Businessmen and BusinessMobs (3 of 5) The Historical Guards of the Syrian Nation Amid Omission And Oppression!
Ghassan Aboud 2021-07-05 00:00:00
When negotiations on a partnership over Orient TV ended in complete failure, given my unshakable insistence on fair partnership terms; something which I fully realized in the third and final meeting with Brigadier General Manaf Tlass in Damascus on 4/8/2010, when he was a senior official in the Republican Guard, as he used to sit with me in his capacity as a negotiator for Bashar Al-Assad in an attempt to force me into entering a partnership with Bashar, I knew that I had to run for my life and leave Syria without further ado before they could orchestrate a modus operandi to assassinate me. An act that I had already been threatened with during three meetings earlier.
However, the thing that kept staging a premeditated assassination at bay was my engineering of a delicate balancing manipulation process in which I counted on investing time and creating a feeling for them that I had become a morsel in their mouth that they would chomp, and draw in. I just left the morsel in their mouth; neither taking it off, which if I had done and openly expressed rejection their criminal wrath would have fallen on me, nor did I let them draw in.Otherwise, if I did and entered into partnership, I would have been terminated, like many Syrian businessmen who had been finished before my case and after! I followed these tactics since my first meeting with Rami Makhlouf on 27/3/2009. A meeting during which I was asked to sign a concession, partnership contract according to which acquire* 92.5% share of Orient TV (formerly Al-Mashreq) and leave me just 7.5%. Ironically, the appointed arbitrator was his cousin, not even the Syrian courts (!?). That was in exchange for being a member of the so-called Cham Holding company, which is just a worthless insignificant fund employed to capture and trap in the entire Syrian business class.
Two years passed before the Arab Spring came to my rescue; a spring that brought their impotence to light. Seeing that on the next day morning to the escape of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, all their daily pressures on me come to an end; which nonetheless had never stopped since my meeting with Rami Makhlouf. Before the outbreak of the Arab Spring, I never could say to these criminals no. No simply meant killing me as well as finishing whoever may be in my circle or stand in my support. Yet I never could say yes. Yes, simply meant giving them my complete consent and access to my money, and henceforward using me just like a cloth to clean their desks. Something that they did with all the Syrian businessmen who went into partnership with them whether by force or out having a sheep’s eye. Those businessmen were turned into sacks of corruption after they had sucked out their wealth and suckered them in the anti-corruption game issues to polish up the corrupted sectarian Al-Assad regime and cast ashes in the eyes of the Syrians.
I believe one may well imagine the extent of the hardship and pains I had been going through at the hands of the criminal Al-Assad during that period. Can you imagine a state with its security services and government, from the most despicable civil or security employee in my city Idleb to the highest official in the state, ministers and the prime minister, looking at me as a foe and hoist the black flag against me. Whatever a transaction I tried to process, I would be faced with obstacles and standing on their hind legs towards me, so much so that I was anxiously overwhelmed, nervously living in suspense, fear, and the attending bad health.
This is the status of the Syrian business community for half a century. A community suffering under an immoral sectarian despotism, some of whose members fall, some resist, and some are made-up. A community whose efforts have gone astray amid such kind of tough and rough process and geared away from participating in the growth and development of the society, and driven away from its considerations; given that survival has become the priority for its members! For that reason, the business community-spirited national bourgeoisie and capitalism that drives and funds its development along with enhancing individual entrepreneurship started to die from within.
A spirit once it dies, the noble values this class upholds will accordingly die, in an effort to turn it into social outcasts!? However, despite the enormous pressure this class was subjected to, it does not find support from the society that it has been keen on protecting it for nearly a thousand years, nor does it even defend!? The classes that the Al-Assad regime have been putting under its oppression have all found someone to defend them, restore their dignity, and support them, the labor class, peasants, and the academic elites, who hold the pen (!?) and even those kicked out from the military service during the sectarian Baath rule before and during the rule of Al-Assad the father, and even the Muslim Brotherhood, people sympathized with them for the injustice they had been subject to. Only the historical guards of the Syrian nation, the business class, did not find anyone to support them. Meanwhile, the other classes of society are still blaming them for many and little things; slandering and holding them accountable for issues they have nothing to do with, as we have shown in previous articles! Notwithstanding all of that and with the heavy-handed policy they are subject to, they are still steadfast. Even when they go on strike and do have a lot to lose if they do, the other classes of the nation do not come down to defend their strike and protect their livelihood; they would just leave them alone where a businessman is to encounter the tyranny of an evil man!
As what happened following the Houla massacre in late May 2012, which was carried out by Alawite sectarian groups, at the behest of Bashar Al-Assad personally. A genocide that claimed the lives of 108 Sunni Arabs, half of them were little children. At that time, a strike took place in the famous historical Damascus markets. The souqs of the Al-Hamidiyah, Medhat Pasha, Al-Hariqa, Al-Buzouriya, Bab Al-Jabiya, Al-Halbouni bookshop Market, Al-Bahsa Market, Damascus Tower, Khaled Bin Al-Waleed Street, Zoqaq Al-Jin, as well as the markets of the neighborhoods of Al-Midan, Al-Qadam, Kafr Sousa, Al-Qaboun, Barzeh, Al-Qadam, Asali, Hosh Plaas, Jobar, and the majority of the cities and towns in the countryside of Damascus, all went on strike. The security forces broke down the locks and vandalized the shops to subdue the strikes in the capital, while the streets in most of the Syrian cities were crowded with denouncing demonstrations.
On that account, the sectarian criminal Bashar Al-Assad summoned a number of traditional Damascene merchants and businessmen and told them: “I heard that you are thinking of supporting the revolution. Listen, if I am certain about this, I will level the souqs of Al-Hamidiyah, Al-Buzouriya, Medhat Pasha, and Al-Hariqa, as I did in Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs.” and with insolence asked them to go out!"
In my previous articles, I gave examples and profiles about the types of the Syrian business class and its businessmen, so that the readers know well what we are talking about. And so that the comparison and the final say about them will be clearer, lest that a reader may be fooled by the propaganda of the local or foreign-funded Al-Assad media and their mobs and the parroting channels (2) echoing the regime’s fabrications that tore the Syrians into a thousand rags and generated distrust among each other.
The elaborations I cited bring home emphasis that the Syrian business community cannot be viewed as a single bloc after the 1963 Baath coup, and that they all supported the Al-Assad, father and son, as the locally foreign-funded as well as the counter-revolution networks of the Al-Assad's media, along with the stupid activists tried to make it look like. Their goal lies in tearing the Syrian merchants off from the revolution in a policy aiming at shredding the Syrian people apart, as we mentioned earlier, and so that the ruling minority would become an acceptable component minority among several minorities.
It was from Dara’a where the first crack of revolution’s dawn emerged, and soon afterward covered all of Syria, except for the city of Aleppo and the governorate of Tartus. It should however be noted that each region has its own whys and wherefores and yet share an overall general characterization: In Daraa, it was the assault on the dignity of the people and insulting their honor in a speech the head of the Political Security Branch addressed to the tribal elders when they demanded releasing the detained children; because they wrote the wonderful musical slogan: “The people want to bring down the regime) on the walls; the slogan that ignited the first spark of the revolution. Of course, there was also one of the most important economic triggering reasons, i.e. the unemployment, poor exports, and the deficiency in agricultural products industrialization, leading to a critical drop in their prices and sometimes dumping. The same can be said across Syria, with the exception of the Damascus countryside. It is believed that the main reason behind their uprising was the stealing of their lands under the coverage of the government through expropriation laws, following which the ownership of the lands was transferred to the regime’s “businessmen” within its surrounding circles, such as Makhlouf and others. Those businessmen are all working for Bashar Al-Assad as fronts and brokers, given that those lands would, later on, be put up for sale as lands ready for construction at over hundreds of times double the buying price.!
As for Aleppo, a large number of its traditional businesses, merchants, and manufacturers hailing from famous traditional families had emigrated after the economic and social shocks that the city had been subject to. This was during the time of the nationalization drive 1958-1970, as well as during the sectarian policies practiced by the Al-Assad the father. A policy that was founded on issuing laws according to which the lands, real estates, and factories were appropriated, and silencing and humiliating the business class that may refuse to submit. Nonetheless, the Al-Assadist media’s propaganda against the revolution fell in tune with the wishes of some traditional Aleppo businessmen and all the outcast clownish “new businessmen” puppet to the Al-Assad intelligence security branches that had hatched them and facilitated their sprout.
This, in turn, had an impact on the uneducated working class and kept them indecisive, fearing losing their good fortunes. Thus, both sides of the Aleppo elite thought that they owed their prosperity during the first decade of Bashar Al-Assad's rule to the "wisdom" of his policies. Meanwhile, the invasion of Iraq and the transformation that the countries of the region had witnessed in international relations played an important role in favor of the city of Aleppo. A basis on which the business class considered the revolution to have come at an inappropriate time for Aleppo. The merchants of Aleppo were still reaping the fruits of the sudden thriving circumstances we mentioned before. So did the industry businessmen. Ffactories were running in full swing, where some had cost huge amounts of money to purchase, and they did not yet yield an outcome to cover their costs. Even the labor class and low-income earners, who relatively experienced a flourishing economic movement that turned all laboring skills into high demand, including manual and low-end skills, did not like the revolution neither did they expected to find a conquering breakthrough in it to appreciate. In this manner, the Aleppo psyche was ready to accept the Al-Assad regime's propaganda claims that the revolution was a conspiracy, and hence accept false information about it.
Needless to say, everybody knows that Syria is a security state ruled by dozens of sectarian security agencies by force. Thus, the fear of those sectarian security forces rendered many of the big names merchants inside Syria reluctant to publicly express their challenge, with the exception of a few Damascus merchants who were later forced to leave Damascus. Though they had lost their money, yet they won their honor! Furthermore, the regime’s criminal and ruthless violence, mass massacres, the demolition of entire cities and towns, the targeting of neighborhoods and mosques in Old Damascus and the Old City of Aleppo, and the assassinations and indiscriminate shootings of demonstrators made them refrain from public and active participation. However, in spite of the fact that the ones who ignited the revolution were the unemployed and the hopeless of the younger generation, together with the laborers, peasants, low-income earners, and students, whom the sectarians claimed that the Baath coup was meant to improve their conditions against feudalism and the bourgeoisie, yet those who were the most important group that participated strongly in and gave it a vein to live through.
The reason behind the swelling of the unemployed class was the collapse of the middle class, which is considered a balancing stick for a country's social classes and an indicator of its health. Whenever the middle class expands and its members increase, the society will be a well to do healthy one; and if it decreases, the society will be ill to do unhealthy one and the nation is on its way to collapse. In the case of Syria, its collapse resulted from bringing its genuine industries to halt, putting them under besiege earlier, nationalizing their factories, leaving them in ruins, and turning them into hotbeds for disguised unemployment. The industrial projects carried out by the "businessmen" of the Al-Assad mafia were mostly service-oriented, such as restaurants and light manufacturing industries, which were the subject of ridicule in the Syrian community, such as chewing gum and lollipops! The kind of project they introduced did not serve the real working class and did not benefit the middle class; because they counted on fake labor, such as attracting military pseudo-drafted conscripts** to work in those projects instead of sending them to the camps, or have young intelligence personnel working in as eyes on the gatherings of the Syrians, or for those coming from mountain villages (!) The middle class emerges and expands under an umbrella of sound and effective economies and institutions. Hence, most of the middle class, whose glory and expansion were in the 1940s to the mid-seventies of the last century, turned into a mob class, which is the scourge of fascism and its striking fist which reflects its evil values and how low and cheap it can be recruited.
The practice of this policy was deliberate and followed in anticipation to put the society under suppression should it explode with a revolution. Thus, the mob class was ready to act as one of the criminal shields to protect Bashar’s regime against its people and in defiance to the Syrian society: For example, the mobster recruit in the Iranian and Al-Assad militias received $50-70 per month, and the mercenary coming from outside Syria was paid no less than $100!
The middle local class of merchants in all Syrian cities and towns is considered the main funding source of the revolution because they belong to those who remained of the middle class. They were among the most effective groups in it. They provided the revolutionary people with means of transportation, the costs of organizing, making designs, and treating the wounded. They provided them with logistic services, water, food, drinks, and banners, not to mention their helping the afflicted families whose sons were martyred and had no breadwinners.
The revolution and the opposition
In view of what has been said above, most of the traditional businessmen and the majority of the temporary immigrant businessmen hated the Al-Assad regime, stood against it, and helped the revolution as much as they could, especially in the first two years of its launch. That support continued, but with less momentum in the third year due to the emergence of ISIS and Al-Nusra, which we are going to address in the next article! In the present article, I will confine myself to talk about the business class attitude towards the organized opposition, which was represented by the National Council, the Coalition, the Negotiations Commission, and the Interim Government.
In this context, I do not think that a large number of the business class clearly stood with these gatherings, although many of them blessed their organization and wished them success. Some found in them an opportunity to participate and perhaps to fulfill the thirst for political presence. Some have assumed ministerial positions and some became a member in a number of bodies. Many names surfaced, such as Waleed Al-Zoubi, Ahmed Al-Jarba, and Moataz Al-Khayat. A number of middle-class businessmen also entered that circle, such as Yahya Kodmani and others. Qatar supported a number of this middle class, such as a restaurant owner and a sanitary ware storeowner, to be their way to deliver financial support and Qatari orders to the opposition bodies. All of these are temporary immigrant businessmen. As for the Syrian interior, the revolution was strongly supported by a number of businessmen, including a number of Damascenes, among whom it is worthy to mention the well-known Damascene merchant Muhyi al-Din Habbush. Generally speaking, however, many businessmen refrained from supporting these bodies for two reasons.
The first was that the opposition is all across the board bodies supported by countries that have interests in Syria. The second is that the Syrian psyche was reared in the last half-century to be affectionate about being on the doorstep of the intelligence services. Therefore, the leading figures in these bodies did not seek to come into an understanding with the business class. They rather approached them as wallets that pay them money only; not to share with them the decision making and the coming into terms with the challenges as a class that has its respect, its visions, its culture, and its requirements!? The leaders of these platforms, many and abundant as it happens to be, are very much keen on satisfying the smallest employee in the foreign ministry of any country involved in Syrian affairs. They did not bother about the overall Syrians diverse classes, including the businessmen class!? In addition to this, there is a terrible division within the opposition bodies and councils. Corruption or administrative incompetence, or both, has been headline news in the media, involving the misbehavior of a number of leading figures. Not to mention the monopoly of taking up positions for the sake of empty pretentious titles and the circulation of these positions among a group of tramps, as well as personalization of the attitudes. All of which strengthened the regime’s narrative judging them as “Unpromising bodies unqualified to run an elementary school!"***
* The partnership contract Rami Makhlouf sent to me.
** A term given to a conscript soldier who pays a monthly salary to the officer in charge in order to cover his absconding from military service. Their number reached tens of thousands. It is the specialty of an Alawites officer.
*** A statement by Farouk Al-Shara, the deputy of the criminal Bashar Al-Assad