Dom Joly: No one's sneering at the people of Homs now

Share
Related Topics

Two stories dominated the news agenda last week – Harry Bloody Redknapp and Homs. I loathe football at the best of times, but the story of whether Redknapp might be considered as England manager when he's finished with Tottenham Hotspur is about as interesting as one of Piers Morgan's Tweets.

Homs, and the spiralling violence in Syria really matters, however. I have been to Homs a couple of times. If I'm honest, it's a bit of a dump. Compared to the more glamorous Aleppo or Damascus, Homs has always been the poor cousin. Indeed, at school in Beirut, my Lebanese Maronite Christian friends would tell "Homsy" jokes, the politically incorrect Irish jokes that used to be promulgated in these fair isles.

I remember one, because it was so bad. "Why did the man from Homs take a car door into the desert with him?"

"So that he could open the window when it got hot."

Take that, Tim Vine, and stuff it in your pipe and smoke it. That is Levantine comedy. While we are on the subject... I have been leading a one-man campaign to correct newsreaders mispronouncing the name of the city. It is Homs pronounced like "Pomps", not "Homz" as most of them insist on saying. It is unbelievable listening to a man under mortar fire pleading for help from the outside world, and the presenter can't even pronounce the name of his burning city correctly.

Whatever else the people of Homs might achieve, they are definitely changing their image in the wider Levant and they must be praised for their efforts. I'm not sure however, how effective they will be. President Bashar al-Assad has the look of a man who was not destined to take over anything more challenging than a minor dental practice. He has no chin and a weak frame that looks like it might be lifted off the ground come the first desert kamsin.

The person who was supposed to take over from his wily and ruthless father was Bashar's brother Basil al-Assad, a playboy prince who had been groomed for the leadership from birth but was killed in a car crash on the way to the airport in Damascus in 1994. This left Syria with the uncharismatic second son as successor.

Ironically, his instincts probably are those of a cautious reformer but he was faced with having to deal with a ferociously powerful institutional bureaucracy and has had to tread fairly carefully.

This uprising however, has led to him doing the same that his father did to the city of Hama with its 17 beautiful wooden water wheels dating back to 1100. That city was hammered into submission in the early Eighties: up to 20,000 people were killed and the outside world did nothing.

History now seems to be repeating itself. The die is cast for Bashar, and he has no choice but to fight to the finish; for the moment, he doesn't look like losing. The major cities of Aleppo and Damascus have pretty much stayed on side. The Christian, Druze and Alawite minorities, as well as middle-class Sunnis, prefer the idea of an authoritative, strong leader in comparison to the unknown void of sectarian strife should there be a full civil war.

I loathe Assad and all he stands for, but I'm also fearful of what might come should he be deposed. There are very few examples of strong men being replaced by successful democracies in the Middle East – Levantine politics are a tricky business.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on