Tidbits of Arabic News translated into English

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fighting in Maloula

(September 14, 2013)

This week, there has been fighting between the Syrian government and the opposition in the town of Maloula, which is mostly Christian and has inhabitants who still speak Aramaic.

I have been in this town before. I think it was an hour's drive from Damascus. We parked just outside a church on a flat cliff. Everything was just precisely the color of the buildings and the sky in these pictures. I think we ate some sandwiches as we stood by the car, and some people came out of the church and started tossing a ball around. It's weird to think that this place is now under fire. I hope everyone we saw is okay.

But if you don't get blown away by a bomb or gunshots, then never fear, the crazy Syrian driving technique will do the deed. Here they are interviewing a government soldier. He is talking about all the 'terrorists' they have swept away from the town. Then all of a sudden the white truck in the background come careening through, honking its horn, and barely missing both soldier and the camera. 

Every Friday on the BBC Arabic, they have a show called 'Seven Days'. It is like Diane Rheems' Friday news round-up. They get four media personalities together to analyze current events of the past week. I just wanted to let all of y'all know that this week, they did discuss Maloula, and they totally trashed - in their elegant way - whatever machination and scheming it was that brought the fight to Maloula. 

First, this kind-looking man started quoting Quran, trying to use the holy words to bring shame to the fighters, until the moderator stopped him and said this was not religious class. By the way, this man's name is Jihad.

Haha, no, I heard that wrong! The word for religion in Arabic is 'diyana', so I thought the moderator was referring to that. But what he was really saying was, "let's move on to Diana's opinion." Diana, diyana, I just got mixed up.

Diana was another one of the media guests. Every week, they include an English-speaking news reporter or Middle East analyst. I think they must put a headphone in Diana's ear, and the super-competent BBC Arabic-English interpreter is translating the conversation as it happens directly to her. So when they ask her a question, there's no need to wait for the translation, it's happening simultaneously, and it's pretty amazing to watch. Then, when Diana speaks, the translator again simultaneously translates her words into Arabic, and someone is on hand to adjust the microphone levels so that you mostly can just hear the Arabic, with an undercurrent of English. 

So here is Diana:

She looked like such a nice person. She said that Maloula has absolutely no strategic significance, and furthermore, it is something of a disaster, from a purely military standpoint, to take your fighting there. So she was very suspicious of the news.

Everyone is listening diligently:
I think Diana was saying that she is not certain she believes all the news coming out from Maloula. Supposedly, what happened is that the Syrian opposition (and the Islamic fighters amongst them) went to Maloula to annoy and bother all the Christians living there. Then, the Syrian government army came in to save the Christians and win world-wide approval.

Diana pointed out that in the correspondence reports sent in by the BBC's Jeremy Bowen, there was no footage of fleeing townspeople, nor of great destruction to the city; so she has strong suspicions that the Syrian government has made the whole thing up just for public relations. If they really made it up, that is crazy!

And here they are, all talking straight to each other and the translator doing his best to pop in where he can! It's super funny, Diana speaks in English, and Amal, the lady sitting across from her, answers in Arabic, without missing a beat. 

I think when Amal spoke that she disagreed a little bit with Diana. I think she said that the opposition might indeed have chosen to take the fight to Maloula for the sake of stirring up ethnic and religious conflict. May I also make a comment in appreciation of how pretty this lady is, and why don't I look like that?

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