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DADDY DEAREST Inside the mind of Bashar al-Assad

http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/03/04/daddy-dearest-inside-the-mind-of-bashar-al-assad.html

DADDY DEAREST Inside the mind of Bashar al-Assad

By Nihad Sirees

Why does war still savage Syria? When will it stop? Is President Bashar al-Assad a man trapped in his dead father’s web? Has his cruelty been thrust upon him by family and fate, or is it entirely of his own making? Does he want to flee in defeat? To admit he has been ruinously wrong?

Throughout its modern history, Syria has witnessed violence in the course of political conflicts which started during the rule of Hafez al-Assad, the fearsome father of Bashar. Going through the biography of the father, we see how an irrepressibly ambitious officer in the Syrian Air Force climbed the ladder, step by step, sacrificing all his comrades, till he seized power and ruled Syria in a totalitarian way, and bequeathed to his son a solid and brutal regime.

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Geography Of Secrets

Nihad Sirees, author of the PEN award-winning The Silence and the Roar, writes for PEN Atlas about his

memories of growing up in Aleppo, Syria, and the way his sensual memories of the past now struggle with the violence and horror of the present

Here in Rhode Island, I lie in bed at night where lately sleep does not come easily. The news coming from my home city of Aleppo has started to wear out my nerves. The war continues there, and from this faraway place, the war seems to me even more fierce and more destructive. I keep tossing and turning in my bed, tired from chasing sleep while alone. Huda, my late wife, died six years ago, and my worries over my daughter and my son in Aleppo are growing every day. I think of my daughter’s pleas for me to leave Syria, because the regime is killing the intellectuals in the country, and putting the blame on the opposition. Since I left Aleppo, the violence has intensified and became more brutal. No city or village in Syria has been spared from the destruction machine of the regime. Now the war is going on in the oldest city of the world and the most exotic city in history.

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IoS book review: The Silence and the Roar, By Nihad Sirees

Free expression is the first casualty under any dictatorship. The work of dissident writers and intellectuals is banned and, when this doesn't have the desired effect, they are imprisoned, tortured or simply "disappear". Nihad Sirees's own experiences in Syria inform his profound and topical 2004 novella, which has now been translated into English.

The Silence and the Roar follows a day in the life of Fathi Sheen, a once popular writer condemned to obscurity for being "unpatriotic". As he makes his way across town to visit his mother and girlfriend, an unnamed leader is celebrating his 20th anniversary in power, and people pour onto the streets to express their devotion. Fathi encounters characters who, like him, are struggling to make sense of the marches, military music and speeches – all the "noise of the regime". An unlikely hero, he intervenes to stop government thugs beating a student, and attempts to rescue a woman from being trampled.

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Malcolm Forbes in The National:

The Silence and the Roar an excellent novel about a brutal despot and an unlikely hero

In The Feast of the Goat, Mario Vargas Llosa's 2000 novel about the tyranny of the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic, we learn that the dictator went by a variety of grandiloquent titles. Not content with just the Chief, Vargas Llosa informs us that Trujillo was also the Generalissimo, the Benefactor, and the Father of the New Nation. Even his wife had to be addressed as the Bountiful First Lady by social chroniclers. But then this was the 20th century, civilisation's bloodiest to date, and one which gave us Der Führer, Il Duce and the Supreme and Dear Leader. If despots wanted to rule with an iron fist, they needed a correspondingly vainglorious sobriquet.

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Arabic Poetry: Transformation or Roar?

Two beautiful books that I read recently

— Nihad Sirees’s The Silence and the Roar and Nostalgia, My Enemy – give two very different reports on the life of poetry.
Early in Nihad Sirees’s sharp The Silence at the Roar (trans. in clear, ninja-warrior style by Max Weiss), the protagonist Fathi Sheen decries the influence of Arabic poetry: