
  • To some extent the origins of the Arab–Israeli conflict, the Lebanese civil wars, and the current chronic instability in Iraq and Syria can be traced to this early twentieth-century bout of imperialist map-making and sectarian engineering. (Location 221)
  • Gradually an Alawi/military-Sunni/business ruling class began to coalesce. Meanwhile a savage new purge of party and army, this time targeting radical leftists, and their replacement by Alawis loyal to Assad, further sharpened sectarian competition in society as a whole. Under Assad, loyalty was prized above all; corruption and incompetence therefore flourished. (Location 340)
  • ‘Assad’s Syria’ (as state propaganda called it) was fascist in the most correct sense of the word. It sought to replace class conflict with devotion to the absolute state. (Location 383)
  • While Internet access as a whole increased during Bashaar’s first decade (from 30,000 users in 2000 to almost four million in 2010),13 many websites (including Hotmail and Facebook) were blocked. (Location 503)
  • Kurds remained a key target of the ‘Arabist’ regime which, despite its opportunistic support for Kurdish movements in Iraq and Turkey, had always repressed its own Kurdish minority. The arms of the police state were regularly raised against Kurds, striking heavily against political and cultural expression. (Location 518)
  • Ultimately, high levels of corruption, nepotism and bureaucratic inertia stifled Bashaar’s economic reforms. Their main consequence was an entrenchment of the business monopolies of powerful regime loyalists in place since Hafez, and a further integration of the state and private capital. The most notorious crony capitalist was Bashaar’s maternal cousin, Rami Makhlouf, estimated to control some 60 per cent of the economy.31 (Location 681)
  • A second Day of Rage was called for 15 March. This time thousands gathered in simultaneous demonstrations across the country, in the central city of Hama, in Hasakeh in the north and Deir al-Zor in the east, and in Deraa in the south. In the Damascus Old City, 200 mainly young people chanted ‘God, Syria, Freedom and that’s all’, a play on the pro-regime slogan ‘God, Syria, Bashaar and that’s all’. They also shouted ‘Selmiyyeh, Selmiyyeh’, or ‘Peaceful, Peaceful’, words that would soon be heard across Syria.9 The response was anything but peaceful. The demonstration was violently dispersed, and the mukhabarat made several arrests. (Location 771)
  • It was the southern city of Deraa that would catalyse the revolution. The city’s conservative Sunni population had traditionally supported the Baath, but suffered increasing hardship as a result of state neglect and the influx of drought refugees. (Location 789)
  • Fifteen schoolboys, all under the age of 15 and all from prominent families, had been arrested on 6 March for graffitiing walls with the revolutionary slogans they’d heard chanted on Tunisian and Egyptian streets. The children were tortured in detention, their fingernails ripped out. (Location 792)
  • Several thousand family members and their supporters responded by gathering in front of the Omari Mosque in the city’s Balad district on 18 March, demanding the children’s release and the resignation of Atef Najib and the city’s mayor.13 Security replied with water cannons and live ammunition, killing at least four people, the first deaths of the uprising.14 (Location 796)
  • It was in this context – of shaping the narrative the regime would doggedly stick to in the years that followed – that Bashaar addressed the People’s Assembly on 30 March.22 (Location 851)
  • Some Syrians saw the Islamic Front’s formation as a necessary move to deny the jihadists of Nusra and ISIS a monopoly over the vocabulary of armed Islam.41 (Location 2312)
  • While Obama was ignoring Syria, his administration was engaging with Iran. In the dispute over its nuclear programme, Syrians generally supported Iran. Given the international lack of concern over Israel’s nuclear arsenal, they saw the sanctions imposed on the country as unjust. In normal circumstances they would have welcomed the Obama administration’s easing of sanctions in favour of negotiations with Tehran. But these were not normal circumstances. ‘Syria is occupied by the Iranian regime’, said former Syrian prime minister Riyad Hijab after his defection. ‘The person who runs the country is not Bashaar al-Assad but Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian regime’s Quds Force.’24 Why, Syrians asked, was America dealing with the Islamic Republic now, just as its regional policy took a fiercely sectarian, expansionist and anti-democratic turn? (Location 3654)
  • On 20 July 2015, a ISIS suicide bomber struck the Turkish border town of Suruç, killing 32 people, mostly young Kurds affiliated with the Federation of Socialist Youths who were preparing to take aid to Kobani. Three days later a Turkish officer was killed in a cross-border firefight with ISIS. On 24 July, Turkish F16s began bombing ISIS targets in Syria, and government officials announced that American planes would be permitted to launch missions against ISIS from the Incirlik airbase. (Location 3766)