Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why would you watch news about Syria...

...when you can watch satirical puppet shows made by the Syrian opposition?

I don't know who this guy is, but these videos are masterpieces. Wonderfully scripted, wonderfully voiced, great music and camera work. They evoke real laughs and real horror.

Most of all, they are completely accessible to Western audiences (their English subtitles are WAY better than anything the Syrian Ministry of Tourism has ever written), but still distinctly Syrian. There are tons of inside jokes and references to Syria's political culture, so that watching these puppet shows is an education in itself. Check out Episode 6, "Talk show," where the diabolical and oblivious Bashar character reinterprets a real-life Syrian propaganda song to assert his divinity:

"Didn't you hear the song that goes:

'Millions and millions of Syrians swear
We will build our country with you our president,
and we won't kneel except to God.'

I like this song a lot, by the way. I blast it in my car and drive in circles around Ummayyad Square."

When I started watching them, I assumed they would all be comedies. For the most part, they are. But episode 7, "Investigation," is simply a dialogue between a political prisoner and a guard who is torturing him:

Prisoner: You are here because you are not free!

Guard: What? Are you crazy? I am free! I can thrash you and crush you. But you can't do anything. I come and go, unlike you who's in prison.

Prisoner: Look, you are imprisoned just like me. I'll leave prison in a month or two. But you'll stay here! Because you are afraid to take your freedom!

And episode 10, "Devils," a dialogue between Bashar and two demons who come to advise him on the uprising, is nothing short of horrifying.

These are dark, dark times for Syria. While it is still nigh impossible to know what's going on inside that country, it seems that the regime's ten months of unremitting brutality has succeeded in fragmenting the formerly peaceful opposition into groups willing to use varying degrees of violence to achieve their goals.

On Friday, over two dozen people were killed in a suicide bombing near an elementary school in Damascus' Al Midan district, an area just to the south of the church where I lived last year. Two weeks earlier, 44 people were killed in twin suicide bombings near a security forces' station in a wealthy Damascus district.

The opposition claims that the government is behind these bombings. I doubt it. In the long history of Islamic terrorism, few radical Muslims have ever blown themselves up in the service of a secular state. One suicide bombing might have been a false-flag attack from the government; three is the beginning of an Islamist insurgency a la Iraq or Afghanistan.

The regime is entirely responsible for this outcome. By meeting peaceful protests and entreaties with force, it has succeeded only in thwarting the possibility of a peaceful transition, and given al Qaeda-minded radicals an entrance into this once-harmonious country.

There is no clear way out of this mess, no Tahrir, no Tmisoara, only a long, bloody struggle. Dark forces have been unleashed in Syria, and they will not be tamed by all the democratic reforms in the world.

Pray for Syria.

And then watch Bashar's kids staging a protest in his house:

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