Latest from Asser Khattab
Most Germans with whom I interacted seemed to agree that their country lost its right to celebrate its culture and heritage, given the last time Germany did such a thing. Many of the Syrians who live there have adopted the same negative view of looking back.
For years, people I met and socialized with talked to me about genocides, sectarian conflicts, military dictatorships and religious terrorism, surmising from the nature of my work that those are the sorts of things in which I would be interested. They were mistaken, and I was determined to use my newly acquired right to travel in the Schengen zone to bring back to life the version of me with whom I always was most familiar and comfortable.
In addition to state and religious authorities in the region, one of the most insidious actors is local media. While some websites and news agencies are easy to dismiss by those of us who get their information from more reliable and professional media outlets, they still are very influential and harmful.
Throughout those two unforgettable weeks, I kept repeating to myself: This must be how it feels for journalists moving here from abroad to report on Lebanon and neighboring countries.
How far can we go in intruding upon the misery of someone who has just gone through a tragic event? Is it always OK for us to rush to accept someone's consent to be filmed or recorded when they have just been through a tremendous shock?
A second term for Macron was always the likeliest possibility, and that should have called for more focus on what it means for France, rather than merely covering him with a messianic cloak by focusing on his role as the only bulwark against a far right presidency, even if that’s true.
I find it urgent that we should use this momentum to raise the world’s awareness of what local field producers do, and what they have often been robbed of.
When covering the Middle East, international media would do well to steer away from simplistic dichotomies. Instead of illuminating the region, it can end up empowering the very despots they are reporting on.
Relying on traditional Arabic-language media outlets to get one’s information about world events is a fool’s errand. But given the lamentable fact that most Arabic-language media outlets are affiliated with or influenced by authoritarian regimes, tuning in can inform you about the proclivities of the regime in question.
There is an underlying idea that the victims of the war on Ukraine deserve more sympathy because people there are not used to it, whereas people in the Middle East, well, that’s all they know anyway.
The role of international media outlets today goes above and beyond covering the world for news consumers back in the homeland.
Of course, I was not going to get a staff job, I was not going to be called “correspondent,” and I was not going to be relocated anywhere. Quite the contrary, when I had to flee Syria with only a few hundred dollars in my pocket, I was immediately let go from a job I risked my life daily by doing in secret. A few years later, I lost another job because I had to move to another country once again for security reasons.
A death notice appeared in a Lebanese village north of Beirut last September of a man with a curious first name. It took me back to my school days in Syria and the unusual interest many of my fellow schoolboys had in the history of the Second World War.
“What is the difference between a human and an animal?” Assad said. “Humans have feelings and animals have feelings. … Humans speak and parrots speak … animals have brains and they learn. … The difference between a human and an animal is just one thing that human beings have: creed.”
The death of Syria's foreign minister was tragic to many regime sympathizers. They now witness in horror the decline of the old guard and the rise of the warlords as one of the defining features of Bashar al-Assad’s proclaimed victory over a shattered Syria.
Syrians ravaged by war are now dying from a pandemic the government has downplayed.