Hit & Run

Goodbye Comrade, So Happy You're Staying

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Who says Syria is a glacier of reform? Why only the other day a general order was issued [Arabic link] by the official SANA news agency, removing the word ?comrade? when referring to Syrian Baath officials, in favor of ?Mr.? or ?Mrs.?

There are caveats, however: While the official Tishrine and Al-Thawra newspapers have abandoned the use of ?comrade?, the Baath Party?s Al-Baath newspaper still uses it to refer to members of the Regional Command of the Baath (which essentially means the party leadership in Syria.)

In a revealing statement, the information minister, Ahmad al-Hassan, remarked: ?There will be no changes in the [Baath] party institutions and its publications. In the media [however], everybody will be referred to as ?Mr.?, on the assumption that all citizens are ?Mr.? or ?Misters? in their countries.?

This seems to fit the logic of the Syrian system rather nicely: The Baath maintains a certain autonomy vis-?-vis the system, even when it comes to language, even though ending this and transforming (indeed dissolving) the party are indispensable steps in the political reform and modernization of Syria. That?s obviously not happening, though, and no amount of word games in Syria?s official media will change that.