“Why are there so many of those?” I asked, pointing at a poster of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, which were more common in Damascus than jasmine blooms or stray cats.
“Because everyone in Syria loves the president,” my dad always replied, quite simply.
That was one of my earliest memories of Syria. Young and green, I remember believing that Syria was the lone island of democracy, peace, and morality in the sea of chaos that is the Middle East. Syria had a president, for crying out loud! That meant that he was chosen by the people, right? That had to mean that he was looking out for his citizens, didn't it? His power had checks on it, didn't it? Oh, how mistaken I was.
I used to visit Syria every other summer; I would skip down the poorly paved streets more freely than I would anywhere else in the world.
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