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Agence Future Logo 4.6: Damascus


rooftop view of part of Damascus, note the satelite dishes

Syrians are less forthcoming in conversations about the future than any of the other nationalities we have dealt with so far. We inquired about possible interviewees, but it is quite a difficult situation. Most people are afraid to talk because they think the security police are everywhere (and they might be right). Moreover, it was not easy to find interpreters because Syrians do not like to talk in the presence of Syrians (for fear of the same secret police). At the university exams were going on until the end of January, which complicated matters further. Nevertheless, we managed to have many interesting meetings during our time in Syria.

Philippe and Bram had met a couple of young men on their journey from the dessert into Damascus. They had been eager to talk and make contact and wanted us to visit their sports club where young men and boys learned martial arts and break dancing. When we wanted to take an acquaintance from Damascus along on our second visit, they were worried at first. Only when they learned that our company was American, not Syrian, did they agree. "For Syrians it is no good, they do not like our dancing, we cannot do it on the street and do not to let anyone know about it." Our American acquaintance found it amusing that a dance genre that had been outmoded in his own country since he was a toddler, could be considered subversive here. To the Syrian 'Break Boys' team it was a given with which they had lived all their lives. When pressed about the possibilities for change, the young men did not sound hopeful. To be able to continue their work in sports clubs professionally they envisaged a move to Lebanon, rather than a relaxation of the general environment in their own country.

birds for sale, cage and all a picture of the Khaba. Many were leaving on Hajj to visit it during the time of our stay in Damascus.

Maya visited the university quite soon after arriving. Because exams where ensuing she could not conduct any interviews until later in the month. But she did meet a young woman who was studying English who invited us to her family's home. On that visit three sisters from the Golan Heights talked about their ideas on the future. They stuck rigidly to personal ambitious, concerning work, marriage and the home-life and general statements about religion and peace. When their older brother entered, the conversation turned more towards international politics. Internal politics and the state of the country where treated with caution. Syria is recognised to be an important stabilising power in the Middle East. Although it is relatively small in surface area it has a significant role in the conservation of peace. It exercises power over the Lebanese leadership as well as playing a role in Muslim activism in the area. Unfortunately it is difficult to discuss this subject publicly in any other than the 'official' version.

Maya had a more worldly two hour conversation with a sociologist at the Damascus University. His main subjects are 'youth and women' and 'ecology'. He is also responsible for the science library of the Damascus University. We decided to try to have some of his students conduct our brief questionnaire next academic year.

man at work, the bend in his back does not straighten out any more the Grand Mufti and sheikhs also hard at work hair dresser in in Souq Sarouja

During our stay in Damascus we also met a young American, studying the Quoran. During our interview with Bilal, he talked about his ambitions for the future, the Muslim organisation of which he is a zealous member and about his views on future evolutions in the world. His position as both a proud American and a Muslim was obviously an important issue during our talk. Bilal took us to the Friday lecture of the Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Kuftaro. We went to the Abu Nur mosque twice and after being vetted by the interpreter (whom we interviewed also), we visited the holder of the highest religious authority in his private mansion and asked him for his ideas on the future. Later we interviewed Murhaf, the young man responsible for the Grand Mufti's website. In the last two years he created what is Syria's largest web sites, www.kuftaro.org. It has more hits than any other in the country and boasts many audio-visual recordings of the Grand Mufti's lectures and interviews (parts of our own will also feature).

When Maya went to a talk about volunteer work at the Goethe Institute she met a brave lawyer who is works for women's rights in Syria. She is studying domestic violence. We talked about the discrepancy between women's public role (they are expected to work and are educated in equal amounts as men) and their private lives (in which they carry the sole responsibility for household work). She also emphasised the problems of private law, which deny women equal rights to men in family matters and talked about her dream to set up a shelter. In Souq Sarouga, the oldest neighbourhood of Damascus, where we stayed several weeks, we learned about plans to demolish and build anew several blocks of housing. We interviewed some of the local shopkeepers about this and went to a public meeting concerning the neighbourhood's future. A young female architect of a 'government supported NGO' (I'm not kidding, that's what they called it) which works for the conservation of historic areas in the capital, called the meeting.

Personality cult or babyface?

Lesen Sie mehr über Agence Futures Reise durch den Mittleren Osten:

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Letzte Änderung: 20.05.2012