Teaching Tuesdays: Things you might not know about Syria

Our handy globe. In case you read down to the dog joke, note the yellow splotch on Syria’s coast; that’s Lebanon.

A couple of weeks ago I bumped into this jaw-dropping photo gallery of current goings-on in Syria.  I’m sorry that I don’t recall whose tweet I got it from, but chances are excellent it was either Andy Carvin (@acarvin) or Neal Mann (@fieldproducer).

As a longtime journalist, I not only like to know what’s going on in my world, but I like to make sure others know, too. In the case of the whole world, it was my (almost) secret mission when working the international wire to publish at least one story from each continent. Antarctica almost never cooperated, but it also highlighted to me how poor a job the Associated Press was doing at the time with Latin America.

Anyway, I posted the gallery on Facebook and said, “In case you forgot things are wretched in Syria.”

One of my best friends, a fairly sharp woman, replied, “not only did I not forget, I did not know…. didn’t make it through 1/4 of the pics – gotta go research… wtf”

And so was born the idea for Teaching Tuesdays, because we all like alliteration and Monday has too many other challenges to add extracurricular learning to it. Every other week, I’ll aggregate some stories about something that interests me that we might not know as much about as we should (fair warning: one week it is bound to be elephants). First up: Syria.

Al Jazeera is concerned to the point of gathering its stories into a package, Syria: The War Within. “Violence escalates and refugee crisis mounts as rebels and Assad’s forces remain locked in conflict,” it says. In the latest story, EU foreign ministers say they view the National Coalition to be the “legitimate representatives” of the Syrian people.

In case you’re wondering if today’s unrest elsewhere in the Middle East involves Syria, the answer is hell, yes. The BBC’s handy timeline of Syrian history ends with this paragraph: “Israeli military fire on Syrian artillery units after several months of occasional shelling from Syrian positions across the Golan Heights, the first such return of fire since the Yom Kippur War of 1973.”

Some other tidbits for when you have time:

Creative Syria bills itself as culture, arts, history and current affairs, and includes contemporary artists. I also found this joke in a Charles Glass column: A dog in Lebanon, an old joke goes, was so hungry, mangy and tired of civil war that he escaped to Syria. To the surprise of the other dogs, he returned a few months later. Seeing him better groomed and fatter than before, they asked whether the Syrians had been good to him. “Very good.” “Did they feed and wash you?” “Yes.” “Then why did you come back?” “I want to bark.”

Syria’s economic freedom score is 51.2, making its economy the 139th freest in the 2012 Index. (Heritage Foundation)

Why Syria turmoil threatens Middle East (CNN, Oct. 2 analysis) — As Syria continues its descent into civil war, the terrible humanitarian tragedy occurring is unfolding in plain view: 20,000 dead, 250,000 refugees outside the country by some accounts, over a million people internally displaced.

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