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Middle East and Africa

Arabic Revolutions. The Syrian Case

Short interview with Prof. Eros Baldissera, lecturer in Arab literature and Arabic at Ca’ Foscari University, Venice

Professor, you have very close relations with Syria. You spend several months there every year, where you have many friends and acquaintances. After Egypt and Tunisia, with Libya hanging in the balance, do you think that Damascus will be the next?



That is a 5 million euro question. Undoubtedly something has happened. Facebook – the engine of clusters of protests in other countries – was shut down by the authorities in Syria. It was in fact sufficient to ask in any internet café to be able to use internet, so much so that many students of mine wrote to me via Facebook in this way. The news is that a few weeks ago Facebook was unblocked. An acquaintance of mine speculated that its unblocking was aimed at a better control. A rumour also went round of a group of 15,000 people who were supposed to have arranged to meet on a Friday, but nothing more was heard about the protest.



Are these really significant signals?



In my opinion – I think that at least for the time being – nothing manifest will take place in Syria. There is not much real poverty and generally those with a school or university diploma find jobs, well knowing however that they are often underpaid. Of course the services are very strong and could hinder any possible movements. And it is also true that it was not expected that the seizure of an unauthorised vegetable cart in Tunisia and the consequent suicide of the carter, graduate Buzidi (aged 26) could have triggered what is before our eyes, making the first tile fall in an incredible domino effect reaching as far as the Gulf. And while in the Yemen this could have been foreseeable since uprisings are frequent there, the same cannot be said of Bahrain. And even less so of the Sultanate of Oman where for the time being it is impossible to understand which groups began to demand reforms in Sohar leaving behind them two victims until now, after having set fire to the government palace and the police station.



Hardly anything is known of Oman ….



The country is rich, tribal in its structure, but there is widespread dissatisfaction among the young. The protesters in Oman demand jobs, besides political reforms.


The crisis has evidently arrived there too and the reasons are more or less the same.


We must stand and look on, not marvelling at anything.