Tuesday February 02, 2016
The Road to Damascus
The ancient city of Damascus has been destroyed in history and mythologized by holy scripture. Damascus is also a character: elderly, unyielding and vital, but overcrowded, tired and in danger of destruction in Syria's civil war. Nelofer Pazira captures the sounds of war and moments of resilience, as well as the fears -- and the hopes -- of a city whose past is far more certain than its future. **This episode originally aired October 26, 2015.
Death awaits many in Syria. And yet, the ancient core of Damascus is mostly unbroken by war, despite skirmishes all around it. But the outer core, the suburbs, are in ruins: battlefields between the Syrian army and the rebels, including Al-Qaeda and other Islamic groups. And ISIS is close, occupying villages near the Syria-Lebanon border and the ancient city of Palmyra and with the Russians now directly involved, the war rages on.
Damascus is still a footnote compared to the tragedy of suffering that is a daily part of the Syrian war. But that could change. Will it suffer the same fate as the northern cities of Aleppo and Palmyra? Cities that have been shattered. Historic sites deliberately destroyed. Many of their citizens killed in the streets.
Nelofer Pazira is an Afghan-Canadian. She's also an award winning director, journalist, actor and writer. Earlier this summer, Nelofer hired a car and driver to take her from Beirut to Damascus, a city she first visited almost 10 years ago.
Participants in the program:
Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian and native of Damascus. He has a degree from the American University of Beirut, and a PhD in Middle East politics from the University of Exeter, UK. He was editor-in-chief of Syria's English-language Forward Magazine (2006 – 2012), and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Centre in Beirut. He's founded Damascus Foundation for Historical Studies to preserve what remains of documents, photographs, books, and artifacts related to modern Syria as so much has already been destroyed since the start of the current conflict. He is the author of numerous books including Damascus Between Democracy and Dictatorship, and Syria and the USA: From Wilson to Eisenhower. His recent book is called Under the Black Flag: At the frontier of the new jihad. His articles have appeared in a variety of newspapers around the world. He is a blogger with The Huffington Post and an online panelist with The Washington Post. He is a founding Research Fellow at the Syrian Studies Center at St Andrews University in Scotland.
Nelofer's book A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan was named winner of the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize in Canada (2006). She holds a degree in Journalism and English Literature from Carleton University (Ottawa), and an MA in Anthropology/Sociology and Religion from Concordia University (Montreal), and has received two honorary doctorates from Carleton University and Thomson Rivers University, BC. She founded a charity -- The Dyana Afghan Women's Fund (www.dawf.ca) – named after her childhood friend who died during the Taliban rule. It provides education for women in Afghanistan.