May 18, 2005

No Bumper For You

It's in the middle of a more serious article about reforms underway in Syria, but there's some quality morbid humor here:
This year, some Syrians distributed a video clip via cell phone of a smiling [President Bashar] Assad riding a bumper car with his oldest son, Hafez, at a popular park. (Those in other bumper cars noticeably kept their distance.)
Yeah, that should be a rule or something: If you're a man known for beating people on the feet with thick cables, you probably won't find people to play bumper cars with you. Life is tough.

Read the full piece, too. Bashar Assad came into office in 2000 planning to pull off a bunch of economic reforms—and that still seems to be his goal—but there were all sorts of political obstacles in the way. This 2001 overview of those obstacles, by Gary Gambill, still seems relevant today: "Bashar Assad's failure to undertake substantial economic reforms is therefore rooted in his failure to effect a controlled political opening." In particular, the security services started cracking down on the opposition without Bashar's approval. Seems like something you would want to rein in...
-- Brad Plumer 1:25 PM || ||