Life in the Syrian Arab Republic goes on despite foreign occupation and sanctions
Submitted by Olivia Kroth…
In spite of western imposed sanctions on Syria, life goes on in the Syrian Arab Republic. People are surviving and doing their daily business. Pupils go to school, students attend universities. Trade and commerce are doing well. Agriculture is producing plenty of food, this summer of 2020. Syria is a predominantly agrarian country, where barley, chickpeas, olives, oranges, lemons, peaches, pistachios and potatoes are ripe now. The citizens of Syria have just reelected their Parliament, and the majority of Syrians are satisfied with their President. Bashar al-Assad has been President of Syria since 2000, just as long as Vladimir Putin has been President of Russia. Both men get along with each other well and cooperate on many levels. Russia has been a steadfast ally and partner of Syria for many decades. This alliance goes back to the times of the Soviet Union and has survived its dissolution. The Russians operate a naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, on the Mediterranean Sea, and an air base in Hmeimim, in the Latakia Governorate. The Syrians are thankful for consistent humanitarian and military help from Russia, to keep uninvited invaders at bay.
Citzens of the Syrian Arab Republic voted in Parliamentary elections. The President and his wife were among the first, on the 19th of July, wearing masks against the coronavirus:
“President Bashar al-Assad and Mrs. Asma al-Assad cast their votes in the People’s Assembly elections for the 3rd legislative term in the polling station at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Prime Minister Hussein Arnous cast his vote in the People’s Assembly elections at the polling station in the building of the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry. Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem also cast his vote at the polling station in the building of the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry” (SANA, 19.07.2020).
Syria’s ruling Baath party and its allies won 177 out of the 250 seats. More than 7.000 polling stations were set up across the government-controlled parts of the country. Voting also took place in areas formerly held by terrorists, since Government forces retook much of the territory that had been lost.
The Cuban journalist and political analyst Lionel Nadal praised democratic traditions in Syria: “He affirmed that holding the elections of the People’s Assembly in Syria proves the steadfastness of the Syrian state, despite what it has been facing of unjust coercive measures imposed by the US and its allies” (SANA, 20.07.2020).
In an article titled “Syria Strengthens its Power through Voting for New Parliament”, Lionel Nadal indicated that the Syrian state has worked on guaranteeing the success of the election process by taking all the required measures. The Cuban journalist noted that Syria will go ahead in its battle for liberating its territories from terrorism, for preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity despite of the unilateral coercive measures that have been unjustly imposed on it.
Life is going on for pupils and students as well. Some excel in academics, for example a Syrian pupils team, winning a bronze medal at the International Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad, organized by Russia: “The Syrian Scientific Olympiad team has won a bronze medal at the competition of the International Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad (IMChO), organized by Russia for secondary school students via internet, on July 14th and 15th, with a participation of 27 states” (SANA, 19.07.2007).
A bronze medal was also won by Anas Abbas, a pupil from the 11th grade at al-Basel Secondary School for Outstanding Students in Homs. The competition consisted of two five-hour rounds, during which the pupils solved chemistry problems in the analytical, organic, inorganic, life sciences and polymers categories. It is worth mentioning that this is the second participation of the Syrian Scientific Olympiad team in this competition.
The Russian Federation is very interested in training young scientists on an international scale, its own Russian students and those of allied countries as well. The International Mendeleev Chemistry Olympiad (IMChO) is named after the Russian chemist and inventor Dmitri Mendeleev.
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (Дмитрий Иванович Менделеев, 1834 – 1907) is remembered for formulating the Periodic Law and creating a far-sighted version of the period table of elements. He used the Periodic Law not only to correct the properties of some known elements, such as the valence and atomic weight of uranium, but also to predict the properties of eight elements that were yet to be discovered.
Homs, a city in western Syria, is the capital of the Homs Governorate. It does not only have excellent schools, it is also a centre of agriculture and trade. For approximately 2.000 years, Homs has served as a key agricultural market, production site and trade centre for the villages of western and northern Syria. Excavations at the Citadel of Homs indicate that the earliest settlement at the site dates back to around 2.300 BC.
The city is well known throughout Syria for its own cuisine. A prominent dish is batarsh, made with yogurt and garlic. Homs is also home to a variety of grilled kibbeh. This dish consists of two pancakes, stuffed with ground lamb and various spices. Another excellent meal is jazar mahshi, made of yellow carrots filled with minced lamb and rice. The city furthermore specializes in cooking bamya bi-l zayt, which means okra with olive oil.
Homs offers a great array of restaurants. one of the most highly acclaimed is Mersia in the Safir Hotel. Other popular restaurants serve shawarma, an Oriental grilled chicken, as well as other common Syrian foods and homemade juices. In the Old City, low-price restaurants sell hummus, falafel and mezze, these are a variety of Oriental salads.
The Governorate of Homs is the largest in Syria. Situated along the east bank of the Orontes River, it is a particularly fertile area of Syria. It receives more rainfall and gusty winds than interior regions to its north and south. The Homs Irrigation Scheme, the first of its kind in modern Syria, has brought prosperity to cultivators and long-established enterprises, involved in the processing of agricultural and pastoral products. Crops grown in Homs include barley, wheat, cotton, lentils, sugar beets and various fruits.
During the summer of 2020, the weather has been excellent for Syrian fruits: “The Agriculture Directorate in Homs has estimated the province’s production of oranges for the current season at 7.577 tons, which have been cultivated over an area of 5.743 dunums. The total number of orange trees in the province reached 216.450, all of them are fruitful. The province’s production of lemons is expected to reach 1.766 tons. Lemon trees are planted over an area of 2.584 dunums. Lemon trees in the area, which depend on irrigation, are estimated at 70.600 trees, all of them are fruitful, too” (SANA, 14.07.2020).
The Syrian Arab Republic does not only grow citrus fruits for its own consumation but exports a great deal to Russia. In the last fruit season, “Syria exported some 140.000 tons of citrus fruits, as stated by the Director of Support to Production and Exports, Ibrahim Mayeda. In a statement cited by Al-Watan daily, Mayeda explained that exports reached 14 percent of the production, estimated at one million tons. Citrus cultivation is mainly carried out in the Syrian coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, where the Syrian Government established eight centres for packaging and classification of the fruits” (FRESH PLAZA, 15.01.2020).
Tartus on the Mediterranean Coast is not only well known because it hosts a Russian naval base, it is also a popular vacation spot for Syrians, which offers some nice beaches. Many holiday compounds and resorts are located in the region. Tartus is the second largest port city in Syria after Latakia and the largest city in the Tartus Governorate.
In the historic centre of Tartus old walls surround the Crusader-era Templar fortress, whose moat separates the old town from the modern city on its northern and eastern sides. The city of Tartus and the surrounding area are rich in antiquities and archeological sites. Various important and well known sites are located within a 30-minute drive from Tartus.
The Tartus Governorate is an agricultural area, where olive trees are cultivated. This summer, the olive harvest is excellent: “The Agricultural Directorate in Tartus has estimated the production of olive crops for the current season at about 92.000 tons. Ali Younes, Head of the Tartous Agricultural Directorate, called upon farmers to adhere to the times and methods of harvesting olive fruits through appropriate methods, to preserve the olive trees and their fruits” (SANA, 14.07.2020).
Instructions are provided for farmers, regarding the ways of caring for olive trees. In addition, drugs and sprays against pesticides have been handed out, to combat diseases, so that high-quality olive fruits and oil can be obtained. The areas with olive trees in the province amount to 75.260 hectares. The total number of olive trees has reached 11.103 million, of which 10.552 million trees already bear fruits. The rest are freshly planted or young trees.
The potato harvest in the Daraa Governorate was excellent. It exceeded 80.000 tons. “Agriculture provides a good income for the locals and job opportunities for all the members of the family. Farmer Mohammad Hijazi told SANA that the famers want to increase the amounts of fertilizers and fuel allocated for agriculture. Mohammad Shidadat, Head of the Agriculture Guidance Department at the Agriculture Directorate, said that the areas cultivated with potatoes for the current season have reached 2.750 hectares. The farmers depend on mechanized agriculture and a modern irrigation system” (SANA, 06.07.2020).
Daraa, a city in southwestern Syria, is located about 13 km north of the border with Jordan and 90 km south of Damascus. It is the capital of the Daraa Governorate. One of the oldest cities in Syria, its first settlement has been traced back to the second millenium BC. Today, Daraa is famous for learning and culture. It has five private universities and one public university. Since 2010, the Daraa Governorate is competeley free of analphabetism. About 27 percent of its population work in agriculture.
The Hama Governorate has specialized in growing pistachios. “Hama’s Agriculture Directorate said that the province’s production of pistachios for the current season is estimated at 32.241 tons, including 8.897 tons for the irrigated lands and 23.344 tons for the rainfed lands. Engineer Mwafak al-Najjar, Head of the International Planning and Coordination Department at the Directorate, told SANA that the total cultivated areas with pistachio trees amounted to 213.388 dunums, of which 61.691 are irrigated and 151.697 are rainfed” (SANA, 22.07.2020).
Hama, capital of the Hama Governorate, lies on the banks of the Orontes River in western central Syria. The city is located 213 km north of Damascus and 46 km north of Homs. The first settlement of Hama dates back to the Neolithic Age, about 12.000 years ago. One of its tourist attractions are the 17 norias, water wheels. Fed by the Orontes River, they were originally used to route water into aqueducts, which led into the town and the neighbouring agricultural areas.
Another agricultural centre is Sweida in southwestern Syria, close to the border with Jordan. It is the capital of the Sweida Governorate. The inhabitants are mainly Druze. The Druze faith is a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. The Druze community in Syria played an important role in the formation of the modern state of Syria. Even though they are a minority, they still play an important role in the Syrian political scene of today.
With a community of little more than 100.000 members in 1949, or roughly three percent of the Syrian population, the Druze of Syria’s southwestern mountains played a leading role in the nationalist struggle against colonial French occupation. Druze military units revolted successfully against the French, making the Jebel al-Druze the first region in Syria to liberate itself from French rule on its own.
Around 337.000 Druze live in the Sweida Governorate today, 48 percent of all the Druze in Syria. Sweida is the only Governorate in Syria that has a Druze majority of 90 percent. The Druze social customs differ markedly from those of Muslims or Christians. They form a close-knit, cohesive community, which does not allow non-Druze in, though they themselves integrate fully in their adopted homeland.
The Druze are an esoteric and ethno-religious group. The Epistles of Wisdom are the foundational text of the Druze faith, which emphasizes the role of the mind and truthfulness. The Druze believe in theophany and reincarnation or transmigration of the soul. According to Druze faith, at the end of the cycle of rebirth, which is achieved through successive reincarnations, the soul will be united with the Cosmic Mind.
The Governorate of Sweida is Syria’s agricultural powerhouse, successfully harvesting barley, chickpeas and peaches. This is partly due to the area’s geographic location and fertile soil, partly because the Druze are industrious people who want to achieve success.
“Sweida province produced about 17.981 tons of barley for the current season in the cultivated areas, which amounted to 18.869 hectares. The Assistant Director of the Sweida Agricultural Department, Engineer Alaa Shaheb, reported that the revenue was good because of suffiencient rainfall” (SANA, 20.07.2020).
The chickpea farmers were successful, too: “The harvested areas of chickpeas in Sweida exceeded 17.000 hectares. Alaa Shaheb clarified that the harvesting process was going on well. It was carried out manually. Initial estimations of the production amounted to 10.254 tons. Chickpea crop is considered one of the main crops in the Sweida province. Most of its species are cultivated in spring, when they are rainfed” (SANA, 16.07.2020).
Last but not least, the peach harvest is also expected to turn out nicely: “The Sweida Agriculture Department estimated the total production of peaches for the current season to be about 1.386 tons. Ayham Hamed, Head of the Sweida Agricultural Department, explained that the production of peaches was good, attributing this to the increase of peach trees, as well as favourable weather during the current season. He said that the total area cultivated with peach trees amounted to 4.160 dunams, including nearly 171.000 trees, of which 138.000 trees were already bearing fruits, the others were newly planted. The peach farmers grew several kinds of peaches, such as Dixie Red and Nectarine” (SANA, 18.07.2020).
In recent years, there have been attempts by western secret services to lure the Druze population away from President Bashar al-Assad. They sent in their Isis proxies to terrorize Druze communities, but to no avail. The Druze are loyal, steadfast and upright people. These are qualities so rare in the west that western secret services seem to have a hard time grasping it.
The Druze like to lead their own way of life, accoding to their religious and social traditions. Nevertheless, they are Syrian patriots and will not cheat or betray the Syrian Government. Furthermore, they have no reason to do so. They are well integrated and respected in Syrian society. They have enough money to lead a good life.
This is one of the misconceptions in western societies that every human being has a price and can be bought. Living in a Druze village, for a year or two, might bring a change of mind and teach greedy grifters some of the Druze values, which are bitterly lacking in the west. However, the Druze will not accept foreigners in their communities. So western snakes will not crawl in.
Meanwhile, the entire population of the Syrian Arab Republic is waiting for the foreign invaders and their Isis proxies to disappear. While waiting for relief, they grow agricultural products, as they have done for hundreds of years, to feed their own population and also their friends in Russia, Iraq, Iran. The Syrians are an enduring, hardy and wise nation. The French colonialists were not able to understand this Middle Eastern mentality, nor is the NATO command able to grasp it, including the US governments with their superficial, thievish mentality of “have it all” and “steal it all, if necessary.”
The Syrian Arab Republic will not go down and will not disappear. With Russian help, it will not be divided and there will be no “regime change” either. Western grifters must deal with it. There is a German saying: “Ausser Spesen nichts gwesen.” – “Huge expense, no recompense.” This could be the West’s motto for its failed endeavours in Syria.
Olivia Kroth: The journalist and author of four books lives in Russia. Her blog: https://olivia2010kroth.wordpress.com
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.