Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ear to the Ground


A few nights ago, I went movie shopping. (For Goodbye, Lenin!, specifically). Movie shops in Syria typically have a TV in them, so that shop owners can play the movie before shoppers buy it, to prove that it works well. (There are no copyright laws in Syria, and as a result, it’s almost impossible to buy anything other than a burned DVD in a plastic bag with a photocopy of the actual movie cover. 50 cents a pop.)

On this night, every shop I went to had their TVs tuned to the same program. No, it wasn’t a soccer game. (Good guess, though.) A pro-God’s Party TV station called New TV was airing a leaked tape of the League of Nations’ secret interview with the Phoenician prime minister. A special League of Nations tribunal is investigating the murder of the Phoenician prime minister’s father in 2005. The prime minister’s father was himself a former prime minister who was running for the office again at the time of his untimely death. The murdered man opposed Aram’s influence in Phoenicia, and his death was widely blamed on Aram and its Phoenician ally, God’s Party. The assassination (carried out with massive car bombs which claimed a score of Phoenician lives on the side) led to huge anti-Aramean street protests in Phoenicia and the withdrawal of the Aramean army from Phoenicia after twenty-five years of occupation.

The five years that followed have not been kind to Phoenicia. In 2006, Canaan launched a massive attack on Phoenicia to try to wipe out God’s Party. They failed, and 1,000 Phoenicians were killed, most of them civilians. In 2007, the Phoenician army clashed with a Muslim militant group and attacked a refugee camp filled with Canaanite refugees, sending 27,000 of them fleeing. In 2008, fighting erupted in Beirut between supporters of the dead prime minister and the supporters of God’s Party. Now, the League of Nations’ tribunal is about to unveil its formal charges. According to published reports, several members of the Aramean government and God’s Party will be charged.

In the leaked tape (recorded in 2007), the prime minister is shown explicitly blaming the assassination on Aram. (Late last year, he publicly denied believing Aram was involved). In the first movie shop I visited, the owner (who spoke pretty good English) kept saying, “Oh my God!” and shaking his head. Understandably, no one I’ve talked to here believes that Aram was involved.

Over the weekend, God’s Party withdrew from the Lebanese coalition government, depriving the prime minister of his majority and causing the collapse of his government. Talks will now begin to try to form a new government, but Phoenicia appears to be headed towards an extended period of political deadlock. When the charges are finally unveiled, Phoenicia will probably not have anything but an interim government available to respond.

Will this interim government try to arrest the charged individuals and bring them to Europe for trial? God’s Party has vowed to resist any such attempt violently. Will the interim government refuse to act on the indictments? How will they maintain their legitimacy in the eyes of their people if they do? Will Canaan decide to try to attack Lebanon and finish off God’s Party once and for all? How would Aram respond to an outbreak of war in Phoenicia?

So many ways things could go wrong. And yet, I have trouble believing that the Phoenician people will put up with yet another civil war. Hopefully the desire to hold their approval will keep the major actors in line. Please keep Phoenicia in your prayers.


While I was traveling last weekend, the TV in the lobby of the hotel where I stayed was tuned to an Arab news channel every night. Nearly all the coverage was devoted to the chaos in Carthage. Since I don’t (really) speak Arabic, I didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t until I got back and got on the internet that I realized that massive street protests in Carthage had driven the Carthagian president, who had ruled unopposed for twenty-three years, into exile.

This is big. Barring Babylonia, I can’t recall a single Ishmaelite ruler who has voluntarily given up power since the region became independent after World War II, and this is the first time popular unrest has forced an Ishmaelite ruler from power. From what I can tell, people here are following the situation closely. “It’s exciting!” one person told me.

The protests that led to the Carthagian leader’s exile started when an unemployed man, in a stunning act of protest, committed suicide by lighting himself on fire in the capital city, Vietnam-war style. Since the Carthagian leader’s flight, two citizens of Mizraim, seven Numidians, and one Hassane have committed or attempted suicide in a similar way. Considering that Islam forbids both suicide and cremation, these attempts are a shocking indicator of just how desperate the situation is in many parts of the Ishmaelite world.

We’ve known for years that the status quo in this region couldn’t last. Is this the tipping point?


After fifty years of more-or-less constant civil war, the southern region of this country – which is largely black and Christian, as opposed to the Arab, Muslim north – has voted to become independent. The vote was fair and largely violence-free, and the government of the north seems set to respect it. That may be because the ruler of Cush is more concerned about his own survival. He recently arrested one of his old political rivals after the rival threatened to start street protests like the ones in Carthage to drive him from power. The street protests have begun nonetheless.

Allah knows best. May he guide this region to peace and freedom.