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This issue of Forward has a timeline of 2011 events in Syria, the Arab World, and the World in general.


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Rebuilding the Republic2012 is a year of hope4


After 30-years of residencyFather Paolo asked to leave Syria

and more...

Kinan Azmehperforms in Armenia

In pretty bad shape Syria’s economy 9-months into the crisis










Forward Guest


the Last WordIhab Ali: Back in town with a Mission

Media In Spot's Anas al-Zayat: Never Give In

off the Grid

46 Face of the FutureMohammad al-Ghabrathe commercial director of iNet ISP

42 Developmentthe Syrian branch of L’ArcheA new home for the mentally ill in old Damascus

When producing our magazine one year ago, we had a lengthy editorial meeting to ask: “What are we going to write about in 2010?” the year was a boring one, after all, with nothing major happening across the Arab world. our editorial back in December 2010 was headline, “Goodbye 2010 and good night.” Chuckling, we said to each other: “Let us hope that 2011 is more exciting!”

And indeed it was…

the year that passes has not been good for the country, politically, economically, psychologically, and morally, and nor was it good for the magazine business in Syria. It was good and historic, however, for the Arab World at large. the change that began in tunisia in December ripped through Arab capitals, bringing down the Egyptian regime in February, the Libyan one in october, and the yemeni one, which is due to begin its long march into history next January. 2011 marked a dramatic shift in the history of the Arab nation, unparalleled perhaps since collapse of the ottoman Empire nearly 100-years ago.

And what makes things interesting is that we don’t know what the aftershocks of 2011 are going to be on 2012. the Arab Spring does not end with yemen. With a forceful domino effect, it will soon reach the Arab Gulf and other countries in North Africa, making 2012—probably—even more exciting than 2011.

At Forward Syria, we take a look at 2011, which was a brilliant display of history-in-the-making.

2011: History in-the-making

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inboxSend your comments to: Fax: +963 11 222 3465, P.O.Box: 28, Damascus, Syria E-mail: [email protected]





Maurice Nseiri, Syria’s celebrated metal craftsman (who now lives in the US) distributed an article written about him in the November 2011 issue of Forward called: “A brilliant Jewish craftsman from Damascus.” on his mailing list were Sylvia and Adriano Severi, the ex-General Manager of the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus, back in the 1980s. From his retirement in Bangkok, Severi

sent the following reply: “I must confess, it bought me back tons of memories about the time we spend in Damascus and most of all, having had the opportunity of meeting you and working with you. you have been and you still are, an inspiration for many people, through your positive attitude. I loved the article and above all, I was happy to see that you have not been forgotten...

The cast CEO and Publisher: Abdulsalam M. HaykalEditor-in-Chief: Sami M. MoubayedStaff Writer: Obaida Hamad Art Director: Tareq Sheikh SoulimanProduction Officer: Firas AdraPhotography: Manaf HasanCreative Advisor: Karim ShukrContributing Writers: Stephen Starr, Ali Kh-wanda, Alma NourAllah, Rabab Ourabi, Mehdi al-Refaii

Advertising, Circulation, Subscriptions byHaykal MediaChairman: Mohamed Haykal Managing Director: Ammar HaykalGroup Sales Manager: Soud AtassiCommunication Officer: Yara BarhoumCirculation Manager: Jamil AttarDistribution Supervisor: Mohamad TalebPrinting: Salhani Printing House, SyriaCorrespondents: Dubai, New York, Doha,Montreal, Washington DC, Beirut, Amman, LondonDistribution - Syria: General Establishment for Publications Distribution. Lebanon: Moyen Orient Distribution SAL

Contact:P.O.Box 28, Damascus, SyriaTel: +963 11 2245200Fax: +963 11 2223465Editorial: [email protected]: [email protected]

“I dedicate Forward Magazine to my father Mohamed Haykal, whose guiding optimism has helped me see the many ways forward.” - Abdulsalam M. Haykal

Licensed in Syria by Decree 80 of August 24, 2008.

A publication of

Maurice is not in Syria but he is still remebered there

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By Sami Moubayed

Rebuilding the Republic2012 is a year of hope

I would add several factors to Abdulsalam’s argument. We lack many things in Syrian society, in addition to love, like respect, tolerance, and critical thinking. When thinking of who to blame for the lack of all three, I cannot but blame two players. First, I point to our politicians, especially the Baathists.

Love is reciprocated, after all, and trickles down in society from top to bottom. It cannot be one sided and has to be mutual. Most Baathists did not show much love for this country during the 48-years that they have been in power, since 1963. And to be fair, Syrians at grassroots levels were never too fond of the Baathists. they only joined the Baath because it guaranteed social and political mobility in society. the Baath Party, with Syria’s new constitution, might soon be ending its role as “leader of state and society,” as mandated by the old constitution of 1973. they would still get the chance to engage in political life and perhaps then, after leaving power, will they see how much damage has been done to this country, economically, politically, socially, morally and financially, during the Baath Party era. I have always said that the biggest service to ever be done to the Baath Party is getting rid of Article 8. All opportunists would automatically step back, and only the

ideologically convinced will remain within Baath Party ranks.

the second party to blame for the lack of love, tolerance, and respect are our religious clerics, both Muslims and Christians. For far too long, they have been fake—and selfish—in dealing with people, preaching medieval thought to young people marching into the 21st century. they taught people that prayer is more important than education, and that people were created by Gold Almighty, only to obey and worship. We glorified our leaders and transformed them into Gods, because we have been accustomed to worship—worshiping Prophets and Holy Scriptures, rather than achievements and great ideas.

But all of that is trivial, when compared to the bigger picture of what is happening in the Arab World, since outbreak of the Arab Spring in tunisia, exactly one year ago. Syria is at the crossroads today, facing a future that many claim, is uncertain and scary.

I strongly disagree…I think that a very bright future

is ahead of us, one of challenge, inspiration, and nation-building. the country, whether we like it or not, is in pretty bad shape. there is plenty of reconstruction that needs to be

done. We need to revamp our political landscape, championing democracy that was hard earned by the young men and women who took the streets since last March. the era of one-party rule and a police state is gone—it cannot be repeated and we will never allow it. We need to rebuild our economy, which is on the verge of collapse. We need to heal the social wounds that erupted between pro-regime and anti-regime Syrians, which often created deep scars within families, sharply dividing entire households. We need to celebrate our ethnic and religious differences, rather than hide them, as we have done for 50-years. there is no harm in acknowledging that we are a rich society, made up of Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Druze, Greek orthodox, Catholics, and Jews. that after all is what makes us so rich—and different. We need to live with our differences and use them to learn from one another, and then, hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder, re-build the Republic. We then of course need to bury our dead—because at the end of the day, when this madness ends, each and every one of them is a precious Syrian life that should have lived, not died for Syria.

Let us all grow up, get our act together, and name 2012 as the “year of Re-Building the Republic.”


Last November, I had a long talk with Abdulsalam about the many woes that currently plague our society, many of which do doubt, have led to the current uprising. Abdulsalam summed it up with one word: “Love.” He quickly added, “We lack love in our society.” I cracked a smile, thinking that he was getting too sentimental, but he then explained: "you hardly find someone who really likes what he/she is doing; where they live, they life they lead, or the person they got married to. Love is the love of identity, adn the sense of belogning. Without it we are shadows roaming on the margins of life."

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Local News Food for Thought Say Again


After 30-years of residencyFather Paolo asked to leave SyriaProminent Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall’oglio has been asked by authorities to leave Syria. An Italian cleric with a PhD in comparative religion and Islamic studies, Paolo has become world-famous for renovating, and then heading, the ancient monastery of Deir Mar Musa, approximately 90 km north of Damascus. the English name of the monastery, which dates back to the sixth century, is that of St. Moses the Abyssinian. today it resembles a storybook castle perched on the edge of a steep hill. Paolo transformed the monastery into a hub for inter-faith dialogue, hosting scholars, students, and ordinary Syrians from all religions, who often prayed side by side in a symbolic gesture of harmony. Since disturbances began in mid-March,

Father Paolo advocated “freedom of expression, press, and opinion.” He called on all parties for "a long, patient, demanding dialogue" in order to avoid "a situation like in Iraq and Libya."

on November 25, Father Paolo published a Christmas message, saying: “our country is in danger. Some of us have sided with one party, others with another. Let us ask ourselves: where is our duty as a community obeying the Gospel? Many predict a rapid end to the current dramatic events through the victory of one side over the other. others expect a rise in violence and finally a permanent partition of the country. Whatever the result, we will stay in solidarity with every Syrian, regardless of his or her political, religious, ethnic and

native tongue roots.”

Speaking to Forward Syria, Father Paolo said that the decision to expel him began last March, due “deteriorating confidence between government authorities and the monastery.” Part of that slump, he noted, was due to a wedge drive between him and the Syrian government, by fellow priests. Asked whether he would be leaving Syria, Paolo said, “It depends on government authorities and the Church. If they ask me to leave, I will leave. I don’t want to leave Syria, however, because I consider this country my homeland, having lived here for the past 30-years." I devoted my life towards promoting understanding between its people.”


the Deir Mar Musa Monestery

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Say again...Say again...


food for thought

“there's a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. there is a big difference.”

President Bashar al-Assad, speaking to ABC News’ Barbara Walters

“We know how that worked in Libya when the arms embargo only applied to the Libyan army, the opposition received weapons, and countries like France and Qatar publicly spoke about it without shame.”

Russian Foreign Minister Serge Lavrov on proposed Western sanctions against Syria

“this is what I told the Russians: we came here to ward off foreign intervention, not to legitimatize it. If we wanted military intervention, we wouldn't have come to Russia.”

Bourhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council (SNC), speaking to the Wall Street Journal.

“I don’t have any money or property to my name, and there was no such thing in Syria called the Defense Forces.”

Rifaat al-Assad, speaking to al-Arabiya about his former garrison, known as the Defense Forces, which were dismantled in 1984

“to hell with Syrian [identity]! We do not recognize Syria. Who created Syria? Sykes-Picot. Is that true or not?”

Zuhair Salem, speaker of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the need to promote an Islamic identity, rather than a Syrian one.

Is there room for political Islam in Syria?Depending on who one talks to in Syria, the Egyptian elections have sparked off either fear, or great inspiration—given that they have played out nicely in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. the seculars are panicking, to say the least, watching the victory of Islamic parties in Morocco, tunisia, Egypt, and the emergence of politically-driven politicians in Libya. Political Islam is on the rise, they claim, and the Islamists will eventually overtake the Syrian Parliament in democratic elections. A closer look, however, might prove otherwise.

that argument is logically being challenged by those who believe that although popular, political Islam will never come to power in Syria, for one main reason: demographics. In Syria, 10% of the population is Christian, and they would never vote for the

Brotherhood. Neither would the 15% Alawite and Shiite communities, or the 3% Druze, or 2% “others” (Circassians, Jews, Ismailis). then come 15% Syrian Kurds and 10% tribes and Bedouins, who although Sunni Muslims, would also never support an Islamic party. that adds up to 55%, topped with no less than 25% of Syria’s 75% Sunni majority, who are seculars or ordinary Syrians simply un-attracted to political Islam. that sums up to a majority of voters in any parliamentary elections, meaning that the Muslim Brotherhood or its sister groups would not take more than 20-25% of any incoming Chamber. Meaning, in true internationally monitored parliamentary elections, Islamic-driven parties like the Brotherhood would be unable to rule on their own with no coalition parties, as the case with the Elnnahda Party in tunisia.

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The ABC Damascene Story for Syrian photographers

the British Council recently wrapped up its two-year programme in capacity building in technical theatre at the Damascus opera House. the program, brought in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), started in March 2010. Its first speaker was Matthew Prentice, Head of Lighting at RADA. the workshop targeted trainers of technical theatre in drama schools and head of technical departments in theatres from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories and Egypt. In March 2011 RADA came back to Damascus for theatre sound training which was conducted by Chris Mock, head of sound Department at RADA.

the international Swiss watchmaker Raymond Weil recently released a new ladies’ watch, which has just hit the Syrian market. According to the company, the new watch is “full-bodied, voluptuous and yet delicate.” the company adds that the new watch, Jasmine, “embodies the absolute femininity of its wearer.”

Raymond Weill releases new ladies’ watch in the Syrian market

British Council holds Active Citizens WorkshopsA closed four-day training workshop was held in early December in al-Quneitra, by the British Council’s program, Active Citizens, in partnership with Syrian Enterprise Business Centre (SEBC) – SKILLS. A similar workshop will take place at the al-Hassakeh province, followed by seven other Syrian cities, in March 2012. output of the first workshop was six proposals on social development in Syria, to-be-implemented by a grant from the British Council. others received incubating and consultancy services. the winning project was submitted by the Syrian Development Association, and it focused on enhancing skills for future employability in horticulture/agriculture for young offenders resident in the Khalid Ibn Al Walid Institute in Damascus. the aim was to equip these young people with skills to facilitate their inclusion into society.

The British Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts trains Syrian theatre technicians

Late November, the Hussien Sofan Photography Establishment, in cooperation with the Junior Chamber International (JCI) – Damascus, organized a photography competition entitled “ABC, Damascene Story.” the 9-day training workshop gathered 28 photographers, aged 18-40, training them in photography and storyboard composition aimed at coherent, well narrated photo essays. Participants were taken on a sightseeing tour of Damascus, for strong inspirations, visiting the Azm Palace, the National

Museum, Khan Asaad Pasha, and Damascus University. Sofan, a celebrated young photographer in his own right, said that his main goal was “encouraging young people to appreciate, observe, document and photograph their cities.” What made the event remarkable, he added, was that some photographs would travel to Damascus, despite security hardships, from hotspots like Homs like Damascus. they made the journey, despite its dangers, because “simply, they loved photography.”

Soufan (left) applauds young photographers

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A Syrian dentist stands out Oussama AlaouiFor the second year-in-a-row, dentists from all around the region met in Dubai for Aesthetic Dentistry MENA Awards 2011, a unique completion in which dentists from 14 countries compete with their professional treatment achievements. this year, Syria’s well-known dentist oussamaAlaouihow runs Smile Clinic in Damascus won the second place under Conservative Aesthetic Best Care category.

For the 2011 edition of the competition more than 146 dentists have been submitted their clinical cases and judge by independent Jury Panel from six countries.

Rehabing Syrian juvenilesMarking the first anniversary with the Khaled Ibn Al-Walid Juvenile Center in Damascus, the Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD) recently held a ceremony at the Assad Library, in partnership with Drosos Foundation, followed by an art exhibition. the event heralded “community-based partnerships for effective social intervention” among Syrian juveniles, whose artworks were displayed once speeches were over, proving how far rehabilitation can develop a young delinquent’s personality and skills. SSD Chairman Pierre Chiniara said that the spirit behind the project was “working with marginalized children, youth, and those at risk, in addition, of course, to their families and communities.” Founded in July 2009, SSSD targets delinquency prevention, rehabilitation, and finding effective alternatives to incarceration.

Alaoui (center) recieving his award in Dubai

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A winter holiday at the Four Seasons DamascusA palpable energy surrounds us during the winter holidays, urging us to let go of the stresses that have plagued us all year, and turn some of the bleakest days of winter into the brightest moments of our lifetimes. We let go of all the worries and troubles that have gathered throughout the past year and welcome the new one with the belief that it will be better. With this spirit in mind, the Four Seasons Hotel Damascus has planned a winter holiday program that will allow their guests to usher in 2012 with style and class.

Kicking off the festivities is the annual tree Lighting party at the beginning of December, an exclusive event for hotel guests and invited vIPs for a special evening of mirth and good cheer. Attendees can enjoy canapés and mulled wine while an instrumental duo playing the traditional kanoun (zither) and a grand piano set the general tone. “We’ve also planned to inject a slight local flavor to the festivities,” says Sven Wiedenhaupt, General Manager at the hotel. “While gingerbread houses are an international favorite and tradition, this year we have planned to create a miniature Damascene

house with courtyard; a small, playful touch to distinguish where the celebration is taking place.”

throughout the month, the hotel will be offering programs and amenities meant to reflect the mood of the season: Il Circo will create a seasonal menu, “With Love, From Italy”, revealing to Damascenes the culinary traditions of the Italian Christmas meal. the festivities culminate towards the end of the month with the two most important days of the season. Christmas day will see the legendary Four Seasons Holiday Brunch Buffet once again setting the town buzzing, featuring Christmas dishes at Il Circo. these will be followed by a pre-fixe Christmas dinner for families to get together and reflect on the meaning of the holiday.

Soon after, the hotel will literally “Jazz It Up” for the New year, the name and attitude with which the staff will imbue the year’s turning point. the moment you step in the lobby, a band will play some catchy tunes, leading you to the various establishments in style. Il Circo mixes it up with a musical dinner, as a singer

performs the classics while you enjoy an exquisite five course meal and rounds of Champagne. you may wind down from all this excitement with a calming drink at Xo bar, and treat the aftermath of your excesses with a soothing New year’s Day brunch at Il Circo.

Food and drink may define the true meaning of the season for some, but the Four Seasons has ensured the seasonal spirit extends beyond even that. Seasonal packages starting the last two weeks of December allow international and local guests to explore the amenities and festive plans of the hotel without breaking the bank. the packages include early check-in at 9, late check out at 6, complementary internet and valet parking, a 50 Euro credit at any of the hotel’s restaurants, as well as a complimentary category upgrade. “We want to ensure our guests have the time of their lives this season,” explains Wiedenhaupt. “Whether it’s an international guest experiencing the New year in Damascus or a local who doesn’t want the party to end, the hotel has something just for you.”


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2011 January




Mohamed Bouazizi, who launched the tunisian uprising by setting himself on fire two and a half weeks earlier, dies of self-inflicted burns. A funeral is later held for him in Sidi Bouzid, his hometown.

the Hizbullah-led opposition withdraws from the cabinet of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, while the latter is on an official visit to the White House.

Demonstrations break out in Algeria, demanding downfall of President Abdulaziz Bouteflika.



tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali makes a televised address, announcing unprecedented concessions and vowing not to seek re-election in 2014. He pledges to introduce more freedoms into society, and investigate the killings of protesters during demonstrations. He tells the tunisian people who had been demonstrating against him since December, “I understand you.”

Ben Ali flees tunisia by plane, with his family. Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi appears on state television to announce that he is assuming the role of interim president of tunisia. Ben Ali reportedly flies first toward Malta, then Paris, before finally turning around toward the Gulf, where he lands in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. French media report that Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, refused to allow Ben Ali to land in his country.

Anti-government protests break out in Amman, Maan, Al-Karak, Salt, and Irbid, demanding a constitutional monarchy to replace that of King Abdullah II.

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Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi says he regrets the fall of Ben Ali, which has left the country in "chaos

with no end in sight." He says no similar revolt will ever take place in Libya, because “it is the people who rule.”

the Swiss government orders a freeze on all funds held by Ben Ali in Switzerland.

Lebanese MP Najib Mikati appointed Prime Minister to replace Saad al-Hariri, with the backing of Hizbullah and the March 8 Alliance.

Large demonstrations break out in Baghdad and Mosul, demanding overthrow of Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki

outbreak of the non-violent Egyptian Revolt against 83-year old President Husni Mubarak.

Hasan Ali Akleh from Al-Hasakah pours gasoline on himself and set himself on fire, in the same way tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi had in tunis on 17 December 2010. the event goes by unnoticed, as the world focuses on the uprising in Egypt.




outbreak of the yemeni Revolt against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power since 1978. Approximately 16,000 people take to the streets in yemen’s capital, San’a.

the first “Friday of Rage” begins in Egypt, where thousands assemble in Midan al-tahriri, demanding downfall of the Mubarak regime. Mubarak responds by shutting down Internet services and cellular phones throughout Cairo. Egyptian opposition leader Mohammad Elbaradei takes part in the demonstrations against Mubarak. Husni Mubarak addresses the nation after midnight, saying that he will not step down.

Mubarak names director of intelligence omar Suleiman as vice-President, filling a post that has been vacant since october 1981.


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Mubarak delivers his second address, making several concessions and saying that he will not seek re-election in September 2011. He promises to remain “a loyal soldier” to Egypt.

King Abdullah II of Jordan appoints Maarouf al-Bakhit as a new Prime Minister, aimed at curbing popular street anger from the Jordanian Spring.

violence escalated as waves of Mubarak supporters confront anti-government protesters, riding camels and horses into tahrir Square, carrying swords and sticks.

the clashes are believed to have been orchestrated by Interior Minister Habib El Adly. Hundreds of casualties are recorded. Mubarak speaks to the press and says that he will not step down.

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thousands gather in Midan al-tahrir, coining the day “the Friday of Departure.”

A “Day of Rage” fails to materialize in Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki says he will not seek a third term in 2014.

Egyptian Christians hold Sunday Mass in Midan al-tahrir, protected by a ring of Muslims.

Mubarak sets up a committee to amend the Egyptian Constitution.

Mubarak addresses the nation one last time, amidst speculation of a military coup. Rather than resigning, as many expected, he

says he will delegate some of his powers to vice President omar Suleiman. thousands in Midan al-tahrir respond chanting, “Depart!”




At 6:00 pm Cairo time, vice-President omar Suleiman announces that Mubarak will step down, after 31-years in power, delegating power to the Egyptian Military Council. Demonstrations break out in major Arab capitals, celebrating Mubarak’s departure. the aged Egyptian leader refuses to leave Egypt, settling at the summer resort of Sharm al-Sheikh on the Red Sea, with his family.

the Egyptian Military Council says it will hand over power to elected civilians, pledging to uphold Egypt’s commitment to the 1978 Camp David Accords with Israel. A travel ban is issued against former officials in the Mubarak regime, including ex-Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif.

the Egyptian Military Council dissolves the Egyptian Parliament and suspends the Constitution, promising to hold power for 6-months.


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outbreak of the Libyan Revolt against Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, who had ruled Libya with an iron fist since September 1969.

Large demonstrations break out in Bahrain, namely among the Shiite community, against King Hamad, where 14 people are injured by Bahraini police.

thousands of Bahrainis take control of Mana’s main Pearl Square, demanding regime change, inspired by the tunisian, Egyptian, and Libyan Revolts.

the Egyptian Army says that it will not put forth a candidate for the upcoming Egyptian presidential elections. on the same day, Interior Minister Habib El-Adly is detained, along with Mubarak’s protégé, steel tycoon Ahmad Ezz.

Fighting between Libyan rebels and Gaddafi forces breaks out in the Libyan city of Misrata.

British Prime Minister David Cameron becomes the first world leader to visit Egypt after the downfall of Mubarak.

Colonel Gaddafi appears on tv, briefly, carrying an umbrella to tell the world that he has not fled Libya, vowing to fight until the end.

Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika lifts martial law, which has been imposed on his country for 19-years.

Colonel Gaddafi addresses the nation from an unidentified hideout. In his famous speech, he accuses the rebels of being “rats” and asks, “Who are you?” He wraps up by

banging his fist on the table and ordering his men to rise against rebels, shouting: “Revolt, Revolt, Revolt!”

14Resistance to Gaddafi breaks out in the country’s second largest city, Benghazi. 18







African mercenaries are flown into Libya to fight with Gaddafi’s forces. Fifteen of them are killed in the city of Bayda, by Libyan rebels.


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15Ahmad Shafiq is named as the new Prime Minister of Egypt, replacing Issam Sharaf.

the buildings of Egyptian intelligence are raided by Egyptian protestors. they take documents related to “crimes against the Egyptian people” committed by the Mubarak regime.

the director of intelligence in the southern city of Daraa arrests schoolchildren for writing anti-government graffiti on school walls, sparking off demonstrations in Syria.

Peninsula Shield forces, at the request of the Bahraini government, enter Bahrain via Saudi Arabia. the forces include

troops from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Demonstrations break out in Daraa, protesting the continued arrest of schoolchildren. the

demonstrators demand, “Freedom” and arrest of intelligence chief Atef Najib and Daraa governor Faisal Kalthoum.

A constitutional referendum passes in Egypt, by 77.2%

on 17 March, the United Nations Security Council passes a resolution to impose a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace.

NAto begins its war in Libya.

President Assad dismisses the governor of Daraa, Faisal Kalhoum.

Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban gives a press conference

in Damascus, saying that presidential orders have been given not to fire at demonstrators. She establishes a committee to investigate disturbances in Daraa, and promises citizenship to Syria’s Kurds and a new constitution that will address Article 8, which designates the Baath Party as “leader of state and society.”

23Syrian activists claim around 100 people are killed in the southern town of Daraa, says al-Jazeera.

Unrest spreads to the Syrian port city of Latakia.

President Assad delivers his first address to the nation at the Syrian Parliament. He says that an “international conspiracy” is being

hatched against Syria, by the US and Arab tv networks. He warns: “If they want an open war, we are ready for it.” He stresses the need for reform, but says that it will be conducted at Syria’s own pace, “rather than that of the United States.” Assad adds that he has been “saddened” by the death of protestors in Daraa.

President Assad accepts the resignation of Prime Minister Mohammad Naji otari, which has been in power since September

2003. otari is asked to lead a caretaker cabinet until a new Prime Minister is named.





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Assad names his former Agriculture Minister Adel Safar as the new Prime Minister of Syria. the post of Deputy Prime Minister

for Economic Affairs, held by the powerful Abdullah Dardari, is abolished.

Ex-President Mubarak is questioned at a hospital in the Red Sea port of Sharm el-Sheikh.

the US calls on President Saleh to step down.


President Assad grants Syrian citizenship to Syrian Kurds deprived of it since 1962.

ten people are killed in the coastal city of Banias.

the Egyptian Prosecutor General orders the detention, for 15-days, of President Mubarak and his two sons Gamal and Alaa.

Adel Safar creates his cabinet, appointing new ministers of interior, justice, economy, finance, and social affairs. He keeps the ministers of defense Ali Habib, and foreign affairs, Walid al-Mouallem, at their jobs.

President Assad delivers his second address since March, this time at the cabinet of ministers, with instructions to the newly appointed Safar cabinet.

At least 11 people are killed in the midland city of Homs and nearby town of talbisseh. Hundreds demonstrate in Latakia.

over 10,000 people demonstrate in the central square of Homs, demanding regime change.

Iran appoints its first ambassador to Cairo in 30-years.

Assad lifts emergency laws, which had been in-place since the Baathists came to power on March 8, 1963.

Mubarak’s name is erased from all public places.

Hundreds of thousands demonstrate all over Syria, on Good Friday. Security forces and protesters clash throughout the country, resulting in over 100 deaths, making it the bloodiest day so far in Syria since March.

the Syrian Army is officially deployed to Daraa. over 500 people are arrested and the government says it discovered stockpiles of arms “smuggled” from Arab countries.

Members of the Baath Party and two MPs resign over the continuation of violence. the two MPs later retract their resignation and say that they made it “under pressure.”

over 400 Syrian artists issue the “Milk Declaration” asking authorities to “lift the siege off Daraa.” the

petition, which arouses great government anger, is signed by prominent figures like the actor Fares al-Helou, and the actresses yara Sabri and Kinda Alloush.

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thousands of protestors in yemen demand that President Saleh be put on trial, while the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) says it will send an envoy to mediate in the yemeni crisis. 2 2



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the US imposes sanctions on President Assad and six other senior government officials.




Prominent opposition figure Anwar al-Bunni is released from jail in Syria.

Mubarak is fined $34 million USD for cutting off communications during the Egyptian Revolt.

the Syrian opposition holds a meeting in Antalya, turkey.


yemeni tribal warriors attack a mosque on Friday during the prayers of President Saleh and Prime Minister Ali Mohammad Mujawar and Speaker yahia al-Raiee. Rumors surface that the President has been killed.

President Saleh leaves for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, after suffering serious wounds and burns. He hands over power temporarily to his vice-President.

Confusion arises in political and media circles over the reported resignation of Syria’s ambassador to

Paris, Lamia Shakkur, ostensibly objecting to the continued violence in Syria. Ambassador Shakkur appears on tv and denies that she had made such a statement on France 24 tv.

Syrian tv says that a massacre took place in the northern province of Jisr al-Shughour, where reportedly over 120 army personnel were killed by “armed groups.”

President Assad makes his third address, this time at Damascus University, saying that a new constitution will be drafted for Syria, and all topics, including Article 8, will be up for discussion. He praises the Syrian Electronic Army that is defending the regime on the Internet and promises to carry ahead with promised reforms.

the first opposition meeting is held publically at the Semiramis Hotel in Damascus. over 150 opposition figures assemble, at the call of opposition figures Munzer Khaddam and Louai Hussein. the conference activity is covered live on Syrian tv.

May June

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President Assad dismisses the governor of Homs, Iyad Ghazal, who is blamed for outbreak of disturbances in the city.

A speech recorded by Saleh in Saudi Arabia was televised on national tv in yemen. Saleh appeared to have suffered severe injuries, with his skin noticeably darker, his arms heavily bandaged, and his movement seeming greatly limited. the speech lasted just a few minutes, but in it, Saleh again championed the concept of power-sharing in a unity government, refusing to step down.

the National Dialogue Conference takes place at the Sahara Complex near Damascus, chaired by vice President Farouk al-Shara. the opposition boycotts the 2-day conference, whose very bold opening remarks are transmitted live on Syrian tv.

A group of prominent intellectuals is arrested for staging a demonstration in front of the al-Hasan Mosque in al-Midan, central Damascus. the group includes prominent actress May Skaff and journalist Iyad Shurbaji.

General Riad al-As’ad defects from the Syrian Army to create a turkish-backed Syrian Free Army, aimed at leading an armed insurgency against the Syrian government.

the Syrian Army enters Hama, arousing international anger. It had been stationed on the outskirts of Hama for a week, where thousands of demonstrators had been demanding downfall of the Baath regime.

President Assad issues the political party law, allowing for the establishment of political parties not affiliated with the Baath, for the first time in 48-years.

Mubarak and his children stand trial in Egypt. the ex-President appears for the first time since his overthrow in February, wearing white, being rolled into the courtroom on a hospital bed.

Defense Minister Ali Habib resigns from the Safar cabinet, reportedly over his “deteriorating health” and addresses people through Syrian tv, denying rumors that he had been killed. the 64-year old General Daoud Rajha is named new Minister of Defense.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia makes a late night address to the people of Syria, criticizing the continued violence and recalls his ambassador from Damascus.

President Assad meets with the 90-member Central Committee of the Baath Party to discuss amending the Syrian Constitution.


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July August

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US President Barack obama calls on President Assad to step down.

President Assad gives his first interview to Syrian tv, saying that armed terrorist groups were being targeted in Syria, not peaceful demonstrators. He belittles remarks by his US counterpart Barak obama, asking him to resign from office.

tripoli falls to Libyan rebels, who invade Gaddafi’s compound amidst reports that the Libyan leader had fled to Chad or Nigeria.

the Syrian National Council (SNC) is established in Istanbul, turkey. A 260-member opposition council, it is headed by the Sorbonne University professor, Bourhan Ghalioun.

Sanctions are imposed banning the sale of Syrian oil to the EU.

Army general Hussein Harmoush, who defected from the Syrian Army to lead an armed rebellion against the central government in Damascus, is captured. He reportedly had fled to neighboring turkey.

President Saleh returns to yemen from Saudi Arabia, having recovered from his wounds.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia grants women the right to vote and run for elections.

the EU passes sanctions against Syrian Information Minister Adnan Mahmud and the Syrian satellite channel Aldounia tv.










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the son of Syria’s Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun is killed in a drive-by shooting next to the Ebla University in Idlib.

A large anti-regime demonstration breaks out for the first time at a private university, being the University of Kalamoon in Deir Atiyyah.

A double veto at the UN, by Russia and China, prevents a strong-worded resolution against Syria from passing at the Security Council.

Prominent Syrian Kurdish rights activist Mishaal al-tammo is assassinated by masked gunmen who burst into his flat in the Al-Hassakeh province. the Syrian government blames “armed gangs” for his death.

President Assad establishes a 29-member Constitutional Committee to create a new charter for Syria, replacing the current one that has been in-place since 1973. Popular demonstrations demand lifting of Article 8, which designates the Baath Party as “leader of state and society.” the committee is headed by prominent judge Mazhar al-Anbari.

the Syrian Army enters Homs, where heavy fighting takes place.

the turkish government establishes its first public talks with the Syrian National Council, where its president Bourhan Ghalioun is received by turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

the Libyan transition Government offers recognition to the Syrian National Council (SNC)

and says it will present them with the premises of the Syrian embassy in tripoli.

Colonel Gaddafi is captured and killed in a dramatic scene where he is seen bruised and being dragged around the streets by Libyan rebels. His body is put on public display before it is buried in an unidentified location.

Crown Prince Sultan Ibn Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia dies in the US, having held the job since 2005.

tunisians go to the polls for the first elections since Ben Ali’s January 2011 downfall. the Islamic al-Nahda Party emerges victorious but cannot rule on its own, without the support of a coalition.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia names the Kingdom’s powerful Interior Minister Nayef Ibn Abdul-Aziz as his new Crown Prince.

the Arab League Ministerial Committee arrives in Damascus, headed by Qatari Prime

Minister and Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jaber Al thani and the foreign ministers of Sudan, oman, and Algeria. they discuss the Arab League Initiative for Syria with President Assad.

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SNC President Bourhan Ghalioun delivers a televised address to the Syrian people, via al-Jazeera, pledging to fight the government in Syria, until it collapses.

A decision is reached in Cairo to suspend Syria’s membership in the Arab League, sparking off loud pro-regime demonstrations in different Syrian cities.

the Qatari, Saudi, turkish, and UAE embassies in Damascus are attacked by pro-regime demonstrators.

the EU imposes new sanctions on 18 Syrian figures.

President Saleh says he will resign within 90 days based on an agreement with the GCC.

the Syrian National Council (SNC) meets with Russian officials in Moscow, and announces that it failed at convincing the Kremlin to change its positions towards Damascus.

France withdraws its ambassador from Damascus.

violence clashes take place betwen pro-regime and anti-regime students at the University of Kalamoon.

Seif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is captured one month after the killing of his father, where Libyan authorities pledge that he will receive a “fair trial.”

President Assad speaks to the Sunday times saying: “I will die for my country” and vows “never to bow” to international pressure.

President Saleh signs the GCC deal in the presence of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which means he will step down by late January 2012. the deal grants him, his family, and top officials, immunity from persecution. the yemeni President says he will head from Saudi Arabia to New york for “medical treatment.”

the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issues its findings, in the presence of King Hamad, saying that it found a "systematic practice of torture and similar ill-treatment and of excessive use of force" in Bahrain, in response to the revolt that broke out in mid-February.








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France calls for international “humanitarian corridors” in Syria.

An Arab League deadline for Syria, to sign the MoU for 600 observers, expires.



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The world in 2011

Estonia officially adopts the Euro currency

Southern Sudan holds a referendum on independence. the Sudanese electorate votes in favor of independence, paving the way for the creation of the new state in July

More than 35 people are killed and over 180 others wounded in a bombing at Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow.

A 9.1-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit east Japan, killing 15,840 and leaving another 3,926 missing. tsunami warnings are issued in 50 locations across the Far East.

January 1

January 9

January 24

March 11

April 29

May 2

May 16

July 20

March 18

March 23

Former US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who served in office under President Bill Clinton, dies at the age of 86.

oscar-winning legendary American actress Elizabeth taylor-famous for her role in Cleopatra-dies at the age of 79.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge holds a royal wedding at Westminster Abbey in London. An estimated two billion people watch the wedding worldwide and his wife Catherine Middleton becomes a household name on all four corners of the globe.

Al-Qaeda founder osama Bin Laden is killed in a US military operation at his hideout in Pakistan. the killing of Bin Laden comes four months before the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on New york.

the EU agrees to a €78 billion rescue deal for Portugal. the bailout loan will be equally split between the European Financial Stabilization Mechanism, the European Financial Stability Facility, and the IMF.

the United Nations declares a famine in southern Somalia, the first in over thirty years.

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The world in 2011

A terrorist attack at the government center in oslo kills 76 people.

July 22

August 5

October 4

NASA announces that its Mars Reconnaissance orbiter captured photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars during warm seasons

In thailand, 657 people are killed by floods during a severe monsoon season, with 58 of the country's 77 provinces affected.

October 6

October 18

October 23

November 17

October 31

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dies after losing a battle with cancer at the age of 56.

Hamas begins a major prisoner swap with Israel, returning captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

A devastating earthquake jolts eastern turkey near the city of van, killing 604 people, and damaging about 2,200 buildings.

UNESCo admitted Palestine as a member, following a vote in which 107 member states supported and 14 opposed

Hundreds of protestors march on New york’s Wall Street to protest economic inequality

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World Entrepreneurs Business CEos Political Leaders Innovators trendsetters


Ihab Ali: Back in town with a Mission If you happen to bump into Ihab Ali on the street, prepare to be knocked on the head by mother inspiration herself.

Apple creator Steve Jobs had roots in Syria. So does the man who devised the Apple MacBook Air's coolant system.

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Forward Guest

“ Ali designed architectures for MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, and iPhone„

sustainability and solar panel systems for buildings at IUSt.

Ali’s ideas are as infectious as his energy.

"I'm currently working on micro wind turbines – portable solar energy systems that can be placed basically anywhere," he says. "the smallest models will weigh less than ten kilos and produce 200 watts of energy. this model costs around $5 per watt – including all instillation costs."

"over five years these renewable energy systems will pay for themselves and have a lifetime of 20 years, so essentially you get 15 years free electricity," he adds.

"We also do hybrid systems – wind and solar connected together; when you have sun the wind levels are low and vice versa so these systems should work at all time – day and night."

Ali believes Syria is ripe for instigating a culture that fosters renewable energy consumption.

"Bedouins, for example, have to load up so much gear when the want to move around. they need to hitch their fuel tank to the car and to transport the generator too. this idea would lighten their load. With the mobile electricity generator they will have sufficient energy to power all their wants."

He is as much a businessman and entrepreneur, as an innovator and inventor.

"If your company is going down the sink then you have to see that this is happening far back the road and make use of what you have; the assets, the capital. there's no point just waiting for

it to fail – you have to see things happen before they do and act."

What motivates him? "I'm an environmentalist and Damascus is a much polluted city. I'd like Syria to be energy independent, and to have a surplus of energy for export."

"I was lucky enough to work on several cutting edge systems. I want to be my own boss; freedom is important to me. In today's world you cannot be innovative on your own."

"Edison once said the greatest invention is nothing unless it is used, unless people want it. And I enjoy business."

Ihab Ali's mind thinks of ideas that are implemented in our lives, but in a way we hardly notice. Asked what advice he has for Syria's budding entrepreneurs and inventors, he says: "Choose something you like and follow it through to the end. Failure is the ultimate lesson – it is important – you have to embrace failure."

"I teach to enlighten people around me of the importance of renewable energy and energy independence. When you're economically strong your politically strong."

Syria as a country is ideal for renewable systems, Ali believes, with the Syrian Desert perfect for both solar and wind renewable systems. the fact that real estate is cheap in these areas is also very important, he adds.

"Floating wind turbine submerged in rivers can produce electricity – we only need speeds of three four meters per second. you can supply local farms along the 600 kilometers of the Euphrates River, or you can use it to pump water to local farms," he says, referring to yet another project.

But naturally, there are challenges."the government needs to support

renewable energy projects; they have to support people like me who bring such technologies to Syria to assist the country. We have great opportunities here but you need government backing," he states.

Will Ihab Ali succeed in his drive to turn Syria into a country powered by renewable energy? Watch this space.


"I left Damascus after finishing a degree in engineering at Damascus University in the early 1990s. I knew two people in the US but I was basically alone. It was very difficult at the beginning," he says.

Armed with a PhD in energy systems and electronics thermal management from the University of Maryland in College Park near Baltimore, Ali has overseen a litany of companies including Rola technologies, Pipeline Micro Inc and his current project, Deeia Systems, a renewable (wind and solar) energy systems and thermal management venture. He holds a phenomenal 21 patents. this man is the reason your laptop does not burn out from overheating during those hot summer days.

Working with AppleHe worked on creating coolant systems

for numerous mobile devices. He is credited for leading and innovating thermal technologies and design architectures for Apple's MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iMac, iPhone and other platforms.

"the coolant system for Apple's MacBook Air? that's my patent," he says.

"I left Apple because I felt I wasn't contributing to new things; we reached a plateau on the aspects I was working on. So I felt it was time to move on," he said.

"But it was an intense place. the level that people were expected to work at was astounding. Steve Jobs was a tough man to work for; he always demanded more and more, only the best."

Before this he worked as a staff engineer at Intel, the computer chip producer.

Now he splits his time between Damascus and Palo Alto, or what is known to people as Silicon valley, spending six weeks in the US and the rest of his time here in Syria.

Renewable energy Ihab, known as Andre to his friends,

is a native of Damascus native who returned to live in Syria in october 2010. He had one mission on his mind: introducing the concept of renewable energy to the country. He also teaches

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BusinessBanking Insurance Finance Microfinance Entrepreneurship

In pretty bad shape Syria’s economy 9-months into the crisisthe indicators were not good, as of November 2011. When we went to print, the Syrian Pound was trading at 60 to the USD dollar, the highest exchange rate since 2005. It has lost over 25% of its value since disturbances began in Syria in mid-March. trading on the Damascus Stock Exchange stands at a mediocre $6,000 USD. Long bread lines, no heating fuel for the winter, major layoffs in the private sector, a sharp increase in the price of basic commodities, all topped with sanctions by the US, EU, Arab League—and now turkey, have taken a heavy toll on the moral of ordinary Syrians.

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Last November, the Arab League imposed a series of sanctions that included ending all incoming and outgoing flights from Arab capitals to Damascus International Airport. the decision, taken only weeks after Syria’s membership in the Arab League was suspended, was endorsed by 19 Arab countries. It was the first of its kind—and the toughest—since the Arab League was founded in the mid-1940s.

Arab sanctionsMajor Arab airline companies will now

stop operating in Syria, in addition to international ones, like Air France. this means that Syrians wanting to travel abroad will now have to go through double ordeals.

the first is getting a Schengen visa for the EU, or an American one—or even a “visitor” visa to visit the United Arab Emirates. By many accounts, visas are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain for ordinary Syrians, either for tourism or emigration. once Syrians get their passports stamped with a visa, they will now have a hard time finding a travel route to the EU or Arab Gulf.

this hauntingly seems like what happened when travel was prohibited to Iraq in the 1990s, or Libya, where visitors had to go to tunisia and then travel to tripoli or Benghazi by car. Any Syrian wanting to travel to the EU, US, or Arab World will have to do so via Beirut or Amman.

the Central Bank of Syria has now also been sanctioned by the Arab League, and senior Syrian officials have been banned from traveling to the Arab world. the list of 17 officials includes the Ministers of Defense and Interior, but neither Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem or Prime Minister Adel Safar.

Although some countries objected to the measures, most of them—surprisingly including Lebanon—have said that they will apply them to doing business with Syria. Lebanese Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas commented days after the sanctions were imposed, “We are committed to implementing the Arab League sanctions. the Lebanese state has no trade dealings or financial transactions, neither with the Syrian government nor the central bank.” Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh pointed out, however, that Damascus has no money deposited in the Central Bank of Lebanon. Similar measures were imposed by the turks on November 30, which prompted Foreign Minister Mouallem to remark that an “economic” war was being launched against Syria.

“ No less than 17,000 Syrians have lost their jobs since mid-March. the real number, of course, is probably higher.

Difficult numbersForeign trade is now in danger, after all,

given that in recent years, it had exceeded more than 40% of gross domestic product. Revenue from foreign trade will now hit zero, as it did with Syria’s once flourishing tourism sector. Syria’s reserves are also suffering, although earlier in the year, they were reported at $18 billion. Many analysts, however, predict that the real number is actually much lower, given that much of it was already spent in 2005-2009, during Syria’s standoff with the international community over the alleged assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.

Banking sanctionsBanks have stopped giving loans to

their Syrian clients, and several of them have begun downsizing their operations in the Syrian market. Last November, Banque Saudi Fransi (BEMo) said it will be selling 27% of its shares in Syria, sending shockwaves throughout the private Syrian banking sector.

BEMo Chairman Saleh al-omair, said the risks in Syria do not permit the bank to continue as a partner in the Syrian banking secene. “Effective immediately, Banque Saudi Fransi is no longer represented in the board of directors of Bemo Saudi Fransi Syria. BEMo has 36 branches all over the Syrian territories and is considered one of the leadings banks in this country in terms of assets, deposits and number of branches.

Last August, the Syrian government imposed a $2,000 a year limit on foreign currency purchases. that was aimed at preserving Syria’s reserves of US Dollars. Figures published by the DSE shows that Syria’s main private banks saw customer withdrawals grow by hundreds of millions of dollars in the third quarter of 2011.

the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently said that Syria’s $60 billion economy might drop by 2% this year,

nevertheless projecting a bounce back in 2012. the London-based Capital Economics added that Syria’s GDP might shrink by 10% over the next 10 months under the weight of international boycott, given that exports will drop by over 50%. tourism, which accounts for about 12% of the economy, will fall substantially and so will Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), which has risen 12-fold over the last decade thanks in large part to capital from the Gulf.

Government responseAlthough acknowledging that the country

was going through the worst economic crisis in its history, Economy Minister Mohammad Nidal al-Shaar said that Syria continues to have “other options” than the EU, Arab World, and turkey. "We have a lot of options ... including Mercosur [the Latin American trade bloc] countries, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Africa and some countries from Southeast Asia,” he said.

Many questions are now on the table for Syria? one is how to jumpstart the economy, how to pay wages, and how to bankroll the armored vehicles and soldiers deployed on all four corners of the country? Money used to come from taxes, oil revenue, the public sector, and investment projects—all three of which have been on hold since the crisis started in mid-March. New taxes are impossible, given that the already furious Syrian street will never accept them.

the oil sanctions imposed by the EU earlier last summer were in their own right devastating, since Syria sells no less than 95% of its crude oil to Europe. Who will now buy around 140,000 barrels of crude oil, produced by Damascus per day? Syria was using this revenue to pay for imports and this loss is largely reflected in the availability of petroleum products in the market – especially diesel for heating.

It is also reflected in the inability of the state to reimburse oil giants like Shell and total for their shares in oil and gas production. As for salaries, there are 1.3 million employees in the government sector and 587 retired workers, meaning 3 billion SP in salaries per month. this means 229 billion SP per year, made all the more difficult by the fact that according to official figures, no less than 17,000 Syrians have lost their job since mid-March. the real number, of course, is probably much higher. Meanwhile, the public sector is in shambles, and all new state-funded projects at a complete standstill.


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Media In Spot's Anas al-Zayat:

Never Give In At his offices in Rawda, Damascus, Anas al-Zayat looks busy. He directs us

into his meeting room and swiftly orders coffees all round.

the 30-year-old Damascene began his website solutions company several

years back and in spite of the current issues, both nationally and globally,

he says business is ticking over.

the company, Media In Spot, designs and finishes websites for clients all over the world. Some of its clients include the European University Centre for Management Studies in London, Cham tours, and Cavallo Bianco, the Damascus-based clothes and fashion outlet.

"We have worked with over 200 clients since we started here in Damascus in 2006. About 70% of our work is for companies and organizations overseas, in the US and Europe, mostly, with the remainder here in Syria and throughout the Gulf."

He adds 40% of their international clients are in Europe, a figure that can only be categorized as outright success, given the financial frailties facing Europe for the past several years, and the fear to spend in those countries.

"the attraction from the US and Europe is our competitive pricing. We can offer top of the range services for prices competitors in the West can't, and this gives us an important edge," he says.

"Word of mouth is very important for our business to grow. this is how we got our foot into the market, that and because we produce good products, of course."

Website development and solutions companies are ten-a-penny across the world these days and competition is intense. Ideas

and images that contribute to a stand-out company are rare. However, a trip to, the company's website, shows you exactly why this it has proved to be successful. For example, instead of the web pages 'About Us', 'Latest Projects' or 'Contact Us', being located on separate pages, they have been placed are all on one pages, scrolling downward or upward for each section.

Nor is his company's office aesthetically standout; there is nothing that takes the breath away. But Anas puts the company's successes down to human capital.

"We have five very good employees, and the number of people we hire changes over time. What’s important for me are their qualities as individuals and as a team."

Asked why he established Media In Spot, Anas has an answer ready. "this was my idea. I dreamed to have my own business when I was small and it's something I have achieved, which makes me proud, naturally."

For sure, these are challenging times. "the situation here in Syria really has affected us significantly. No one wants to spend any money during these times. Also, Syria now has a reputation among other countries. Some international companies are afraid to do business with us because of what they hear on the news."

"But we are lucky that we have most of our work outside the country. Diversifying has been key," says Anas, even as he admits getting paid from companies overseas has also become very difficult.

"However," he says, "We hope to open branches in the Gulf, perhaps Abu Dhabi or Saudi Arabia – in Saudi there is great opportunities for work like ours. Maybe we will open a branch in the UK."

In addition to working in website logistics and development, Media In Spot produces media and accounting solutions for businesses around the world.

"Sometimes we design and create websites in languages we don't understand! But that is not an issue because of the technology available today. What is important is the quality of the website, the style, how it looks, and so on."

Anas says his parents were extremely supportive of his project, especially during the first few years when no money came through, and he feared for its success.

"the advice I have for young budding entrepreneurs is to stick at a project. Maybe you won't make any money for the first few years but this is normal. And don't judge your success, or lack of success, too quickly."



Launched: 2006

Specialty: Website development

Employees: 5

Clients: over 200

Future vision: opening branches

in the Gulf

Major Projects:




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By Alma NourAllah

Until very recently, the disabled and mentally ill were viewed with caution, if not fear, by ordinary people, due to a basked of different factors. Prime on the list, of course, was ignorance and lack of proper social welfare. NGos stepped in two years ago, trying to fill a much needed vacuum. their work accumulated with a special olympiad for the disabled back in 2009, in addition to a popular tv series carrying the signature of celebrated director Samir Hussein, called “Waraa al-Shams” (Behind the Sun). Since then public perception of people with disabilities has indeed started to change, rather rapidly. Al-Safina is one of those initiatives, focused on the mentally ill, offering them 24-hour nursing at a home in the old City of Damascus.

Al-Safina is a branch of the internationally acclaimed mother organization l'Arche, which was founded by the Canadian humanitarian activist Jean vanier, back in August 1964. through vanier's friendship with a priest named Father thomas Philippe, he became aware of the plight of thousands of people institutionalized with developmental disabilities. He then invited two men, Raphael Simi and

Philippe Seux, to leave their nursing homes and share their lives with him in a real home in trosly-Breuil, France. the goal of L'Arche, in Syria and elsewhere, is to enable people with developmental disabilities to play their full part in their society, helping to make it a “friendlier” place. A faith-based organization, it aims at “establishing homes and support networks” and currently boasts of over 5,000 members spread over 40 countries. their motto reads, “Changing the world, one heart at a time.”

In Damascus, the home is spacious, meaning that every one of the eight residents has his/her own room. they wake up every morning, where assisted by specialists, they clean their rooms then to go to a workshop at Dar al-Salam School in the heart of Shaalan. Rima Atiyeh, the organization’s President, explains that although they have their own workshop at Al-Safina, she insists that they make the journey to Dar al-Salam, in order to communicate with people and meet new faces. these workshops, it must be noted, are not exclusive for Al-Safina residents but open to the handicapped community in Damascus. Entire families show up to sharpen their skills, and whatever crafts they produce are then sold, where their

revenue goes to the institution’s coffers. one workshop, for example, targets people who cannot focus on one activity for more than 10-minutes. they are asked to engage in educational games and color painting. Another workshop asks participants to recycle papers, while a third takes the recycled paper and makes into useful material, like packaging for soaps. Additionally, Al-Safina has a specialized counseling office to support families with children with special needs.

Sundays are off, and thursdays are “free and flexible” allowing residents to attend dinners, relax, and enjoy time with friends and visitors. Assistants, it must be noted, are hand-picked after training, numerous evaluations, and a probation period. one of the main qualifications required of them is to have the ability to “bring joy into hearts of patients, regardless of how much sadness may exist in his heart.” that is why vacations, for example, are a must for “members” of Al-Safina, where they spend a week per year with their families. Sometimes, when group trips are planned, Al-Safina members travel north to enjoy the beach, either in Latakia or tartous.


The Syrian branch of L’ArcheA new home for the mentally ill in Old Damascus


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CultureExhibitions Lifestyle Fashion Music

Rabab ourabi

yerevan, Armenia’s capital, is a place with an incredible history accompanied by

a landscape with innumerable archaeological sites, ranging from the Stone Age to

Medieval times. Using a music bridge together with live illustrations to cross among

cultures, saturated with stylish rhythms, we stood breathless to the expressive Kinan

Azmeh’s clarinet accompanied by the live illustrations of Kevork Murad.

On a road trip with a Clarinetist

Kinan Azmeh performs in Armenia

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From the first moment you meet Kinan Azmeh, catching bright eyes, unforgettable smile, you sink into the warmth of inner beauty that reflects his charming personality. A Syrian born artist and the first Arab to win the first prize at the Nicolay Rubinstein international competition in Moscow, Russia, 1997. Kinan Azmeh has been recognized worldwide both as a soloist and a composer.

A seasoned musicianAt thirty-five, he has managed to

create a diverse portfolio, being one of the most promising Syrian musicians. According to Enigma magazine: “his power lies in his hands; the hands of a musician. they flirt wittily with the saxophone; play Mozart daintily on a clarinet, improvising brilliantly to form dialogues that bridge East and West. on stage, he plays with the comfort of a seasoned performer, smiling, embracing the crowd on the emotional journey of the notes”.

Azmeh appeared as soloist with the Bavarian radio orchestra, the West-eastern Divan orchestra, the Kiev Camerata, the Corasara orchestra, and the Syrian Symphonic orchestra. Kinan also shared the stage with giants like Marcel Khalife, Daniel Barenboim, Francois Rabbath, Solhi-al-Wadi, Manfred Leuchter, and members of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Azmeh looks to Arab musicians like Khalife and Rahbani as role-models he can relate to. "It's a combination of the emotional, the intellectual and life experiences," said Azmeh of his respect for the two renowned musicians.

In the notes included in the new album "Complex Stories, Simple Sounds,” Lebanese musician Marcel Khalife writes the following: "Kinan, the music drops that were enriched with rain and longing on the way to Aleppo made me pick the moon before it could fall into the sea and become extinguished in a heavy blue that delights the heart."

the recipients of Khalife's praise are Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and Sri Lankan-Canadian pianist Dinuk Wijeratne, whose performances and

compositions are recorded on the album.

His compositions include several works for solo, orchestra, and chamber music; film, live illustration, and electronics. His discography includes three albums with his ensemble HEWAR, several soundtracks for film and dance, and a duo album with pianist Dinuk Wijeratne. He serves as artistic director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Music Ensemble, with whom he released an album of new contemporary Syrian chamber music written especially for the ensemble by various composers and is on the advisory board of the Nova Scotia youth orchestra.

Kinan founded with Isam Rafea- conductor of the Syrian National Arabic Music orchestra the band "Hewar" (Dialogue), which has toured throughout Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. "the formula is simple," explains Azmeh. "We compose the first few lines and then we improvise intuitively on them. on stage we are all part of the dialogue. Each one of us is equally involved in adding his touch

“ His power lies in his hands; the hands of a musician. they flirt wittily with the saxophone; playing Mozart daintily on a clarinet.

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and making it survive to the end". Behind Azmeh's music lies a political

and social consciousness endemic to Arabic music. Countering negative perceptions of the Middle East can be a daunting task, but Azmeh is enthusiastic about the challenge, "Hewar" blends the Eastern sounds of the oud and tabla (or drums) with the deep Western sounds of the double bass, clarinet and cello, to create Arabic music fused with jazz, opera, folk and classical music.

Gilgamesh in Armeniaon a cold winter evening in yerevan

19th of october, a group of tourist, we were invited to attend Gilgamesh for clarinet with Azmeh and the Syrian painter Kevork Murad.

the Epic of Gilgamesh tells the tale of King Gilgamesh, a man whose reign encompassed what would have been modern- day Iraq some 5,000 years ago. the story brings a message of peace.

"What inspired us to do Gilgamesh is that we think it is important to preserve the history and culture of Iraq and share it with an Armenian audience," Azmeh says. "Number one, we want to raise questions in terms of what the country is about and, number two, we are bridging a gap that is very important to bridge."

Without knowing what to expect, we went into the auditorium. Live drawing and visual animations by Mourad began projecting onto the screen behind Azmeh, acting as a counterpoint to his music. As he played, rocket grenades disappeared into clouds behind him and a thick gray mist morphed into a surreal industrial landscape. Azmeh mesmerized the audience with a multilayered virtual ensemble while Mourad's animations alternately danced and did battle across the screen. While improvising freely in different Arabic modes on top of his own ensemble, he also wove in an exhilarating Syrian drumming soundtrack. Mourad made more than 10 drawings while Azmeh played, projecting them live on video. the most stunning moment came when the music was reaching its climax,

and Mourad's painting turned into a brilliant, prerecorded animation. the audience held its breath as the characters in the painting danced, violently battled, and then made peace and walked away hand-in-hand, while coordinating carefully with Azmeh's music. Azmeh and Mourad created a powerful storytelling that was magical. Before the last note faded, the audience stood and the night that began in silence exploded into a chorus of applause for the synthesis of artistic traditions. the unstoppable applause brought both artists back to the stage hand in hand to acknowledge the appreciative audience. We left speechless, we all wanted that evening never to end.

Kinan and Syriathe following night, we were invited

to a jazz club, where Kinan joined the band playing that night; he caused a sensation, Azmeh made frequent use of the lower range of his instrument, producing a sound at once resonant and vulnerable. the feeling that you have is that he performs so perfectly and has no difficulties in evincing any form of interaction with his audience.

on several numbers he slid up the register for strident, passionate solos that were even more striking in contrast. you have to watch him playing; he brings his heart and soul to the stage. In describing his music

Azmeh said "My musical pieces are somewhat sequential. they illustrate to me the kind of person I'm to become, through understanding who I was and who I now am".

on an early morning day trip to Ararat Mountain, Kinan told me that as much as he loves New york, he still feels his future is in Syria. He recently bought an old Damascene house in the city of Damascus where he plans to settle down in the future. "My real icons are the people who are trying to make it in Syria - the people who think about emigrating as the last option, not the first," he says. "Music is what I want to do and I want to do it here. If you leave, nothing will improve. If you want your kids or grandchildren to live here - it begins with you. this is where I feel I need to be most and this is where I feel I am rewarded the most."


“ Azmeh: My real icons are those trying to make it in Syria, who think about emigrating as the last option, not the first.

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Face of the Future

● How did you get started in the field?Well, my early specialization was in

information technology, and I started off working on some very exciting projects. As an It network engineer, I was part of the team that built up e-class, e-office, diskless technology for a number of companies and universities, creating new systems such as the voice and data services of Qalamoun University, and putting in the centralized management systems in their labs, creating an interface where nothing was stored on any individual computer, but through a central server they can all work simultaneously on the same project.

A personal mentor of mine noticed my personal and interactive skills and encouraged me to use my It background and move towards sales and management. Education is very important to me, so I got a management diploma from Cambridge, with courses in specific business fields, before joining iNet in 2008.

● What makes iNet as a working environment special from other technology companies?

What I like about iNet is that we have a young work force that is high experience and high qualification. they love the field, so they work hard to innovate in it, with full management support. they're also highly qualified, both in terms of experience and academically. A personal opinion of

mine is that many people try to get by with experience alone, but academia gives you not just the how, but the why. this deeper understanding is an important element in our success.

● What were the beginnings of iNet, and what is your role in the larger picture?

iNet started in 2006, and entered as

a dial-up service provider. We soon found, however, that there were few avenues to distinguish ourselves in this area, but that we could offer dedicated services for organizations with specific needs; organizations such as banks, embassies and oil companies had particular requirements that couldn't be met with the standard services. We came in, set up their internal infrastructure, helped them navigate the local rules, regulations and equipment, and set them up to perform as smoothly as possible. Since I've come in, I've moved from sales manager to commercial director, selling the systems, offering consultations, and most recently creating department policies and new services.

● What makes iNet unique among ISPs?

Although we've earned a strong foothold in the market, we're still a new start-up, and therefore we have the freedom to experiment and provide newer, more unique services. Since the beginning, we've been branching out in new directions, initiating concepts such as lease-line internet service;

dedicated high-speed bandwidth that is not shared with the general populace and therefore doesn't slow down; e-hosting and end-user services such as those found in cafés; and ICt security services that spawned a partnership with a Malaysian-based company that is in the top ten worldwide in its field. We do all of this while working very diligently to provide the top in customer care, making that a concern from management to office employees. I've personally dedicated time to problem solving on individual projects, and I feel this instills confidence in our consumers.

● What are some particular challenges that you've overcome?

Syria as a country is still in the process of building its base digital infrastructure, which has been both challenging and exciting, as we as a company must build our services on a foundation that's still being completed. We always follow local laws and regulations, but we've always been ready to offer our resources and qualifications should we be asked to contribute to creating said infrastructure. the shifting sands of the Syrian It field and the current situation has occasionally put some pressure on our ability to provide our services, but we work closely with our clients, trying to shoulder their burdens and working what we've got into the best possible service available.


Mohammad al-GhabraCommercial Director of iNet ISPFollowing a career of stellar It contributions on various projects across Syria, Mohammad al-Ghabra has now taken up the mantle of commercial director for iNet ISP. Proving a valuable partner for those to whom they’ve provided service, Ghabra discusses the standards the company abides by, and what he hopes for the future of the industry in Syria.

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The last wordThe Last Word

Off the Grid

In a world governed by capitalist financial systems on an insatiable quest for growth and profits, we are increasingly becoming more aware of how finite our planet’s resources are. And as certain cliques of countries band together to share the spoils of the underdeveloped and developing economies, it has become crucial for the world’s economic powers to stake claims to resources for their own consumption needs, markets for their products and services, as well as cheap sources for production.

the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have drifted ever closer to one another over the past decade or so, forming today what can be described as a loosely grouped economic alliance in an attempt to further their shared interests. As growing economies they represent close to one half of the world’s population.

the BRICS countries benefit from the vast resources that Russia possesses as well as its access to both Europe and Asia. India provides a financially competitive educated labor force and a population of over one billion people. China has demonstrated that it is truly a global power and because of its growing competition with the US, has the need to try to ally itself with its own group of global contenders. Brazil brings a growing economy to the table as well as access to Latin America. the same can be said of South Africa relative to its positioning in

the economic landscape of the African continent. As the obvious players outside the US-centric sphere of influence, it is only natural for those that have been left out to eventually band together.

these countries have all bought into some permutation of capitalism, and as populous players in a world of finite resources, it is crucial for each to stake a claim to supplies and markets to earmark for their economies’ consumption and expansion. None, with perhaps the exception of China, can do so alone, but together, a unified global approach to realizing their interests can be possible.

It is no coincidence that BRICS countries have abstained from criticizing and in some cases have defended the Syrian Government’s actions in dealing with internal turmoil. this stance on Syria is an opportunistic way for BRICS to flex their political muscle. the cost to the countries of BRICS is quite nominal in comparison to what they stand to gain in the international race for territory and resources. Syria is one political card being played to gauge exactly how strong of a global bloc BRICS has become and the potential of transition to a new world hegemony.

With the exception of the Russian naval base in tartous, what is being risked by BRICS is minimal in terms of assets or investments in Syria, but reward comes in the form of excellent geographic access to the Middle Eastern markets, Syria’s modest

but nevertheless valuable petroleum and minerals resources, and control of an important piece of an intricate geo-political puzzle.

testing the waters of a new global hegemony comes at a time when US and EU debt is mounting, expensive wars continue to be waged, and a general frustration with the way the “West” has run the world during its tenure atop the dynastic cycle leaving many developing countries looking for alternatives to its economic methodology.

Confrontations between the US and China in Australia recently over naval bases and a similar standoff between the US and Russia in turkey over a proposed missile defense system are two examples of BRICS warnings concerning territorial boundaries. Mobilization of naval forces and a ‘ruffling of feathers’ in and around the Mediterranean indicate just how boldly they are making their claim to a new hegemony with the traditional Western powers.

Syria stands to benefit greatly from coincidentally creating an ideal arena for this global political jockeying to take place. Syria gains a lifeline at a time when it couldn’t possibly need it more. At a time when countries opposed to the Syrian Government make life difficult for the regime with very little effort, the Syrians are being pressured into putting their very best effort into withstanding and surviving.

In light of the fact that Syria finds itself at the eye of this clash of geo-political fronts, it may prove to be in its interest to embrace this turn of events as an avenue to relieve the pressures it is being subjected to. As one gathering of global powers unplugs Syria’s connections to their systems, it will be forced to resist isolation by looking to the BRICS countries for access to markets for its products and resources, financial mechanisms through which to conduct transactions with the outside world, suppliers for equipment, technology and know-how, and other consumer goods its population would need to live a relatively normal life - “off the grid.”

At time of editing, the BRICS countries had released a joint statement rejecting foreign intervention in Syria’s matters and calling for dialogue as the solution to current turmoil.

Ali Khwanda is a University of Berkeley-educated Syrian businessman based in Damascus.

Ali Khwanda

Up until now, the BRICS alliance has been primarily economic in nature. today however, Syria’s internal unrest presents an opportunity for BRICS to transition from being an economic bloc to becoming a political counterbalance to the traditional post-World War II NAto powers.

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