Friday 6 March 2015

Lunch with a Syrian friend


Yesterday I had lunch with the Syrian Christian friend whom - I was horrified when he told me - I hadn't seen since he bought me lunch eighteen months ago. I wrote about that lunch here and think what he said then is still worth reading.

He has not been back to Syria since moving here two and a half years ago but keeps in constant touch with the country and has an online recruitment portal serving the needs of employers in Syria (there are some, of course, and they need to replace people who emigrate or, i suppose, though he didn't say this, are killed.)

It was a great pleasure to see him again but what he had to say was very depressing. He sees no likelihood of any end to the war and, which depressed me even more, he is very alarmed that Muslims are growing ever more numerous in Europe because of migration and having many babies. 
He believes exaggerated statistics about the number of Muslims in Europe, but the true numbers are astonishing and show rapid increases.

I told him:

Christian Syrians like you should write about this.
And his reply was astute:
No-one would listen to us.
He, by the way, has very many Muslim friends in Syria and says they are good people. Their religion makes the problems, he says. He thinks Islam is incompatible with democracy.

He likes it in Romania and went on

'Romania's not very civilised but it's better that way'
and contrasts civilised France, where cartoonists are murdered for insulting Mohammed.  I agreed that ever since I first came here I have thought that in very many ways Romania is more civilised than the West.

As I write this, I remember an Austrian banker who settled here telling me years ago that the West was decadent and Romania was not. I believed that when he told me, though the word decadent amused me, sounded Spenglerian, but I see it much more clearly now how decadent the West is, because it is much clearer now.

My Syrian thinks Assad and ISIS in some occult way work in tandem. I think he is right and people who think Assad is a good guy - there are lots of these people on the net - are very foolish. 
My friend thinks, though, that the moderate rebels were not very moderate. Christians do not have illusions about the regime but prefer it to the other options. 

My friend wants the regime to be reformed rather than overthrown, simply because the alternative is chaos, but Iran, which has kept Assad in power, he blames for the crimes of the regime. Iran, he says, is the devil.


  1. In the Algerian civil war the Islamists and the governments were involved in some sort of depraved symbiosis that outsiders did not understand. But they knew it was there...

    1. Timothy Snyder's book 'Bloodlands' points out the spiral of death in which Nazis and Communists took part in Eastern Europe during the Second World War. He talks of the moral ambiguity of Soviet partisans carrying out attacks on the Germans and their allies in the Soviet Union in full knowledge of the terrible reprisals that would follow. But ISIS and Assad's forces have largely been attacking the so-called moderate rebels until fairly recently and Assad has helped ISIS on some occasions, as by releasing Islamist political prisoners, so the parallel is not very close.

  2. I'm no expert in the Syrian debacle, but have followed it to some degree. ...but I'm no stranger to war and carnage either. There is an adage - Those who forget history are bound to repeat it. I suspect we live in a world where the majority have forgotten or never learned. I do what I can but am resolved with myself that we will repeat a lot of history.

    I've found some of your post intriguing. They provide me with what I think may be a honest perspective. This in a time where so many seem to push hidden agendas.

    Don Patrick