I haven’t managed to read accounts of all of today’s “peace demonstrations,” but my guess is that among the topics not addressed by speakers were recent development in Syria and Libya.
The New York Times reports:
A year ago, it would have been inconceivable for a citizen of Syria, run by the Baath Party of President Bashar al-Assad, to make a documentary film with the working title, “Fifteen Reasons Why I Hate the Baath.”
Yet watching the overthrow of Saddam Hussein across the border in Iraq prompted Omar Amiralay to do just that. “It gave me the courage to do it,” he said.
“When you see one of the two Baath parties broken, collapsing, you can only hope that it will be the turn of the Syrian Baath next,” he added, having just completed the film, eventually called “A Flood in Baath Country,” for a European arts channel. “The myth of having to live under despots for eternity collapsed.”
Although the Syrian Baathists remain firmly in control, The Times reports that since the Iraqi regime was toppled, Syrians are more willing to test their government’s limits.
Syrians who oppose the government do so with some trepidation because it used ferocious violence in the past to silence any challenge. Yet the fall of Mr. Hussein changed something inside people.
“I think the image, the sense of terror, has evaporated,” said Mr. Amiralay, the filmmaker.
On March 8, for instance, about 25 protesters demanding that repressive laws be lifted tried to demonstrate outside Parliament. Security forces squashed the sit-in as it started, but the event would have been unthinkable before the Iraq war.
Meanwhile in that one-time bastion of anti-imperialism, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, it seems that a lot of people like Americans as much as they dislike Moammar Gaddafi– and aren’t afraid to say so.
Daniel Williams of The Washington Post reports:
Perhaps more than other citizens of the Arab world, Libyans seem happy to greet Americans — and do so without the usual complaints voiced elsewhere about Washington’s foreign policy, its association with dictatorial governments and dominance of the world stage.
Williams speculates that the pro-Americanism is because of— not despite– the long US hostility to the Gaddafi regime.
“America is good. Miyeh-miyeh [very good]. I am glad we will be friends,” said Mohammed Barous, a barber. He rubbed his index fingers together, a gesture signifying brotherhood. “Gaddafi is not good. He made a lot of trouble for us and America was right to be against him.”
I can’t help thinking that the overthrow of the dictator of Iraq emboldened Mr. Barous and others to speak so defiantly about the dictator of their country.