Assad shook the sand off his shoes as he stepped over the border. These were expensive shoes crafted by the very finest shoemaker in the city of Aleppo. His family had made sure of an elite upbringing. But their ancestral properties were not accessible any more as they were in an area of control by dissident groups who were trying to bring about a new social order.
Some of the family had decided to stay in order to try and preserve their claim to property, and snippets of news filtered through porous artificial borders now and then indicating their welfare was precarious. Those who remained were now impoverished, and those who’d moved to Aleppo to enjoy wealth flowing from those properties were on a downward spiral too.
The new social order was not new; it was the same social order of pre-history to present. Power was the name of the game. Those with the most strength imposed their will on those who lacked either strength or will to resist. In ancient times it was swords and chariots, in this era it is enormous reserves of money backed by technology.
Day by day the fortunes of Assad’s parents declined. The city was in virtual lockdown, supplies and services were erratic and this beautiful city with its roots in prehistory began its decline. Assad had graduated from University, and with family connections pulling strings a course was planned for his life which would involve teaching, upmarket house and cars, marriage, children and continued influence within the clan. But that was yester year, the situation was now quite different.
Those with money and influence had taken it all to the city of Damascus which was considered a safer alternative for their clan until the situation was once again brought under control. Assad cursed the rebels, he cursed foreign powers who’d entered the fray, and he cursed the powers of fortune that had altered his life so dramatically and quickly. His name Assad meant lion, but though this lion was in captivity he could still roar.
Assad’s parents shrugged off their change of circumstances. They hoped against hope fortune would turn in their favour and they could return to their circle of influence once again with privileges this brought with it. Assad on the other hand clearly saw that life for him would have to be found in a different land. He began to make plans.
Money he still had, but what was the use of money if there was no supply of food, water or the basic necessities of life he was accustomed to. So he sought out those who live in the shadows of every society. They prosper under any regime. Change means nothing to them, Different clothing perhaps? Different slogans? But they knew that under any cultural change there would be no difference in the basic human instinct all rulers have. Money buys people and privilege at any level and under any regime. This shadowy society was already in contact with both sides making deals.
So Assad exchanged his considerable wealth in spite of most unfavourable rates and hid his dollars in a safe place waiting for the first opportunity to head to Cyprus on a concocted business deal through the shadowy society. There would be no trek through enemy territory with a guide to cross the Turkish border for him. There would be no dangerous crossing of waters in a boat crammed full of desperate people. He’d fly to Cyprus with all the papers necessary to establish business there.
The officer in immigration smiled as he felt the comforting touch of bank notes as papers were handed over for inspection with Assad’s passport. He deftly flicked these into the open drawer, stamped the exit stamp and beckoned the next traveller forward without a glance at Assad.
But the shadowy society is not confined to one country, its tentacles reach into every country in the world and operate with or without the connivance of rulers.
Cyprus was so different. Assad yearned for his beautiful Aleppo and realized his circumstances were not substantially changed at all. He was now the property of the shadowy society with its international dealings. He found himself involved with deals which he knew would add to misery of his relatives living under enemy rule. At first he’d refused, but was told with chilling firmness refusal would end in deportation at the least, and most likely his death. He was their property now, Assad the lion could no longer roar without permission. He was just as enslaved as if he’d stayed at home and an unwilling participant in the enslavement of his own family at their ancestral property under enemy rule in his day to day deals.
At first the shame of it all took him to the verge of suicide but then he remembered the meaning of the name given him by parents at birth. He was Assad the lion!
So on one of those deals which involved a trip to Turkey he made his move. On arrival he gave his captors the slip and changed clothing to mirror refugees streaming through that country on the way to a new life in Europe. His upper class clothes would come in handy as he presented himself for employment in European utopia when he arrived. So he carefully packed them into his backpack.
Alarming news filtered back the line of refugees to arrest his dreams of a better future. Borders were closing rapidly and millions were stuck at these blocked border crossings. He made several futile attempts to gain entry by plane but here his money was not successful in getting all important visas to gain access in this way. Europe was slamming shut all doors.
So after weeks of hunger and privation he made a decision. He headed for the Turkish Kurdish region and slipped over the porous border. Stepping back on Syrian soil he knelt and kissed the ground. This was his country come whatever may. He was Assad the lion, he’d survive.
The artificial borders of territory held and controlled by different ideologies within the greater borders of Syria were remarkable for the ease he found in passing through to his destination. He became all things to all men to obtain his objective shouting this slogan or that to identify as he moved stealthily forward. At last he found himself in familiar territory and exhausted fell into the arms of family members. He’d expected to see properties run down and his relatives suffering but he was shocked to see just how much they’d suffered and were continuing to suffer under rebel rule. They were overjoyed to see him and glad to share what little they had.
His recovery was a time of joy and sorrow. Joy to be back in the country he found he loved dearly and realized he’d die for. Sorrow to see just how much his family had been reduced by competing forces seeking to impose their respective ideologies. His anger rose with his strength.
Then silently soon after arrival his cousin told him to come with him. They had to be careful as the enemy had eyes everywhere and one would never know who was friend or foe. Removing bales of straw, the cousin instructed his servant to replace those bales when they’d made their way through the trapdoor to a cellar. Assad smiled as he remembered this trapdoor from growing up days, but at that time there’d not been any need to conceal it. They climbed down the ladder silently.
There in many crates were dozens of AK47’s ammunition and other weapons. The cousin turned and looked Assad in the eye and his eye communicated a question. Assad nodded vigorously in assent. Evening by evening they’d slip into the vicinity of checkpoints leave their calling card and trek the long distance back to their property where weapons were hidden. They’d be often visited and searched, servants being subject to the cruellest treatments to test stories concocted to throw rebels off the scent. But servants were fiercely loyal to families they’d served for generations and the war of attrition continued.
But one night as they left their calling card they missed dealing with one survivor who followed them in the shadows of night and observed their hiding place. The next day the property was surrounded. Women were herded into a waiting bus screaming, their men tied securely unable to come to their rescue. The cellar was emptied of its weapons and systematically the ancestral property was destroyed in front of the men of the family and men servants who’d faithfully protected them.
The rebels lined up family survivors and sent a prayer to heaven before discharging their weapons and leaving. Assad the lion was no more!
The Syrian underground watched from a distance swearing to avenge their fallen brothers in arms. Word was sent through dangerous territory to Assad’s parents living in war ravaged Aleppo. Soon after learning this news Assad’s parents made a pact together and took their own lives.
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