One tends to take electricity for granted but in Syria November is a bad month for it. There’s been enough rain to stop solar production and to be seriously annoying, but not enough to repair the damage a summer of evaporation has done to Lake Assad and the turbines on the Ath Thwer dam. You would have thought that with the electricity to Homs almost permanently cut we’d have more in Damascus, but the whole city’s on two-hour blackouts. There is a massive mazout shortage and even if they can find it most people, including professionals, can’t afford it. Consequently people are trying to use electric heaters, which contribute to the problem. For most of human history people have been cold and in the dark. In Damascus we still are.
Turkey is threatening to stop selling leccy to Syria, I don’t really understand why. Bashar isn’t going to think ‘this is dam annoying, makes being a dictator pretty stressful, I’ll retire to Tehran,’ that bastard’s got a generator. Less facetiously, while people are increasingly fed up with the situation and people who in August were denying that there is a problem now just want the killing to stop, Bashar still has a significant support base. Cutting the power reinforces the wildly and deeply held believe that the Syrian government is the victim of a plot. The Blitz didn’t turn Londoners against Churchill; they thought that World War 2 was a cause worth dyeing for. Many Syrians feel the same way about preserving the ‘Souria al Assad.’ Cutting the power will polarize a society that agrees on only one thing, ‘Syria, May God be with you.’
There are daily pro-government rallies that converge on Umwyen Square, paralyzing the city. I think it’s a calculated attempt to intimidate ‘the silent opposition’ into staying silent. Obviously it changes traffic patterns, but it doesn’t mean Jermaana can’t have the desperately needed traffic cops any more. In affluent or Christian areas shops are shut as staff demonstrate, and the streets are thronged by people wandering around with posters of Assad. In conservative neighbourhoods life continues. In Jermaana, which is predominantly Druze but pretty poor, people seem to have given up proactively supporting the president.
It’s getting increasingly hard to predict people’s political views based on religion and income. The day before Eid there were synchronized anti-government protests at all the private university’s in Damascus. A friend at AIST used the word ‘riot’ to describe what happened. Half the students were shouting ‘God is great’ in the lunch hall, a quarter (including my friend) neutral, and a quarter shouting ‘abu hafez’ and even ‘there is no god but Bashar.’ The pro-government students attacked the demonstrators and the university called in the police, who could only restore order by getting the majority of the pro-government group into busses, and then ‘dealing’ with the rebels. Kalmoun University has apparently been shut down as a result.
Students at private universities are not necessarily smart; although the state universities are rubbish, getting onto a medicine degree involves getting 98% in the Baccalaureate. Everyone I know at Dam U say only idiots go to private universities, and I can’t help thinking that if you are going private you might as well go to the American University in Beirut. None the less the private students are rich, very rich. It costs slightly more for a Brit to go to a private university in Syria than for tuition at a UK uni. In Syria teachers earn 136 quid a month. These protesters really are ‘the cubs of the lion’s Syria,’ as a sign in Jermaana puts it. A few months ago hardly anyone who’d benefited from the regime criticised it
The Free Syrian Army has blown up The Airforce Intelligence building in Harista, where Damascus’ main bus station is. Assad senior was an Airforce officer, these guys are the cream de la cream of the Mokhberat, but as a friend said anything is normal now. As of yet every time there’s been as escalation of tension the situations stabilised again, I’m beginning to think that maybe this is the time it doesn’t.