Sat, May 25, 2013 - Page 9 News List

A lack of water and government inaction fuel uprising in Syria

By Thomas Friedman  /  NY Times News Service, TEL ABYAD, Syria

“We could accept the drought because it was from Allah,” Abu Khalil said, “but we could not accept that the government would do nothing.”

Before we parted, he pulled me aside to say that all that his men needed were anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons and they could finish al-Assad off.

“Couldn’t Obama just let the Mafia send them to us?” he asked. “Don’t worry, we won’t use them against Israel.”

As part of our film we have been following a Syrian woman who is a political activist, Farah Nasif, a 27-year-old Damascus University graduate from Deir-az-Zour, whose family’s farm was also wiped out in the drought.

Nasif typifies the secular, connected, newly urbanized young people who spearheaded the democracy uprisings here and in Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia. They all have two things in common: They no longer fear their governments or their parents, and they want to live like citizens, with equal rights — not as sects with equal fears.

If this new generation had a motto, said Aita, the Syrian economist, it would actually be the same one Syrians used in their 1925 war of independence from France: “Religion is for God, and the country is for everyone.”

However, Nasif is torn right now. She wants al-Assad gone and all political prisoners released, but she knows that more war “will only destroy the rest of the country.” And her gut tells her that even once al-Assad is gone, there is no agreement on who or what should come next. So every option worries her — more war, a ceasefire, the present and the future.

This is the agony of Syria today — and why the closer you get to it, the less certain you are how to fix it.

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