Thursday, January 31, 2008 

Al Jazeera's plagarism

The brilliant new series A Question of Arab Unity, on Al Jazeera English has stolen large chunks from Wikipedia:

Here are a couple of examples:

"That night officers seized control of all government buildings, radio stations, police stations, and the army headquarters in Cairo."

"That day the Free Officers seized control of all government buildings, radio stations, police stations, and the army headquarters in Cairo."

"Nasser and his fellow officers assured Britain that it would respect British citizens and property in Egypt, limiting the possibility of intervention against the coup. The revolutionaries also bowed to American pressure by allowing the deposed King Farouk and his family to leave Egypt."

"The newly installed government immediately assured Britain that it would respect British citizens and property in Egypt, greatly diminishing the possibility of intervention against the coup. Nasser and his fellow revolutionaries also bowed to American pressure by allowing the deposed King Farouk and his family to leave Egypt."

Spot the difference? Some nice copy-and-pasting going on in Doha.

You can find some more yourselves. The next episode is going to be broadcast next week. My suggestion - skip it, and type 'Nasser' into Google.

Monday, January 28, 2008 

They weren't shot dead - they committed suicide

Eight people - supporters of opposition parties Amal and Hizbollah - have been killed by the Lebanese Army. They were protesting against the power cuts.

March 14 says: "The opposition ... is solely responsible for the blood spilled today."

By that logic, March 14 is responsible for the deaths of their martyrs.

Sunday, January 27, 2008 

Toot toot

It's taken three years of shameless begging, but I've finally done it.

I'm on toot

Toot is a handpicked selection of the best writing in the Arab World (I'm delighted to be pulling that standard down!). It's not an aggregator - and it certainly doesn't include all blogs. So it's well worth a read.

It's not easy to get on to toot. First, they hardly ever add new blogs. And second, their demands are really tough. They only want blogs which are frequently updated, and high quality.

Another new addition to toot - the Arab Observer - says it well. He took two years to get on toot. And he even stopped visiting their site when they didn't add him. It was like they didn't approve of his blog.

I felt the same - like mine wasn't up to their standards. And yes, seeing the curly wurly Amman fruits at did bring me down, because I wasn't allowed to join their club.

Not that there's anything wrong with aggregators. I am proud to be part of Syria Planet, which aims to repost all Syrian blogs.

Syria Planet

In a fortnight this blog will be three years old. And today is one of my happiest blogging days. Until now, the highlight was one month after I started, when Ayman linked to me.

Sunday, January 20, 2008 


Some comments are bound to go unread - because they're on posts which were written a while ago. So I'm reposting this one.

It was a comment on my post called Paper Tigers.

Hey there! That famous Arab hospitality is on display again! You give the poor people on the Tube train in London too much credit. They are reading newspapers, yes - but the 'news' in them is fecking awful. I despair of my country. The best-selling 'news'papers are tabloids which are filled only with racism, xenophobia, celebrity gossip, sport and how much Iraqis are grateful for us overthrowing their awful dictator. In short, nothing worth reading.

Your Damascan bus is much better. At least they are sitting enjoying the view out of the window rather than filling their minds with irrelevance and/or spite.

Posted by Anonymous to The Syria News Wire at 8:34 PM

Thanks Anon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008 








Tuesday, January 08, 2008 

Bomb hits UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon

A bomb has hit a UN peacekeeping patrol near Sidon.

It comes hours after rockets were fired into Israel.

Fateh Al Islam has recently threatened to renew its campaign of violence in the country.


Paper tigers

Why doesn't the Arab world read enough?

Take two scenes:

Transport in London.

And transport in Damascus.

Spot the difference.

Ok, it's unscientific, I know, but most of people in the first picture have newspapers or books. None of the people in the second picture do (I know there are only three!).

Is it that we don't crave knowledge? That can't be right, because Al Jazeera is the Arab world's most popular TV channel. But to quote my hero Sami Moubayed:

"To [the imposter elite of Damascus], intellectuality is obtained not by reading, thinking, and interacting with different people and schools of thought, but rather, by watching 9 pm news on al-Jazeera, throwing out critical statements against the government, or splashing a few words of French and English."

So maybe knowledge isn't important to us - except to the extent that it makes us appear intellectual.

But why? Much of the blame can be laid at the door of Arab media. Take a look at Tishreen on any given day, and more likely than not the top story will be 'the President received a letter from the President of randomistan' - regardless of what's going on in the world.

Yemen TV News devotes its first ten minutes to un-narrated shots of President Ali Abduallah Salah greeting someone in a suit.

The same is true of state media in every Arab country.

But that doesn't explain why we don't act differently when we are presented with a free press. Take London. A city of three hundred thousand Arabs, with publications like Al Quds (independent), Al Arab (Libyan funded) and Al Hayat (Saudi funded) - papers to rival anything written in English. But they sell pitifully few copies.

Part of it could be down to the nature of society. Arab society is much more social. British society is more individual. A book, or a newspaper, is a mask - something to bury yourself in on the train or bus - not just physically, but emotionally too. Anything to avoid making eye contact with a stranger, or even remembering that there are strangers nearby.

Reading a newspaper at home, or in the office is almost unheard of. It's just a companion for the journey.

Newspaper penetration in Britain has always been one of the highest in the world. But it really took off when Rupert Murdoch started throwing free newspapers at commuters. One million copies of the 'Metro' are published every day. Commuters leave them on trains and buses when they've finished, and within seconds, they'll get snatched by another reader.

They're free and funded by advertisements.

So imagine my delight when I was handed a free newspaper in Damascus. Called Ya Hala, it's given out in front of newstands. They've got the bit about the adverts right. But they forgot to put any news in it.

I left Ya Hala where it belongs:

Friday, January 04, 2008 

Beirut Spring gets inside the Aoun mindset

I rarely agree with Beirut Spring. But I find his commentary to be some of the most clear headed of the M14 fans (although he may deny being an M14 fan, so apologies in advance).

Anyway, read this, and understand Michel Aoun's ability to morph from anti-Syrian to pro-Syrian:

To understand, one has to look way back at the years where Aoun took the popular position of resisting the Syrians. We all thought back then that he was doing it because it was the right thing to do, but many of us are learning today that he did it because Syria was the only thing standing between him and power.

I've never been a fan of Aoun - need proof: this should do.

So there. That's an interesting take on how Aoun made a massive u-turn. But what about Junblatt. What's his explanation? Hmm, this sounds reasonable.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008 

A new dawn in Damascus

Happy 2008. As the sun rises on another Damascene year, we can only hope that power is used wisely, people learn the lost art of respect, and money gathers in the hands of those who need instead of those who want.

Jebl Qasioun from Abu Rumani (not really at sunrise, but just imagine it is, ok?).

About me

  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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