Syria’s young people NEED American culture to breathe. That’s the bottom line of this opinion piece by some foreign visitor.
Here are some of the most patronising paragraphs:
“Less fortunate young Syrians who [didn’t go to the American School] used to look forward to movie night at the Cultural Centre every Wednesday. There they would watch a free screening of an American movie with themes such as African American history and women’s suffrage. When I lived in Damascus I used to attend as many of those as I could. Movie night was a refreshing two hours of enriched entertainment in a city where American culture is hard to come by.”
You what?? American culture is hard to come by?? Has she not walked down Qaimariyeh lately? Every single American film you can dream of is on sale there. In many cases, it’s available before it’s even released in the States.
“when I took my MacBook to the Inhouse coffee shop in Malki, one of the few places with wireless internet, I was still forbidden access to three out of five sites before I gave up in frustration.”
Where to start? First, get out of InHouse, and experience the real Damascus. Then get out of Maliki and meet some real Syrians – I’m sure your chauffeur can introduce you to some. And use proxies like every other person with a computer. Even the InHouse staff could’ve showed you how!!
And InHouse may have been one of the few places with wireless internet five years ago, now it’s hard to find a cafe WITHOUT wireless internet. It’s more common than it is in London (honestly!!).
(And when exactly was this article written? InHouse in Maliki shut down six months ago.)
“During my visit I was quickly reminded of that sense of isolation that creeps up on the mind after landing in Damascus. The foreign press is still censored. It arrives three or four days late, the time it takes for censorship authorities to translate and read it all.”
Maybe someone needs to introduce her to the Guardian website, or how about BBC World Service Television. These things are not available to the visiting foreigner who just can’t survive without access to the civilised world. Oh yes, they are. Whoops.
And anyway, what’s life like nextdoor, in Lebanon. The foreign press is TWO OR THREE DAYS LATE IN BEIRUT!!!!! And that’s without censorship.
And it’s littered with factual errors:
“The authorities resented [the American School] because it was the only school in the country that did not teach its Syrian students the Syrian curriculum alongside its own.”
In fact it DID teach large parts of the Syrian curriculum, all in Arabic.
She discovered all this without speaking to a SINGLE Syrian (notice the lack of quotes in her piece). Maybe she couldn’t find her way out of Maliki without an up-to-date copy of the Guardian.
But at least she found happiness on her way out of the country. She likes Damascus International Airport. I couldn’t be bothered to find out why. But let’s hope she had a one-way ticket out of the country.