Many Damascenes these days prefer to watch the government-run TV stations. Elsewhere, the news is bad. The local channels, with local announcers, speaking in proper Syrian Arabic, are often sweet. Often the broadcasters on these stations are beautiful young women. They smile a lot. Their channels say that in some outlying districts, vandals and religious fanatics have moved in, and have had to be removed by the army. But now all is back to normal. One cannot trade one’s Syrian pounds for dollars in Damascus anymore.
In a bustling park in the Turkish city of Antakya, Metin, a local merchant, is having a picnic with his family. His hazel eyes fixated on a large, turquoise pool by a grove of pines, he takes a sip from his raki and whispers as if he’s revealing a secret. “It breaks my heart to hear about it in the news,” he says, referring to the brutal government crackdown taking place across the border in Syria’s predominantly Sunni districts. “But, how can an Alawite be cruel like that?” Like the ruling Assad family in Damascus, Metin is an Alawite of Arab origin.