Both Saddam and Assad recognized the value of their countries’ archaeological heritage and adapted it to suit their interpretations of what they thought the Baath Socialist Party should be.
New technologies are allowing activists to document Syrian war crimes and even topple dictators. But from Iran to Tunisia to Israel to Russia, nation-states are reasserting their power. If cutting-edge digital tools have given activists new weapons, they have, at the same time, allowed governments to acquire entirely new — and secretive — digital arsenals.
Satire won’t change anyone’s mind, but it might get someone sitting on the fence to consider another perspective. Satire won’t topple thrones, but it will unsettle their occupants. It won’t change rules on freedom of speech (except maybe in the wrong direction), but it will remind people what freedom of speech looks like.
For fifty years, just one family has ruled Syria. But even that rule, long and brutal though it is, will have an end, and a new Syrian story can begin.
Studying Arabic in Syria gave one student a first-hand perspective on the tensions and grievances of living in the country. But he could never have predicted how rapidly early protests would give way to a civil war.