His posts (signed by 'Karfan & Friend') are interspersed with countless personal accounts and anecdotes, and are, at first glance, crude, tongue-in-cheek, nihilistic, and very funny (but not the good 'funny'). In many ways, the Syria he describes in his writings bears a huge resemblance to Iraq under Ba'athist rule. He used to blog intermittently from an Internet cafe in neighboring Lebanon, where he made periodic visits in 2005 and 2006, in order to escape the scrutiny of the Syrian Mukhabarat, until he abruptly stopped posting in August 2006 with no explanation whatsoever for his disappearance.
I figured it was somewhat relevant, given the current dramatic situation going on in Syria, to revisit his humorous blog posts. I strongly recommend the whole blog (including the comments) as required reading for anyone interested in Syrian and Middle Eastern affairs. It's actually not really that long (a total of 14 posts), and it serves as an excellent background to understand the present crisis.
In his first post he introduces Karfan:
This blog is by Karfan, whose name means disgusted. Generaly disgusted with life and everything in it. Recently, disgusted with all those who are trying to make a living from giving false and fictitious analyses about Syria and with those who believe them.He then goes on in his second post to introduce us to the Syrian people. According to Karfan, in reality, there is no Syrian 'people'. Instead, there are:
Sunnis, Alawis, Druuz, Christians, Smaeelis, Kurds, Palestinians, Mad'umeen (the favored ones), Mas'uleen (high governmental people), Bathists, Shwam (Damascenes), Shawaya (bedouins), Numailatieh, Haddadeen, Khayateen (the last three are Alwai tribes), Umalaa (traitors), Sheu'ieen (communists) , Mukhabarat (secret agents), Manayek (dickheads), Kharawat (assholes), etc. That is how we call each other, but in school books, we were told that we are Arabs. Except this fictitious categorization, Karfan never knew what else actually joins these people, but they were there around him and he could easily tell who is who and what to call them.Syria itself, as far as Karfan is concerned, is a fictitious, manufactured entity that exists only on paper and in school books. He asks himself what is this Syria that is talked about on the news? In fact:
Karfan lived in cities called Tartous and Damascus, and he was told that these are just cities in a place called Watan Arabi (Arabic Homeland). Besides this fictitious homeland, he never knew what else actually joins these cities except the bumpy roads between them. He could see this Watan Arabi on all the maps around him, but never gone to any of the other places that consist this vast land. He was not allowed to go to cities in Jordan or Egypt because he was told they were traitors. He was not allowed to go to cities in Lebanon because he was told there was a war with the enemies. He was not allowed to go to cities in Iraq because his passport bears the seal (Valid to all countries except Iraq!!). Eventually, these "Arab" places became to him, and his generation, as Djibouti and Salvador, mere names.He describes with distaste the sectarian and tribal nature of Syrian society with the everyday example of the obligatory 'where are you from?' question that creeps into every interaction between his countrymen (very similar to Iraq). Karfan mentions that this is actually a not-so-veiled attempt to determine the sect or ethnic group of the speaker, and he admits that he often trolled fellow Syrians who asked him this question by inventing an imaginary place to confuse them and watch them squirm trying to figure out his background, also adding that this game of 'where are you from?', mastered by all Syrians, is an essential survival skill.
In a similar pattern, his subsequent posts are in-depth examinations and debunkings of what he calls 'myths' about Syria and Syrians, including examples and personal stories in each.
In myth no. 2 "We have an identity," he denies there is such a thing as a Syrian national identity and juxtaposes it with the Syrian regime's 'hammering' about Arab identity and 'Arabism':
Karfan never met a single young Syrian who actually believed in Arabism, in term of believing that we should respect other citizens from what is called Arab World just for the sake that they are Arabs. People who live in Syria never respected each other to begin with for them to respect outsiders. We have been conditioned to say that we want to be united with Arab countries in the Gulf, but call Gulf Arabs Dickheads and have the lowest esteem towards them. We have been conditioned to say that we want to liberate Palestine, but call Palestinians Manayek (Assholes) and treat them badly in Syria most of the time or corner them in dirty areas and speak behind their back as if they are invaders from another planets.Myth no. 3 is a closer look at Arabism in Syria. Karfan distastefully concludes that it is simply a meaningless term invented by the 'failure generation' of Syrian pan-Arab nationalists and thinkers who left their 'legacy' of Arabism in tons of books that are used by lucky falafel street vendors to wrap their sandwiches with. In addition, he expresses his disgust with foreign political analysts who talk about the 'dying of Arabism' in Syria, noting wryly that it never even existed in the first place.
In Myth no. 4 Karfan calls Syrians 'pathetic' because they strongly react to anyone who dares to reveal uncomfortable truths about their society and imagined unity with vulgarity, also responding to detractors in the comments on his first few posts. Included between the lines is a brief introduction to the Syrian leader 'King Lion the 2nd' (Bashar al-Assad), his father 'King Lion the 1st' (Hafez), and his brother 'the White Knight of Tadmur' (Rifaat).
Myth no. 5 is about Syrians' innate fear of civil war and how it was used as a pretense by the Assad regime to hold on to power by convincing Alawites that the Sunni majority is out to get them if Assad ever falls.
Bashar al-Assad's personality cult is closely analyzed, mocked and derided in Myth no. 6, particularly his long-awaited reforms and the part, parroted by foreign journalists, about how he is 'Western-educated'. Karfan relates his amusing theory about the Assad dynasty and gives an example:
Most people know the French "King Louis the 16th" whose head was chopped like a potato by the angry mob. Karfan has this theory that when this king's ancestors started their dynasty, they actually had names: the first King Louis and the second King Francois the third King Charles or something. After a while though, people noticed that there are no differences between those kings and stopped bothering giving them different names. They just gave them the name Louis and numbered them: King Louis the 3rd, the 4th and so on.And the natural conclusion of his theory:
It took 16 King Louis for the usually-clever French people to realize that these kings will not get any different from one another. Karfan is wondering how many Kings it would take for the dumb-ass Syrians who still repeat Khitabb El-Kassam (the inauguration Speech) to reach the same conclusion, maybe till the King 28th? Till then.. They can wait for the diamond.Myth no. 8 is a humorous summation of Syria's three-decade occupation of Lebanon, which Karfan refuses to categorize as an occupation, citing stories from his own military service there as a conscript lieutenant and how he was 'humiliated' trying to smuggle back a few cartons of La Vache Qui Rit cheese (prohibited in Syria). He describes Rafiq Hariri's assassination:
King Lion the 2nd's younger brother and his cousin killed one of the past cooperators there, and the rest of the warlords there found this a good opportunity to stop sharing the cake with King Lion and his gang and moved to kick his army out. This assassinated big thief was until recently a very good friend of the Lion's gang. But the rule of all gangs is that no one is safe in a gang. The people in that country are angry at the death of one of their own thieves by Syrian thieves.The following posts, or myths, deal with Ba'athism, the Alawite sect, the Syrian opposition, expatriates, the Ismaelis (Sevener Shi'ites) of Syria and their antagonism toward Alawites, Syrian economy, Iskandarun, occupation of Golan. His post about Golan in August 2006 was his last, and it was quite obvious that Karfan had a lot more to say before he was interrupted.
Read them all.
Let's hope Karfan is still alive and that he witnesses his countrymen succeed in overthrowing the Assad dynasty and achieve some degree of political freedom very soon.