In the midst of sorrow and devastation it is easy to forget beauty and history. For Syrians living in Damascus the wreckage that the war has produced and the harsh living conditions have sometimes made them oblivious to the place they live in. It has made them forget that it is a world heritage site for being the oldest continually inhabited city-for encompassing many civilization, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic.

Damascus boasts of many monuments from the great Ummayed Mosque to other no less grand monuments like Azem Palace, the citadel of Damascus and many , many others.

Damascus was also a trade center for the whole middle east and Mediterranean  area- a hot spot breathing life and culture into the region.

Reneva Fourie is a policy analyst specializing in governance, development and security. Most of all she is a lover of Damascus where she currently resides. The following article reflects, her thoughts and feelings about the place she lives in.           

Syria: The place where history, mythology and mysticism meet

The high number of deaths emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic has evoked introspection. Questions about the source, purpose and value of life, in particular, have dominated contemplations, as more loved ones departed from this earth than usual, and as resolutions for 2021 were being formed. While taking all necessary safety precautions into consideration, a pilgrimage to Syria could provide consolation in these troubled times. The country’s rich and well-preserved historical, archaeological, and religious sites provide an enchanting serenity, especially now that peace is in the process of being restored.

Syria is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world.  Fossils confirm that Neanderthals wandered the land as far back as 700,000 years ago. It necessitates a visit to Syria to appreciate why its citizens love their country so much that they will do whatever is required to prevent it from falling into foreign hands. Syrians have outlasted occupation by numerous regimes, some of which included the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Ottomans and they fought a bloody revolution against the French before gaining independence in April 1946.  It was inevitable that the recent attempt at regime-change would be resisted. Throughout these invasions, Syrians not just defended their right to dignity, they also sought to preserve the primeval, while embracing the new.

The country boasts an endless litany of wonder-cities that include Bosra, Palmyra, Aleppo and Latakia, all of which present lessons in the evolution of humanity, culture, architecture, religion and civilisation in general.  The more obvious marvel however is Damascus, Syria’s capital, and now its most populous city. Known as the “pearl of the east” due to is lushness and beauty, it is one of, if not the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, dating back to approximately the year 2500 BC.

Water Wars

Ethiopia has built a huge dam with a capacity of 74 billion cubic meters. This dam lies at the source of the Blue Nile river and is aimed primarily at generating power. For Ethiopia this dam will be a life saver for it will supply electricity to over 86 million Ethiopians who currently live without it.

But there is much controversy over this dam and its effect on riparian counties. The last round of negotiations failed and Egypt’s worries have increased over their water rights, as much of the water that has historically flowed into the Nile Delta will be diverted.

Egyptian journalist and political analyst Mohamad Fawzy says ”Egypt is a country that suffers from scarcity of water and building this dam, the GERD (Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam) according to the Ethiopian vision will pose a direct threat to Egypt’s water as allocated in previous agreements and treaties, which gave Egypt 55 billion cubic meters. The crux of the Egyptian stance is that Ethiopian right in development should not happen on behalf of Egypt’s water and national security–human security in general in the Nile Valley".

Mr. Fawzy goes on to say that the “latest round of negotiations failed when Sudan (a riparian country) offered a suggestion of how negotiations about the dam should be followed. Sudan suggested that a greater role be given to experts in the African Union in an attempt to reach a satisfactory solution to all parties involved. This suggestion was not met with consensus by Egypt or Ethiopia as they saw this issue as matter between the three countries only. Mr. Fawzy goes on and says “In general the last round of negotiations failed as other previous rounds had failed due to the obstinate and uncooperative Ethiopian outlook in regards to the water issue.

Ethiopia tries to pass the matter of the dam strictly as one to do with sustainable development while in reality through the GERD it is engineering for itself a new balance in the area even if this comes at the cost of creating many problems in that region.

Previously when President Nasser was alive relations between Egypt and Ethiopia were much better as Nasser was aware of the vital importance of the Nile Basin and that is why he strengthened ties with the riparian countries. He also greatly supported African independence movements, which further consolidated Egypt’s position in the continent. After the death of Nasser there was negligence of ties with Africa as Egypt sought other ties with the West and America-so previously friendly African countries were left in limbo and that presented Israel with a golden opportunity to step in where Egypt had vacated.

Athanasios Konstantinou to ST: The EU's Sanctions against Syria's Foreign Minister will only make positive communication more difficult

The decision that was adopted yesterday by the European Union (EU) on adding Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Faisal Al-Miqdad to its sanction list  will only make positive communication and dialogue more difficult, especially when it targets an established diplomat like Mr. Al-Miqdad, according to Member of European Parliament Athanasios Konstantinou.

Wind turbines in the occupied Syrian Golan

Wind turbines in the Golan wreaking havoc on nature destroying the picaresque beauty of the villages and most importantly seizing farmlands and so depriving the farmers of the Golan from cultivating their land.

The company that will set up the wind turbines is called Energix Renewable Energies which of course is an Israeli company. No amount of protesting or demonstrating that the people of the Golan did had any effect on the Israeli decision

Lawyers, activists and human rights organizations all signed a petition of over 5000 names in protest against the implementation of the project.

 Up to 25 huge wind turbines will be erected in the occupied Syrian Golan on an area of approximately 3674 Dunums.

Each turbine is about 200 meters in height with a base that covers 600 M2.

Israeli defiance of the UN ruling on Golan Heights is reinforced by America

The Syrian Golan, a hilly area covering 1860 square KM with fertile soil and plenty of water.

The modern history of the Golan witnessed poverty (during the time of the Ottoman Empire) and then occupation and annexation by Israel. 

The Arab inhabitants of the Golan unequivocally and continuously demand the return of the Golan to the motherland Syria, but Israel’s   illegal annexation of part of the Golan in 1981 (which was not acknowledged by any country-UN Security Council Resolution 497 declared “null and void and without international legal effect”) showed that Israel harbored no desire for peace.