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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seasonality in Syria

Look for mass demonstrations in Syria to skyrocket with the beginning of Ramadan on sundown, July 31. In the Arab world, there’s no more sustained networking opportunity —Facebook and Twitter included—than Islam’s holiest month with its daily gatherings in houses of worship. In spite of the Assad regime’s brutality, 100,000+ Syrians have demonstrated every Friday—Islam’s Sabbath—over the past four months. Ramadan is an entire month of Fridays.

The current maelstrom in Syria, notes The Economist, is no peasant revolt, but a resilient, growing coalition of university graduates, day laborers, students, and seasoned dissidents. Unlike the Assad regime, which has behaved erratically—alternating brutal crackdowns with vacuous concessions—the protestors, says the magazine, have shown remarkable unity of purpose in their insistence on democratic elections, freedom of speech and assembly, and protection for minorities.

The movement has the support of large parts of the Sunni clergy and increasingly the business community (business is down 50% this year). Syria is 75% Sunni. Assad and his fellow Shia Alawite brethren are what investors might call highly leveraged—they’re 10% of Syria’s population. So is Syria nearing a tipping point?

Perhaps a second question—this one for bloodsugarologists—will shed some light. Will 28 days of sunup-to-sundown fasting during the year’s hottest month make the demonstrators and their minions meaningfully crankier toward Mr. Assad and his cronies?

This salaam's for you!

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