Syria and the Arab League

amoralaroma said: I don’t think there is a more complex sociopolitical situation anywhere else in the world that can match Syria. (We need a new word to describe the environment there Anomaloussycretisticsociopoliticalideology – that’ll due.)

Today’s rallies were protests against the Arab League’s vote suspending Syria’s membership. You’d think an oppressed people would be behind an orginization like the League 100% and yet they poured into the streets in the tens of thousands waving Syrian flags and of course blaming the US, one banner read: “You Arab leaders are the tails of Obama.” Tomorrow will be very interesting. A large portion of the population has been in a wait-and-see mode, (even Kurds – I know! [see new word]) maybe we will see which way they swing in the morning. I’m sure the heads of state in Algeria and Jordan will be watching closely. About the only thing I’m sure of in that whole region is that we need to stay the hell out of it. We have good intentions but we are incapable of seeing the whole picture.

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I’ll definitely second that!  For those who haven’t heard, the repression by the Syrian government led the Arab League to them threaten with sanctions and possibly even removal from the League if they do not end the repression and allow in outside observers in the next three days.  Unfortunately for the Syrians and the rest of us, this puts all of us in a wait-and-see mode for the next three days.

I also agree that the best thing for the world to do right now is to stand back and see what happens.  At the same time, I think there’s a possibility that, like with Libya, the international community made need to step in, and quite quickly, which is not usually something the international community is great at.

Part of what makes what’s happening in Syria so fascinating, and so confusing, is that the opposition represents a complicated overlapping of identities.  The opposition in Syria is a political movement – a question of who should run the country and how – similar to the political opposition movements that have arisen around the world, and even, in some respects, in the US.  The Arab League is a political community, but one based around a racial or ethnic identity – its existence is based on the assumption that there are political, cultural, social and economic issues that apply particularly to Arabs, and so there is a reason for them to meet together.

But Syria isn’t entirely ethnically Arab, although it is ‘an Arab nation’, under the standards of the Arab League (and probably the rest of the world).  The Kurds make up about 20 percent of the country’s population, and are figuring heavily in the opposition movement.

‘Kurd’ and ‘Arab’ are both complicated identities in and of themselves, and are both pan-national identities, so that their interests aren’t simply focused on the political life in Syria, but their political life the world over.

All in all, it’s going to be an anxious few days.  I have to admit, I harbor a special affection for Syria, and the city of Damascus (stemming largely from the Umayyad mosque, which features heavily in my research, and which is also just a beautiful, beautiful place).  Damascus is also the only place I’ve ever been that sells koi fish on the street.  It’s a wonderful place with an amazing history, and definitely deserves better than it’s gotten.

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About askanislamicist

I'm an academic who specializes in early Islamic history and the history of religious interactions, who, in her free time, enjoys shouting into the internet.
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