Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Syrian elite don't plan to let the revolution spoil their party

The rich and powerful are indifferent to their fellow Syrians and have too much to lose to want the current regime to end


Simona Sikimic
(a British journalist in Lebanon who previously worked in Syria.), Saturday 11 June 2011

"International pressure for President Bashar al-Assad to step down may be growing, but it has failed to catch on among many of the Syrian elite who are carrying on with their lives as usual – in a bubble.

The growing violence – said to have left 1,200 dead and several thousands imprisoned even after the announcement of a prisoner amnesty on 31 May – has not dented the newly moneyed upper middle class's obsession with pleasure and luxury.

Private raves, hosted in the mansions of the rich and powerful, continue unabated, even as EU and US sanctions begin to bite at some of the regime's top personalities. Pool parties in the Damascus suburb of Barada are openly promoted on Facebook, inviting patrons to get "wet and wild" every Friday [I wonder if Hassan Nasrallah will be invited soon to such parties, as a reward for good behavior?] as mosques call the faithful to prayer....

Many of the young, fashionable crowd in Damascus and Aleppo – who have varying degrees of association with the regime – drive in fast cars with blacked-out windows and openly smoke marijuana, knowing they are above the law and resenting the ongoing troubles.

Demands for higher living standards for all and at least a semblance of democratic reform, mixed with an undeniable religious zeal shared by the majority of protesters, could not be further away from the aspirations of the ruling few.

The Syrian elite cannot contemplate deserting Assad, no matter how unsettled about events they personally may be. They have too much to lose and virtually nothing to gain and feel irrevocably alienated from their fellow countrymen.....

But the problem is equally a battle of the haves and the have-nots. Certainly, religion matters much less at the Barada pool than who is ordering champagne and who is drinking the local beer....

For the business and political classes and their offspring, the price of dissent is high, but the fear of what would replace the status quo is even higher, and the Syrian people should not expect sympathies to turn or influential advocates to speak up on their behalf any time soon.

The Arab upheavals of the last six months have made the impossible look almost easy, but the wider the crevasse dividing the two sides, the harder the transition will be. So different are the various visions of the future vying for prominence in Syria that national reconciliation, no matter what reform promises may be made, is going to be very difficult."

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