Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Young Syrians Seek Prosperity ; at His Father's Funeral on June 13, Bashar Al-Assad Finds Support for His Reform-Oriented Policies

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Young Syrians Seek Prosperity ; at His Father's Funeral on June 13, Bashar Al-Assad Finds Support for His Reform-Oriented Policies

Article excerpt

The top priority for Syria's designated president, the youthful Bashar al-Assad, was made manifest at the June 13 public funeral of his father, Hafez.

As the cortge rolled through the streets of Damascus, multitudes of Syrians dressed in black crammed into the important crossroads. But those most overcome with emotion were the youths, who collapsed in the heat in their frenzy, and kept orange-vested emergency workers busy reviving them.

While paying homage to the departed leader, the tens of thousands of young people who flooded Syria's capital were also giving an exuberant vote of confidence to a partly Western-educated son who has promised change.

For Syria's youth, who make up for more than half of its population and have known no other leader, the reason is simple: They expect a revolution of sorts, the kind that will break Syria out of a 30-year time warp. They want modern instruments, such as mobile phones and the Internet that are rare in Syria, but have spread rapidly across the region with the exception of Iraq.

While the West may view Syria through the prism of the Mideast peace process, the words on the lips of these constituents are of domestic concerns, and mirror the American aphorism, "It's the economy, stupid."

"Syrians want to live [better], especially the young ones," says Hassan, a recently graduated chemical engineer who traveled 70 miles from his village to pay his last respects to President Assad - and to "vote" for Bashar.

The new leader's first move should be to hasten economic reform, he says, and break the shackles of one of the few remaining state- dominated economies in the world. Bashar, trained as an eye doctor, has begun an anticorruption drive, is computer savvy, and so appeals most to Syria's youth.

"We want to move forward, but these older leaders have not allowed us to progress," Hassan says. "Now we are setting out on the right path, but when you start from zero, it takes time. The system has to change."

That system is what has fallen apart in recent years, leaving Syria increasingly isolated.

"Every Syrian must have two jobs to get by," says Fayez, a young Ukrainian-trained engineer, who also traveled from his home village to "vote" for Bashar. "The pay is so small, so Bashar must start with the economy."

To that end, Bashar has been steadily mobilizing his own team. In a March Cabinet shake-up, reportedly influenced by Bashar, Mohamed Mustafa Miro, who is said to be "clean" in terms of corruption, was appointed prime minister.

His brief is to help prepare Syria for the modern age: "The changes are more necessary than ever in every sector: The economy, information ... and technology," he recently told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.