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Syria's Water Management = Voodoo Politics


On Friday, December 10, 2010, following the Friday prayer, a special rain supplication (Salat al-Istisqa’) was performed in all Syrian mosques by order of the eye doctor scientist President. The rain prayer is performed during times of drought to ask Allah to send rain. The ritual is as old as Islam itself. Rain dances are age-old tribal rites in Africa, America, and Australia. 


The rain prayer is similar to the old belief that comets were fireballs thrown around by a displeased God, lightening was an evidence of God's unhappiness with humankind, bad weather was Satan's work, ringing church bells would pacify bad weather, insanity was caused by the devil, the earth was flat, etc.


For a regime desperate to project itself as being modern and secular, such theatrics are performances in collective lunacy. How would schools teach scientific reasoning in the shadow of the rain prayer? Will children be taught that rain is an act of Allah, not a natural phenomenon of evaporation and condensation? 


Belief in predestination, superstition, angels, and djinn anesthetizes the brain. Such beliefs are debilitating—they allow disasters to be repeated. They lock people in a cruel poverty trap. To deliberately nurture such a mentality is slavery of the worst kind.


A Flawed Decision Making Process: Under the Asad regime’s non-representative, non-participatory system of governance, decisions are made by the small circle of the Asad family to serve its own interests. The Asads’ strategic priorities are designed first and foremost to stay in power. 


Failure to address critical issues openly and truthfully, like water scarcity, is not surprising. The regime’s ban on free press, egalitarian non-governmental organizations, and environmental groups. Non-participatory governance made it impossible to have effective dissent about the folly of pursuing food independence in a water-stressed country, or the risks of depleting the nation’s water supply. Under such conditions, it is difficult to introduce a balancing economic, political, or environmental perspective into water policy.


Food self-sufficiency in Syria is a romantic notion, not a reasoned strategy. Inefficient and environmentally unsound schemes to pursue food self-sufficiency are packaged with national security slogans designed to evoke patriotism. Slogans and politics aside, food self-sufficiency in a country like Syria is impossible. A rapidly growing population and insufficient water resources make food self-sufficiency strategy a mirage. The regime’s propagandists have succeeded in incorporating into the national discourse the false notion that food security is critical for national security. There is no mention of medical equipment, spare parts, and pharmaceuticals, among a long list of other imports that are as essential to national security as foodstuffs, if not more. The insanity of the rain prayer should be seen through the blind drive for food self sufficiency and the politics of staying in power at any price and trick.

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