|George Ajjan | Political TV pundit||United States|
Re: ‘Syria is ...’
Syria is a cartographic abortion.
Why must it be so?
She was conceived centuries ago, practically at the dawn of history. Poets, prophets, and troubadours alike knew of her and wrote for her. She captivated the mind of civilization since its dawn, nourished it and cradled it.
Before being born in the age of nationalism, she endured many turbulent periods. Yet when her long dormancy in the womb neared its ending, she unfortunately came under the accidental care of a team of hack midwives, who grotesquely disfigured her in utero. Thus, she greeted the world a piece at a time, and each of these arbitrary segments was given a different name unrelated to the others.
The largest of these aborted fragments, however, was nonetheless given the name reserved for the whole: “Syria”. Why? Should it not have been called something else, perhaps related to some geographical sub-feature, as Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine were?
As it happened, history was betrayed. Thus, the rest of the world hears the word “Syria” and thinks of some illegitimate retro-fitted Republic rump-state that looks perfectly respectable in a Rand McNally World Atlas, but spits in the face of a geographical and cultural concept that possesses one of the richest histories on Earth.
What today we call Syria (the Syrian Republic, and later, the Syrian Arab Republic) is not Syria. Sorry! But this is a historical fact.
Let’s be clear: if Arab nationalists and champions of the Arab resistance refer to Israel as al-kiyan al-sahiouni (الكيان الصهيوني – the Zionist Entity), then these same people should refer to what the world at large calls Syria in the modern sense al-kiyan al-souri (الكيان السوري- the Syrian Entity).
Some citizens of the Syrian Arab Republic will take offense to the comparison, and consider it disrespectful to the martyrs of the colonial period, as well as those who fought in the wars of 1948, 1967, and 1973. Regardless of history, they will say, we believe in our Syrian nation. This perspective is perfectly justified, except that the nation to which they pledge allegiance should have been called otherwise so as not to distort its own history as its cartography was grossly distorted.
Others will happily accept a disparagement of the modern nation-state called Syria, because they too view Syria in its historical context, commonly called “Greater Syria” or “Bilad al-Sham”. Yet their perspective often manifests itself in an ugly fashion, particularly as it concerns the kiyan al-libnani (the Lebanese Entity). Because they correctly surmise that Lebanon is only a mountain range within Syria, they therefore see no problem with a decades-long, unnecessary military occupation of one faux-state by the other, which in its latter days consisted of about 15,000 personnel whose job description could best be described as “uniformed extortionist”. But they are wrong: one lie swallowing another does not create a truth.
(Though, I must note that these misguided citizens of the Syrian nation-state could hardly be blamed for desiring continued domination over their Lebanese counterparts upon seeing approximately 10,452 obnoxious ingrates waving signs saying “ موووووو” as a parting gesture.)
Furthermore, he who waxes poetic about Lebanon as a mere region of Syria from one side of his mouth – while proclaiming “the Palestinian cause” from the other – is a hypocrite. Is the bitterness toward Israeli occupation so intense that it clouds the fact that Palestine, too, belongs to the historical Syria? Not to mention, the “kingdom” (what a laugh!) on the East Bank. And don’t forget the Alexandretta province, which resembles on the map of Turkey a…never mind, this is a polite website.
Sadly, the Syrian people, from Gaza to Qamishli and everywhere in between, are too wrapped in their post-colonials identities – now going on 3 generations – to spend much time trying to comprehend the historical truth. Yes, I admit, I have the luxury as someone whose family has been in the United States for nearly a century, of lecturing the people who actually inhabit Syria (the whole thing) on the mindset of their ancestors that they abandoned – the mindset that was passed down to me from late Ottoman times. I recognize that I did not suffer through wars and displacements for the sake of what I have the nerve to call “aborted pieces”.
But of course I have no choice but to accept that the map of the region that currently exists will continue to exist. For history’s sake, we can dream of a “Greater Syrian Union” or a “United States of Syria” or some other fantasy in which all the various components join together and all the inhabitants put aside their petty jealousies and rivalries.
But that’s a long shot. In the meantime, Syria – for lack of a better word – will remain a cartographic abortion.
George Ajjan is an American political analyst of Aleppine origin.