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Mistaking Syria

April 9th, 2010 · 6 Comments · Writers' Hall of Shame

This article is so bad that I’ve had to create a whole new category on the blog called the Writers’ Hall of Shame.

Fly in fly out. Journalists who come into Damascus for 24 hours, think they have some enlightened view of the country’s politics and economics, file a piece of trash and then fly out.

Management Today’s Nick Hood is the perpetrator this time. His article (called A Traveller’s Tale: Syria’s uncertain future) is so full of inaccuracies that I’m just going to list them.

“Arriving in Damascus in the chaos of rush hour, it is hard not to wonder how a city which relatively recently had a population of only 300,000 will ever cope with the 4m refugees mainly from Iraq and Palestine that now threaten to throttle it.”

If “recently” was the early 20th century, then maybe. And even by the most extreme estimates, the figure is 2 million refugees.

“Further north, the second city of Aleppo is somewhat more functional, but it too is swamped with refugees, this time 500,000 Kurds expelled from Turkey.”

Aleppo is “somewhat more functional”. What? Examples? What does that even mean? The buses run to timetables?

Kurds expelled from Turkey? No. Most of them are Syrian Kurds from the northeast of Syria. Maybe he means Armenians expelled by the Turks 100 years ago?

“Unsurprisingly, unemployment is estimated to be as high as 40%.”

Ok. Estimated by who? The IMF says it is 11%.

“Business visitors may balk at a country where the lack of a GPRS system makes their Blackberries useless.”

No, there is a fully functioning GPRS system. I have used my own iPhone on it! There is, however, no GPS (satellite navigation, which has no impact on Blackberry usage).

“Even cash can be hard to get, as most ATMs are empty outside banking hours.”

No they’re not!

But it’s these two comments that REALLY got me: “whilst nobody should come for a gourmet experience” and “visitors also throng the rather disappointing souks”.

In short, an article full of clumsy confusions. Please, please, don’t. What Nick Hood should’ve done is extrapolate politics from the Sushi-eating habits of Damascenes.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jabi // Apr 10, 2010 at 12.47 am

    lol funny stuff. This guy probably didn’t even bother to research. Probably was given 12 hours to write this so, using his imagination, thought of what a ‘third world’ country would be like and blabbed about it.

  • 2 Sarah // Apr 12, 2010 at 6.56 pm

    Also funny that he thought Syria produced some decent wine. Unless he got his hands on some of the home-made stuff (seems unlikely), I wonder what he was drinking.

  • 3 Sasa // Apr 12, 2010 at 9.46 pm

    “I wonder what he was drinking” was a phrase that came to my mind all the way through that article!

  • 4 Jillian C. York // Apr 13, 2010 at 9.27 pm

    Despite having never met you in real life, Sasa, I can somehow easily picture you reading this and getting increasingly flustered 😉 Guess that’s the sign of a good writer?

  • 5 Sasa // Apr 13, 2010 at 11.32 pm

    Jillian, that’s such a generous comment, thank you. I regularly write pieces littered with junk – that’s the value of having good editors 😉

  • 6 Ahmed // Apr 26, 2010 at 10.29 am

    As if the economist’s piece is better!
    “A decade or two ago Damascus offered just a handful of restaurants serving typical Syrian cuisine”

    “a handful”…seriously?!

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