Channeling Damascus at Global Voices

A while ago, Dan posted with the exciting news that Tea on the Axis of Evil has been selected for screening at Global Voices 2009.  The film, which follows several personal Syrian stories with the aim of counteracting Syria’s label as an “evil” state, was selected for its unique approach, informative commentary and beautiful imagery.  Highlighting the diversity of the nation, the film is arriving in Boston at a timely moment for US-Syrian relations.  Though Syria has not been given a great deal of serious attention in the US press since John Bolton’s placement of Syria on his secondary axis of evil in 2002, Syria is back in the news with Obama’s foreign relations strategies underway.  Just this week, the Obama administration decided to open sanctions against Syria on a “case-by-case” basis.  Currently, only American food and medicines are imported by Syria, but the opening of sanctions looks to export American information technology and telecommunications to Damascus.

The US is apparently turning a new leaf with Syria in an effort to turn the country away from its alliance with Iran.  President Obama is opening the door to Syria “on a basis of mutual interest and respect.”  Though the move may usher in a new era in US-Syrian relations, not all are happy with the opening of sanctions.  Republicans in particular are calling out against the decision, still influenced by Bush’s and Bolton’s characterizations.

The New York Times reports: “Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she was ‘deeply troubled that the United States would make unilateral concessions to the Syrian regime and ease pressure on Damascus, even as the State Department recently reported to Congress that Syria continues to pursue advanced missile and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons capabilities and to sponsor violent Islamist extremist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.’”

This is not the only development bringing Syria back into the press.  Syrian officials arrested a top human rights lawyer on Thursday and have lodged no charges against him.  Middle Eastern human rights groups are outraged.  In other Syrian news, on a different note, a new law passed this week in Damascus gives a two-year prison sentence to honor killers, in a country in which 16 women are killed each month for shaming their family.  Western human rights groups are horrified with the short sentence, but the move surely marks progress.  With both hopeful and hateful stories arising from the Middle-Eastern nation, it is a crucial moment for Syria.

All of these developments arrive just in time for Global Voices, where Offenbacher’s film will surely enlighten viewers.

Stay informed,

Michael

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