If there had been any question about Mariam Agnes connections with the Assad regime, this should put them to rest. Bashar Jaafari is the permentent representative of the Syrian regime at the United Nations, a regime insider who has worked for the Syrian state since 1980.
The following quotations are from Uri Avnery’s text “The Golan Heights under Israeli Occupation”, a working document presented in 1983. Following the Israeli announcement that the Golan Heights would be annexed and come under normal Israeli jurisdiction, the Syrian Arab villages which had not been depopulated in 1967 launched a general-strike in protest of the annexation order.
On 13 February, the 15,000 Syrian Arab inhabitants of the Golan again declared a general strike: the second general strike since declaration of annexation. Despite Israeli hopes to the contrary, the general strike was sustained with complete success. The economy of the Northern District was seriously disrupted by the withdrawal of labour of the 2,500 regular Syrian Arab workers who commute daily to work in Israeli kibbutz and development town factories in the North. Threats of dismissal were completely ineffective since it soon became evident that Israeli employers could not locate replacements for the withdrawn labour force.
On 24 February, two more Syrian Arab residents of Jadj al-Shams, Salman Fakhr al-Din and Jamal Batesh, were jailed under three months’ administrative detention orders.
When the general strike entered its twelfth day, the Israeli army moved in in an attempt to crush the resistance. On 25 Februrary , Major General Amir Drori, Commander of the Northern Command, ordered the blockade of the four Arab villages: al-Shams, Mas’ada, Buq’ata and Ayn Qiniya.
The blockade was vicious: by mid-march, a total of 25 residents of the four Syrian Arab villages were jailed under administrative detention orders, including two eight year old shepherd boys charged with curfew violations. Food shortages became acute. Mekorot, the Israeli national water company, reduced its water supplies, and the national electricity company similarly cut its supplies tot he blockaded population….The press reported that some 40 per cent of the child population under 14 in the blockaded villages suffered from measles, which , unless properly treated, can cause permeant damage to the livers of young children.
Uri Avnery, “The Golan Heights under Israeli Occupation”, 1983. page 46-47
Today, the Syrian Regime uses blockades, arrests, and violence of all levels to suppress the protests of its indigenous population. From Uri Avenery’s account, we can see that the Syrian regime’s crimes have a precedent in the repression by the Israeli Apartheid regime inside occupied Syria.
So, over the past year I’ve been learning to play the oud. It’s the first new instrument I’ve picked up since the mandolin, and it’s the first fretless stringed instrument I’ve ever seriously taken up. It’s a deeply wonderful instrument, much more vocal and intuitive than a guitar due to the lack of frets – your fingers are (literally) closer to the music.
I’ve grown to really love music that is played on the instrument. You’ll probably assume that I fell in love with Marcel Khalife’s music, but that’s not entirely true. The first oud player I really grew to love is Sameeh Shuqair, after a friend in Palestine introduced me to the song “Blood Falls” about the siege on the Jenin refugee camp. Mostly using youtube I was able to discover many songs by Shuqair, and I also discovered other amazing musiciens such as Sami Hawat, Sheikh Imam, Naseer Shamma, Munir Bashir, and Zyad Rabbani. Not oud players, but prominently featuring the oud is also the music of Fairouz and Um Kalthoom. I did eventually try to listen to Marcel Khalife seriously, but I’ve never liked the way his music is soaked in orchestral strings. So when I discovered his first recording “Promises of the Storm” (1976), it was like a breath of fresh air, or a cool crisp glass of water. Since falling in love with that record, I have been listening to his catalogue more broadly as well, but I always go back to “Promises of the Storm”.
I’m writing this now because I’ve finally started doing some home recordings of myself playing the oud, and I want to share them. So they are up on my soundcloud, where you can listen to them (or even download them if you like).