Syria and Turkey commentary

Archive for the category “Germany”

Syria’s soul is being erased – Britain’s role

The world thought it could ignore the Syrian crisis with impunity. Let them kill each other; it’s so far away and nothing to do with us. Bruised by failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, the West had no appetite for involvement. But four years of indecision disguised as “noble non-intervention” has been a decision with deadly consequences, as Syrian refugees quite literally wash up on Europe’s shores. After remaining unmoved by thousands of images of carnage and devastation caused by President Assad’s barrel bombs, one image has changed perceptions overnight.

Aylan Kurdi drowned on beach Sept 2015

Syria is the cradle of civilisation, where the cross-fertilization of cultures and ideas resulted in a highly creative and innovative people. It is no accident that the first phonetic alphabet was invented here, the first musical notation, the first hymns, the first female choirs and even female orchestras. This blend and fusion of cultural influences is part of the Syrian identity, an identity that has been traditionally open, tolerant and welcoming.

Palmyra, the desert oasis city on the Silk Road linking the Mediterranean to the Euphrates River, Mesopotamia and beyond, represented this fusion of cultures through the blended Roman Oriental style of its architecture, its statues, its temples and its funerary monuments. Open to trade and the worship of many gods of the region, it too was part of the Syrian identity.


This is the identity which ISIS is intent on destroying. Masquerading as true Muslims, they are blowing up anything they can claim is idolatrous, anything with human or animal forms, while in practice Islam has always coexisted with earlier cultures – except in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia of course, which has also destroyed all manifestations of earlier religions.

Palmyra Baal Shamin destruction

But ISIS is only part of the jigsaw. Syria’s cultural heritage is also being destroyed by the Assad regime’s relentless aerial bombardment and barrel bombing of opposition-held areas like Aleppo, along with residential areas, schools, hospitals and ordinary citizens. All are inextricably linked, all are part of Syria’s identity and this rich, multicoloured fabric of Syrian society is being shredded systematically, day after day with no end in sight and no one coming to help.

Syrian fighter jetbarrel bombing syria

The result is the wave of Syrian refugees  in ever greater numbers fleeing to Europe, their only option since the wealthy Gulf Arab countries have closed their doors, and their official asylum applications are repeatedly turned down. Today I heard Raida, a former resident of my Damascus house, speaking to the BBC from Beirut about her six failed applications to Saudi Arabia, her failed applications to Canada, Austria, France and the UK. Her dignity shone through when she ended by saying she would never resort to people smugglers, neither would she give up her struggle for a better life.

My Damascus House (photo credit copyright Fiona Dunlop)

My Damascus House (photo credit copyright Fiona Dunlop)

The dignity also shines through in the Syrian refugees interviewed on the road as they walk through Hungary to Germany. They are well-behaved and respectful of each other, in spite of their ordeals. They have not lost their humanity. Neither has Angela Merkel, with her vision and leadership, making me proud to be half-German.

Germany Merkel poster mimicking Bashar's August 2015

Of my British half however, I am ashamed. The British government has shown no vision or leadership, feebly waiting for an American strategy on Syria that never came, then taking a cowardly vote (thanks to Ed Milliband) in the House of Commons against military intervention in Syria after the supposed “red line” of the August 2013 chemical weapons attack. The Department for International Development’s much vaunted overseas aid projects are about as effective as a sticking plaster for a man whose guts have been blown out.

For the last four years Syria has been left like an open wound, untreated, slowly bleeding to death. Had Syrian pleas for a safe haven to be established on the Turkish border in summer 2011 been heeded, hundreds of thousands of refugees now fleeing the country could have stayed inside Syria; their destabilising pressure on the infrastructures of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey would have been avoided; the Assad regime’s handling of the uprising would have been challenged early on; the germ of ISIS would not have been left to multiply exponentially in Raqqa since April 2013 and to grow into the Frankenstein monster it is today, hijacking Syria’s revolution, overrunning Iraq and distorting perceptions of Islam.

isis on move

Syria’s soul is being systematically erased. Only intervention can stop it. It will be infinitely more difficult to establish a safe haven now, four years too late, but it still has to be the first step, to stem the exodus of refugees. For those already on the road, Britain needs to adopt the German approach – take thousands according to each region’s wealth and population spread evenly and equally across the country. If Germany can take in 1% of its population, so can we. The only alternative is to stop Syria’s war, something for which there is, it seems, neither the strategy nor the political will so far.

Related posts:

Syria is not Iraq: 10 key differences https://dianadarke.com/2013/09/01/syria-is-not-iraq-10-key-differences/

A Syrian in Saarbrucken https://dianadarke.com/2015/08/17/a-syrian-in-saarbrucken/

The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Art https://dianadarke.com/2015/02/15/the-prophet-muhammad-in-islamic-art/

How ISIS misuses early Islamic history to justify its actions https://dianadarke.com/2014/08/23/how-isis-uses-early-islamic-history-to-justify-its-actions/




A Syrian in Saarbrucken

“Politics is all about interests, everyone knows this of course,” said Muhammad, his earnest brown eyes looking directly into mine. “But none of us imagined it would end like this.”

In those intelligent philosophical eyes I could see echoes of Ramzi Read more…

How to get a German passport

Muhammad Yassin passport Germany

Every year over 40,000 migrants arriving in Germany do a German citizenship test. 33 questions have to be answered, of which at least 17 must be correct.

Here is a sample of the types of questions, carefully and cleverly chosen to highlight key differences between how the autocratic societies from which many migrants are likely to have come function, and how German society functions.

Question 1:

In Germany people are often allowed to say something against the government because…

A  There is religious freedom here.

B  People pay taxes.

C  People have the right to vote.

D  There is freedom of opinion here.


Question 2:

What is compatible with the German constitution?

A  Corporal punishment.

B  Torture.

C  Death penalty.

D  Punishment by fine.


Question 3:

Two friends want to go to an open-air swimming pool. Both are dark-skinned and are therefore not allowed in. Which right has been violated in this situation? The right to…

A  Freedom of opinion.

B  Equal treatment.

C  Freedom of assembly.

D  Freedom of movement.


Question 4:

Which right belongs to the basic rights which are guaranteed according to German constitution:

A  Freedom of belief and conscience.

B  Maintenance.

C  Work.

D  Accommodation.

Question 5:

What does it not say in German constitutional law:

A  Human dignity is sacrosanct.

B  Everyone should have the same amount of money.

C  Every person is allowed to give his opinion.

D  Everyone is equal before the law.


Question 6:

Elections in Germany are free. What does that mean?

A  One can accept money to vote for a specific candidate.

B  Only people who have never been in prison can vote.

C  The voter cannot be influenced or forced to vote for a particular candidate.

D  All people entitled to vote must cast their vote.


Question 7:

Where in Germany do you go to inform yourself about political topics?

A  Security department of the local municipality.

B  Customer head office.

C  National head office for political education.

D  Churches.


Question 8:

What kind of living is not allowed in Germany?

A  A man and woman are divorced and live with new partners.

B  Two women living together.

C  A single father living with his two children.

D  A man married to two wives at the same time.


Question 9:

What does one need in Germany for a divorce?

A  The consent of the parents.

B  A doctor’s certificate.

C  The consent of the children.

D  The guidance of a lawyer.


Question 10:

A young woman wants to get her driving licence. She is afraid of the test because German is not her mother tongue. What is right?

A  She must live in Germany at least 10 years before she can get her driving licence.

B  She cannot get her driving licence if she does not know German.

C  She must get her driving licence in the country of her mother tongue.

D  She can perhaps do the theory test in her mother tongue. It is on offer in more than 10 languages.

(Source: The Rhein-Neckar Zeitung of 25/26 July 2015)

Related posts:

A successful Syrian asylum seeker in Germany:


From Our Own Correspondent BBC Radio 4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b063y63k (starts at 7 minutes in)

Muhammad Yassin Mersin boat4


Germany granted asylum to over 41,000 in 2014, more than 30,000 of them Syrian. Britain has taken 187 Syrian refugees to date, 1.5% of Germany’s acceptance rate.



Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: