Other countries have uprisings, revolutions. In Syria we have ‘The Situation.’ It’s hard to believe that when the most neutral term we could think of emerged as the title to the events unfolding here it had a subversive, dangerous shimmer to it. But when ‘The Situation’ was christened that talking about it was dangerous and subversive. As far as Al Watan and the Syrian Arab News Agency were concerned there was no situation, it was all lies spread by Syria’s enemies. Now people, pro or anti, can talk openly about the impact of ‘The Situation’ on their lives, enjoying the terms neutrality.
And the situation is impacting. The foreigners who’ve most recently extended their residency permits, myself included, only got 2 weeks, not a month. Not a happy thought. I’ve been filming a Syrian TV series in Aleppo. Filming has been delayed on a couple of occasions as permission to film outside hasn’t been forthcoming because of the situation. The government doesn’t want any cameras anywhere they can catch anything they shouldn’t and even in sedate Aleppo they’re scared this could happen. Rumour has it that some BBC camera men were arrested (though the bee hasn’t reported this) and that the only cameras larger than the ones built into a mobile phone are in government hands. Our camera men didn’t like the idea of being near a protest with their kit any more than the government did. In the end the president himself gave the crew a widow to film in. Once they had it was long (though badly organized, frustrating) days all round, getting as much down on celluloid as possible before he changed his mind. Actors were unhappy about going back to their home countries by road, and after filming finished in the evening we were allowed (but didn’t take) an extra night in a four star hotel so as not to have to travel home at night and they couriered us home in a taxi. The biggest impact though, is that people are talking about it. Discussing what will happen and what the government should do is unheard of hear, but its happening. While we were filming I heard people who don’t believe anything until the state news services have said it’s true and people who don’t believe anything until those same news services have denied it arguing, good naturedly, about the situation. While it’s called that because people were scared to call it anything else they are not scared anymore. The situation was also so named because people wanted reform and didn’t know what the outcome would be. No one wants reform anymore, the protester want a revolution. And most of them think they know what the out come will be now.