Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

Syrian Drama of Another Order

2013-07-24

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

The blockade on Syria  -on Syrian life not weaponry- reaches into the heart of social, historical and cultural life. This policy is integral to the US-led assault against the country and against Arab national integrity.

No-fly zone, poison gas, foreign guerrillas, sectarian massacres.  These frightening yet alluring, ambitious yet wearying thoughts define Syria today. More reason to take time for other dramas—Syrian TV serials and their politics.

Apart from an opportune ‘Ramadan’ reference, this topic may seem inconsequential or out of place for a nation engulfed in conflict. Yet the subject isn’t too slight a target for US policies.

Extending its aggression against Syria into every corner of the economy, the US has seen TV productions by its longstanding enemy dumped from international satellites, a move that essentially severs global access. This move followed withdrawal of supporting infrastructure for widely popular Syrian programs by US-Gulf state allies, erstwhile co-sponsors, customers and distributors of TV dramas originating in Damascus.

Now, why would anyone censor Syrian TV? Are we not led to believe that Syrian media’s sole purpose is to mislead rather than inform? How could anything of value originate from that “brutal dictatorship”? Anyway, how can “mindless” TV soaps warrant an international embargo?

People familiar with the range of public issues which Syrian producers address through popular drama will understand.

Over the past decade the Damascus-based industry rose to become a major center of high quality TV drama. Its productions won admiration across the Arab-speaking world, rivaling once dominant Egyptian dramas.

What Syrian dramas, mostly made by private companies, offer is best illustrated by two productions:-- Bab al-Hara, first released during Ramadan month in 2006, and a hugely successful 2010 production, Ma Malakat Aymanukum. Bab al-Hara is a colonial period drama typical of the historical productions Syria excels in. This and dramatizations of early epochs hold special significance throughout the Arab world through portrayals and reflections of Arab civilization’s accomplishments and historical events. By contrast with Bab al-Hara, Ma Malakat explores contemporary social concerns: –religious fanaticism, homosexuality, abuse of women. Written by Syrian author Halla Diyab, Ma-Malakat  was directed by her accomplished compatriot Najdat Ansour. The work of these and other brilliant Syrian artists is renowned.

Yes, armed conflict itself thwarts artistic production. Thousands of Syria’s most talented and liberal-thinking people-- actors, designers, musicians, writers, technicians-- are jobless today. Many flee in search of outside employment, like those featured in a CNN token Ramadan story ( www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/business/2013/07/19/exp-marketplace-middle-east-syria-ramadan-ratings.cnn.html.) 

Theater is one of many institutions devastated by war. But the destruction of this industry is not collateral damage. It’s deliberate. The sale of Syrian series came to a standstill when networks in Saudi Arabia and UAE (locations of major distributors) cancelled orders for Syrian productions. Next, in June 2012 the Arab League itself ordered satellite transmitters Hotbird, Nilesat and Arabsat to cease carrying Syrian media including Syrian TV and Syrian Drama TV. Whereas Syria exported 25 new TV series in 2010,  the following year producers were able to sell only one—a direct effect of the US-designed embargo.

Of course this blockade has significant economic consequences for Syria. But its real target is Syria’s cultural and ideological position in the region.

The Arab public and specialists recognize that Syrian productions are unrivaled in their authenticity and ideology. Syria is known to have the highest standards in historical research (applied to the arts) and in Arabic language. Besides the technical, literary and entertainment value of specific stories, Syria’s dramatic productions represent a struggling political consciousness--the Arab nationalist ideal. (This includes celebration of Palestinian resistance.)

Syrian dramas invoke regional pride and values largely absent in productions from neighboring countries. The industry’s collapse was targeted because these productions embody and espouse values which the West seeks to eliminate. Nothing is overlooked, it seems, in the US design against Syria.

Meanwhile Turkish TV serials, translated into Arabic, and with a focus on romance and family conflict keep people distracted. A coincidence?

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