i Editor's Letter: Memories of Syria


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The Independent Online


I travelled around Syria four weeks before the launch of i. The story sounds grander now, more  adventurous. But at the time the Arab Spring was still six months away, and a budget airline was  selling cheap flights to Damascus.

It pains me these days to read of the country. I want to remember the buzzing souks, the man selling jars of writhing snakes, the little girl playing hide and seek behind the bread van, the raucous wedding convoy that wound past a Crusader castle as the sun set. We – two Western tourists – were considered curiosities, and my dozen words of Arabic didn’t exactly tear down the language  barrier. But I’ve never been treated with more kindness on my travels. Where are those people today?

Yesterday’s developments at Enniskillen offer the prospect of peace talks. Caveats abound, as Assad plans an offensive against opposition-held Aleppo. But with the rebels lacking national support, and any collapse of the regime posing a threat to regional stability, Cameron and Obama are trapped by their own rhetoric of intervention. Unless they put boots on the ground they may have to accept a role for Assad in Syria’s future.



One day in the Editor’s chair, and I seem to have avoided any Joe Kinnear-style bloopers (see Sport). There were no protesters outside the office when I arrived for work.

To those of you who have been with i from the start, congratulations: this is your 800th edition. Thank you for all the welcoming messages, ideas and grumbles. Over the coming days, I hope to find a larger home in these pages for your terrific volume of correspondence. Please keep it coming: i@independent.co.uk or on Twitter @olyduff.

Twitter.com: @olyduff