Saturday, August 30, 2008 

Shakira to defend Arabs in a new song

Columbian-Lebanese singer Shakira is writing a duet to defend Arabs.

She is teaming up with Arab-American singer Dania Youssef. Dania was born in America and sings in English. But she did study Arabic music for three years. On this song, her vocals will be in Arabic - and her words will be written by Egyptian composer Mohamed Saad.

Shakira visited Lebanon for the first time in 2003 and said it felt like a homecoming. She doesn't speak Arabic, and considers herself Columbian - rarely mentioning her Lebanese roots.

The song, which is an attempt to change the image of Arabs as terrorists, will be out by the end of the year. Dania is also recording her first Arabic album.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 

Syria says it's ready for direct talks with Israel

This could be the breakthrough. Bashar Al-Assad is ready to come face to face with Ehud Olmert.

The two countries have been involved in indirect talks for most of this year.

Israel has been asking for a direct meeting for months, but Syria has resisted. Now, things are slowing down, and the chance for a deal looks more distant than it has done at any point during the latest round of talks.

Syria has been holding off on direct talks because it is waiting for Bush to leave office. But Barack Obama's adviser recently visited Syria and told Bashar if he doesn't speed this process up, Barack won't get involved if he comes to power. No-one wants to support a process which could fail.

Syria says it just wants the US to back the talks. France has already said it will.

Apparently, the deal is almost concluded. The technical details - who does what, where and when, have been sorted out. It just needs the politicians to sit down and say 'I do'.

Add to the mix the visit from French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He's coming to Damascus in a few days. And he's already supporting direct talks. Bashar's words could spur Sarkozy into talking to Bush.

This has all come from David Ignatius, who has spoken to Bashar's advisers.

So that's it - a few words from Bush - "I support Israel's talks with Syria", and we could be almost there.

Sunday, August 24, 2008 

Damascus experts needed

A good friend is writing a book about Damascus, and needs details about parts of the city's history.

He's also looking for people who know about the Umayed Mosque, its traditions and what goes on there today.

If you think you can help, or if you have any ideas about people who could be useful to speak to, please leave a comment here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 

Syrian families demand information about missing relatives

Relatives of missing Syrians have staged a sit-in, outside the Ministry of the Interior.

They want to know what has happened to more than 1000 missing in Lebanon. They are demanding that Syrian officials ask Lebanon to investigate.

It follows a request by Lebanese families to learn the fate of their loved-ones, missing in Syria.

Thursday, August 14, 2008 

The anti-Syrians are furious

Bashar Al Assad and Michel Sleiman are meeting in Damascus. Hizbollah and March 14 are working together in Beirut. Syria and Lebanon have healed their wounds.

And Syria is coming in from the cold, internationally.

No wonder the anti-Syrians are having a fit. Have a look at this rant from George Bush's token Syrian friend - the "please invade Syria" cheerleader in Washington:

"If Assad wants to recognize Lebanon, why has he not, as protocol dictates, not visit Lebanon instead of inviting Gen. Suleiman to Syria? When was the last time Assad visited Lebanon? He never did because like a loyal Ba'athist, he considers it as part of Greater Syria. If anyone can confirm this protocol occurring please write me, otherwise, please consider the notion that it is simply too early to roll the red carpet for Assad."

The trouble is, Michel Sleiman has invited Bashar to Beirut, and Bashar has accepted. It was a desperate argument in the first place. And it shows how desperate the 'attack-Syria' lobby in Washington has become.

Start polishing your red carpet, Mr Syrian Chalabi.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008 

Lebanon's worst attack in 18 years

At least eighteen people have been killed in Lebanon's worst single attack since the civil war.

Eleven soldiers are among the dead in Tripoli, and forty people are injured - two seriously.

A roadside bomb exploded when a bus drove past during the rush hour in Tripoli city centre.

The attack happened in Banks Street.

Today is the day when President Michel Sleiman visits Syria. Some Lebanese are angry that a deal has been signed between Hizbollah and March 14. Tripoli is a March 14 stronghold.


UPDATE: Soldiers targeted in Lebanon bus bomb

At least nine people have been killed, including seven soldiers in Tripoli.

The explosion happened on a civilian bus.

It comes a year after the army's battle with Al Qaeda-allied militants in the city.

More live updates soon...



Five people have died - including a number of soldiers - in a bomb blast in Tripoli.

It exploded on a bus early this morning.

The attack happened just after the government finally agreed a unity statement - bringing together Hizbollah and March 14. Al Qaeda's Lebanese stronghold is Tripoli.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 

On Palestine

I rarely comment on Palestinian issues - because it is overdone elsewhere (I set up this blog to write about Syria at a time when no-one was). And because it is done by people a lot more knowledgeable than me.

But Israel's offer to the Palestinians. No comment, just the facts:

Israel would annex 7.3% of the West Bank, in return for a smaller patch of DESERT.

Israel would keep the largest settlements.

Israel would be allowed to expand the settlements as much as it likes BEFORE the deal is implemented (i.e. the Palestinians would sign up to the agreement, not knowing how much land they'd eventually get their hands on).

The whole of Jerusalem would become Israeli.

The Israel-Palestine border would be where the Wall is (which cuts deep into the Occupied Territory).

Palestine would have no military.

Fatah would have to overthrow Hamas in Gaza.

The Palestinians would have to admit this is a generous deal.

Thursday, August 07, 2008 

Last of the Damascus Spring prisoners released

Campaigner Aref Dalila has been released.

He was jailed in 2002, as the Damascus Spring - a period of openness at the start of Bashar Al-Assad's presidency - came to an end.

Aref is an economist, and former head of Economics at Damascus University, who was charged with trying to incite armed rebellion. He says he will continue to voice his opinions strongly, and his release wasn't conditional on staying silent.

Interestingly, it's just a few weeks since Ammar Qorabi - head of the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria - made a plea to Bashar for Aref to be freed: "because of a deterioration in his state of health and to turn a new page with the Syrian opposition". Qorabi continues to be the voice of moderation, and seems to be able to get away with a lot, and achieve even more. That man is on the up.

A handful of other dissidents - most notably Riad Seif - are still in prison.

Monday, August 04, 2008 

Damascus street signs - history alive

Interesting series of posts from a visitor to Damascus, looking at the street signs.

They often come with a short history lesson in the form of a small plaque next to the road name. The plaque explains why that street has got that name.

The signs provide a vital history of Damascus's streets - and its people.

The first one is here - it's a ten part series.

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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