Adonis Diaries

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Consolidation of the kingdom. From Rainbow over the Levant

Note: Re-edit of a chapter of my novel posted in 2008 and set in the 15th century Mount Lebanon “Consolidation of the kingdom”

Antoun had a few rudimentary ideas concerning the organization of the social fabric but he lacked reprieves for consolidating his hold on power.

Fortunately, the new leader had good qualities of listening carefully to suggestions and delegating authorities for matters considered not to affect directly his grip on power.

Miriam Najjar was an excellent counselor and was motivated to enlarge her knowledge and participate in the decision units.  She suggested that one priority was to establishing elementary schools in every town and argued that without a learned youth the future of the regime would be totally dependent on foreign experts who would deplete the treasury.

She advanced the concept that relying on the know-how of other nations was the main reason why so many dynasties had died out or been replaced by dynasties elevated from mercenaries who did not care for the well-being and stability of the societies they governed.

However, there was the realization, experienced by most families living in high altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level, of the high mortality rate in extended families during the winter season that lasted five months.

Many kids died from suffocation, pulmonary diseases, and contagious illnesses.

Psychological disorders lead to brutal physical behaviors from close contact in unfit environmental conditions.

At the time, and for long time afterwards, homes were simply of a single room. The door was the only opening to fresh air.  Around ten people on average crowded that cloistered unique room for the duration of winter.

As was the custom, large families usually dedicated their second or third sons to the clergy’s institutions to become priests and a few daughters to turning nuns. Thus, to avoid feeding extra mouths and making more space for the other members of the family, many kids were lent to work for free in return for shelter and food and some education during the harsh season.

To return the favor for the outlawed peasants, it was decided that intern or boarding schools be erected for girls and boys, separately and where children of ages ranging from nine to thirteen would dwell in for 5 months from mid November to mid April.

Boarding schools

The first boarding school was established in Baskinta and demonstrated in its first year that mortality was drastically reduced in winter when the number of family members was cut in half within their reduced dwellings.

Consequently, this facility provided during the winter season education and healthier quarters for children and lent longevity to the extended family members.

Nuns and monks would run these schools in the beginning until a new generation of trained and learned lay administrators and educators took over gradually.

The teaching was traditional the first two years until tighter administration and teaching procedures were enacted.

A single instructor perched on a cushioned flat stone faced half circles of students sitting on the ground and was responsible for all the beginners in the reading class, regardless of the students’ age and gender.

The master’s long-reaching stick would not discriminate inattentive heads. Heavy physical punishments were the lot of free spirits who dared stand for their rights or argued boldly.

A few families would even worry if their kids were not physically disciplined as signs of careless and apathetic behavior on the instructor’s part in guiding the learning progress of their kids.

Families would rather go and visit their children at school on Christmas vacation and stay with them for a couple of days benefiting from warmer lodging in barns and healthier food varieties.

Christmas was a happy period for everyone in the school where children would get busy building mock-up houses, trees, animals and figurines for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi kings and presenting homemade gifts to their parents in return for assorted delicacies.

A typical day at boarding schools started at 6 a.m. followed by house cleaning, chicken feeding, cow milking, kitchen food preparation, and carrying necessary supplies for the day. At 7:30 mass and breakfast.

Classes for reading and writing in both Arabic an Aramaic languages (language of the land) and basic arithmetic would begin at 8:30 and end at 12:30 for lunch.

A short recess, then off to working in the artisanal shops of carpentry, pottery, glass painting, iron forging, cloth making, glass blowing and farm tending until 4 p.m.  The children would then head to the supervised study lounge until dusk, followed by diner and Vesper prayer.

By 7pm everybody was already in bed in order to save on candles and oil consumption.

Children less than eleven years of age would sleep ten in a room on hay stacks with spreads of goat skin. The older ones would sleep seven in a room.

It was not the sleeping quarters that mattered for the kids but a larger freedom to move around and be outside during the day with three fulfilling meals.

Meat was scarce but the kids were frequently fed “kebbe nayyeh” for Sunday’s lunch and eggs with “kaorma” for Saturday’ breakfast and tabbouli or mjadara on Fridays.

The usual staples were cereals, beans, crushed wheat, lentils, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, soup and plenty of breads. Fruits were a delicacy, especially apples which could be stored. Sometimes, apricot and blueberry jams; and more often molasses and “rahat el halkoum”.

Most of the toys and game equipments were homemade.

They used to fabricate rectangular flat wood plates, mark a number of 3 decimals on it and a string to attach around the forehead.  They divided themselves in two groups and scattered in the woods hiding their numbers on tree trunks.  If the enemy guessed the hidden number attached to the front head then the opposite member was out of the game until everyone in one team was out.

With time, many of these masks would become marked one way or another and the unfortunate wearers soon found themselves guessed out immediately, no matter how tightly they hid their front head closely to a tree trunk.

They also made rudimentary balls and divided themselves into two teams:  the member hit by the thrown ball was “killed” and transferred to the opposite line unless he caught the ball and then the thrower was considered eliminated.

They fabricated backgammon and tic tac toe gizmos and the like games.

The most rewarding type of equipment were slingshots, wooden swords and arches. The kids would go out hunting rabbits and squirrels within a short range because wild beasts were commonly found such as hyenas, wild boars, and wild dogs.

This system of schooling was expanded to towns at lower altitude for a shorter winter season of only 4 months.

Somehow, a few of these schools constructed annexes around their grounds with the help of the military garrisons close by and were transformed into major production centers for army supplies and exported objects.

In the winter season, skilled families of the interned children would manufacture goods and help in the maintenance of the institution, while in the remaining of the year the school and its annexes would be invaded by skilled workers occupying the living quarters for 6 months.

There were cases of greedy administrators in tandem with local officials abusing children as slave workers and delaying the release of the able and skilled children.

Families got wind of these awful practices and stricter monitoring procedures of these institutions were established.  Families were encouraged to resume sending their children to the nearest parochial schools for a couple of hours during the busy seasons in return for preferential winter work facilities at the boarding schools.

These boarding schools became popular and families from afar trekked their children to Baskinta until new boarding schools were available and mushroomed to every district in Mount Lebanon.

This system of boarding schools developed into more professional institutions :  Overseas parents inscribed their children for a substantial sum of money in return for lengthier educational periods and better accommodations for housing different age groups of students.

In the newer more professional boarding schools with diverse ethnic and religious affiliations there occurred a few religious frictions among the adult students without any repercussions to the children who found happiness and joy in being together, energetic and secure in their daydreams.

Like most institutions in the Levant, the boarding schools experienced traumatic and feverish times but never took roots to grow and then suffered sudden death.

After lengthy discussions, Antoun agreed with Miriam that it would be an excellent decision to offer incentives to municipalities for arranging educational facilities.

Instead of villages constructing more churches, the central government offered to incur half the expenses for constructing schools, the wages of the instructors and lunch for all the students.  In return for free education for a 4-year period, the graduates would refund part of the expenses after securing better employment.

This edict would be formalized so that no State investment would be contemplated without local and regional investments and participation.  The rational was that if investments were shared by the well-to-do inhabitants who tend to mind a return on investments then, proper and timely execution of projects were more secured since it is founded on individual interest.

Within a year Antoun appointed Miriam Najjar as his education counselor. Mariam encouraged many visiting scholars to settle in Mount Lebanon and more opportunities for various disciplines sprouted in education that required specialized higher educational institutions.

 

Women rights and Written Constitution: A chapter in my novel set in the 15th century during the Mamluk Empire

Note: A re-edit of of a 2008 post “Rainbow over the Levant: Women rights and Written Constitution

Chapter 16: Postponement of a written Constitution (#23)

The First Emir had secretly adopted the party lines of the Aram National Party and he swore allegiance and signed the contract as a regular Party member.  He directed Miriam to be his official representative, thus propelling Miriam firmly into the highest hierarchy of the Party, which was the legislative committee.

The government allocated a budget to promote the expansion of the Party through an increase in the educational budget and proclaimed that all political parties should join efforts for the “Unity and Defense” of the nation.

Although the First Emir kingdom did not stretch beyond the Eastern mountain chains of today’s Lebanon, he recognized the necessity of unifying the people in Syria for a satisfactory defense front from any major invader.

The First Emir was willing to negotiate in due time for an alternative name of the Party and other concessions on the political principles by the opposition groups.

The First Emir felt that winning the mind and heart of his citizens to the new program was going to be much harder than anything contemplated before.

He knew that the society was enjoying wealth and stability from an open sea, an economy relying on medium size industries and tourism: the Syrian market was conquered without the need for direct interventions.

This state of affairs was ideal for business and suited greatly the institutions of the government which abhorred undue risks to their profitable businesses by hinting to probable preparation for war.

Since rational dialogue was not propitious at this stage because of the powerful institutions, the First Emir had to create a climate of emotional need for the slogans of the new party.

Before setting the propaganda machine at work, the new party had to propose its position on a written Constitution and a draft electoral system.

The new spirit disseminated in the land was highly controversial in most of the regions, but the new society had enjoyed enough freedom of expression that the fundamental issues were tolerably discussed.

Women, for example, would enjoy equal rights as men in education, work opportunities, inheritance and acquiring properties and businesses.

The suffrage of the female gender

Miriam stepped in as candidate for the coming legislative election and struggled hard to provide women all the rights accorded to men. She led a vast campaign of civic demands to alter the previous temporary electoral system into a fair and equitable Constitution that would guarantee equal rights to both gender in duties, responsibilities, and rights.

Miriam’s position as head of the Legislative committee in the Aram National Party gave her an important leverage for organizing impact lobbying pressure groups in the State administrations, propagating the new demands within the masses and concentrating their energies into a few targeted reform changes.

Miriam was installed in Baldat El Mir and had a wing in the Saraya as minister of education. She was still not married because of unusual circumstances but had a steady gentleman for many years by the name of Ignatios Doumany.

They both did not mind a formal wedding but realized that the social traditions would inevitably pressure the couple into changing their priorities; Miriam would have to refrain from open political activities and cramp her flexibility to maneuver in the political scene; and Ignatios would have to assume roles that he was not willing or capable of shouldering as head of the family and controlling its behavior according to the expected norms.

Ignatios was an academician and a linguist versed in ancient languages such as Latin, Greek, and Farisi; he used to teach at the Foreign Office Center in Baldat El Mir.(Currently Beit Mery).

Later on, during Latifa Regency, (Eldest sister of the First Emir), he would transfer to Mtein as head of the new branch of that department which was recently established in the historic Capital.  He was housed in an annex to the house of Miriam and instructed her two adoptive daughters and played the role of the adoptive father in the household management.

Samar, the eldest daughter, was already about eighteen and was adopted during the mountain outlaws’ period and was the dynamo for refueling Miriam with recharged energy and revolutionary zeal for change, especially in gender discrimination issues and females rights.

The second daughter Sahar, who was rumored that she was Miriam’s legitimate kid,  was seven and had the freckled face of Miriam but resembled more to Ignatios.

Miriam had adopted Sahar after she returned from her leave of absence that lasted ten months in Palestine; she went there accompanied by Ignatios to study the school systems of the European missionaries in Jerusalem.

During her stay, she trekked behind Jesus’ footsteps throughout Galilee, Judea, Jericho, and the Dead Sea, and then crossed the Jordan River to Jerash and Petra.

Ignatios was aware of the different treatments received by Samar and Sahar from Mariam.

Samar was encouraged to behave as boys were raised, independent and self-confident in society but Sahar succumbed to the unconscious symbiotic relationship of mother and daughter.

By attitudes, gestures, and remarks Miriam unconsciously sent messages to Sahar who assimilated them in her upbringing and generated reactions as daughters do to preserving the “love” of their mothers:  Sahar was wholly scared to part from her mother during her travels and behaved in subordination to customs with sudden violent outcries and revolts when the pressures of rivalry and jealousy aroused among her mother and her sister.

Sahar was fond of making the life of Miriam untenable in most circumstances and the kind and patient support of Ignatius was essential in keeping the peace and tranquility in the family atmosphere; the efficiency of Ignatius was far better when Miriam was away.

In the town of Antelias, Miriam called for and organized a vast gathering for the female gender active in the electoral process for holding administrative, organizational, or management positions in the government or private enterprises. This assembly lasted for two days and Miriam spoke on the first session saying:

“Compatriots, mothers, daughters, wives, single women and grandmothers; I welcome you wholeheartedly and admire your courage and determination to join this beautiful gathering of dedicated citizens.

As you can witness, male citizens are excluded from this gathering, not on the basis of our unwillingness to have a fruitful dialogue with them but because we need to be alone to boldly discuss critical issues among ourselves without shame or innuendoes, or patronizing attitudes.

As far as I know, this is a first grand gathering of its kind made possible by the new era of openness and freedom of speech and assembly. Let us take full advantage of being together and openly discuss and set up a workable agenda for our political and social platform”.

“Please, this is not the time to feel intimidated; we don’t have to work on the basis that the next gathering will be more suited to expound on your grievances because this sort of get together, among the female gender, might not happen again for decades, realizing full well the entrenchment of the patriarchal system we are still experiencing in every step of our life.  The strength of this system can handicap our development and the acquisition of our political, economic and social rights”.

“Understand that this is Not the time to dwell on what your father, or husband, or brother might think or say or do.  This is an opportunity to think and feel for yourself as a full fledge individual. What are your needs, emotionally, financially and educationally as an integral citizen of this free Nation?”

“This is an exciting time but fraught with serious dangers if we fail to unite and express our steadfastness and stubbornness for securing our natural rights and demonstrate that we are the group on which is founded the survival of our society.

We are not to dwell on survival anymore; we are here to go beyond the de facto status we have been subjugated to. We are to design the new life process that this society need to erect in order to progress and the best strategy to counter the calamities that our Nation might have to sustain”.

“First, we will form committees to discuss, study and make recommendations on the subjects of education of the girls, the inheritance both tangible and immaterial, wedding traditions and conditions both financially and emotionally, voting rights, representation in the Parliament, municipalities, and governance as half the society, mothers’ rights in childbearing and support from the public funds for medical and babies growth, travel rights, and work rights”.

“This is your golden opportunity to talk plainly in everything that is cramping your life and your dreams.

Please, I urge you to recall all your dreams when you were young and how you might be able to accomplish them if full citizenship rights are accorded to you by your valiant fights.

Remember, rights are never offered without struggle; let us fight with the firm determination to earn them publicly and in the privacy of our own homes and families”.

“We can win our rights by our union after agreeing on a platform.

Let this platform represent our youthful dreams and not what our fathers, husbands or brothers might agree with.

Let our feelings and our minds mesh to win the battle of gender equality and equitable progress of our people and children.  Long Live our First Emir! Long Live women rights! Long Live the Levant Nation!”

To protect the convention of the women, each of the three accesses to the meeting place was guarded by a phalanx of the army, located half a kilometer away, with an order to deny entrance to disturbing or curious elements.  Male supporters were assembled close to the military barracks to cater to the requirements of the convention and ensure smooth logistical supplies.

Two female phalanxes  (the army included women phalanxes) insured the internal security of the convention and participated in the military committee.

The first day of the convention was hectic in the administrative and management tasks, but a learning curve settled as the days went by.

Many bold and articulated female leaders went beyond the enthusiastic themes of claiming laws for the equality of the sexes and dwelled deeper on the other facets that were restricting their independence to growing wings.

They reminded their colleagues that they were mostly responsible for their secondary status in society because they exhibited the attitude that a good wife has the duty to efface herself in conversation among men and avoided the critical financial decisions in the household.  They encouraged the wives and daughters to voice their concerns in family matters and stop interjecting their accumulated anger as a mean to establishing peace in the family environment.

After the convention, which made the headline news in social gatherings for months to come, the female population vented their feelings and inclinations to the public and were ready to pay the price for their rights as equal to men in social status.

There were  divergent arguments.

One group viewed that individual family decisions such as who is head of the family, how to lead life and maintain family cohesion should be separate from the Constitution and only female rights as a complete human being equal to men in everything in the law should be an integral item in the Constitution.

Another group maintained that specific articles in the Constitution relative to women might harm their peace of mind and the harmony in the households. Instead, the laws should maintain her power to reclaim her rights at critical circumstances whenever she is ready to grasp them, especially for divorce and separation cases.

Securing female rights in the Constitution was the glorious fight that Miriam accepted to lead against all odds.

It was at this period that the government proclaimed prizes for anyone inventing techniques or equipments that would facilitate the printing of leaflets which were done manually.

The demand for mass writing materials generated ideas and the rudiment of a few inventions that did not materialize because of the political instability in the Levant.

End of tome I

“The Cello Player of Sarajevo” by Steven Galloway

On May 27, 1992 and at 4 pm, a shell killed 22 civilians lined up in front of a bakery in besieged Sarajevo. Over 70 persons were also injured as the shell fell behind Vase Miskina market.

The cello player, Vedran Smailovic, decided to play the Adagio on C minor of Albinoni for 22 days, at the same hour of 4 pm and at the location the shell fell.

Galloway designed his novel to revolve around three fictional characters: Kenan, Dragan and the 30 year-old girl sniper “Arrow” (Fleche or Strijela)

Kenan is married with 3 kids and is living in terror every time he has to go and fetch water. Every 4 days, the family consumes the 6 plastic gallons of potable water brought from the underground fresh water situated in the brewery, 7 miles away.

Kenan has to take great risks crossing streets targeted by shells and snipers from the hills, particularly in crossing the bridges of the river to the other side. Before starting his dangerous trip, Kenan slumbers on the staircase wall in order to capture enough courage and determination to get going: He is very afraid of this war that is harvesting people indiscriminately.

At one of his dangerous trips, several shells were lodged at the brewery as he was filling his bottles. Scores of people were killed and many injured. Kenan realized that he belong to the category of people who neither run away immediately or try to come to rescue of injured people around him.

Kenan just stays around watching the scene of carnage until he recovers his hearing sensation and feel fit to resume his trip back home… On the way, he met his friend Ismet, a soldier who gets paid with cigarettes and barter the cigarettes with goods in the semi-black market: Most of the foodstuff in the market were offered by the humanitarian aids and which ended up being handled by the gangsters and “nouveaux riches”. who drives Mercedes and have water delivered to their homes.

Kenan will keep going to the brewery for water: He is the one with all the other people who resumed their daily routine for survival who will rebuild the city, not the war criminals.

Dragan, 64 of age, managed to whisk away his wife and boy of 18 year-old to migrate to Italy as the war approached. Dragan knows that he would not see again his family: the wives who got away from the besieged city have been mailing divorce papers. He is now living with his sister and brother-in-law since his apartment was demolished by shells.

He recalls when the militia in the city dragged him to dig ditches at the front line as the war started. The diggers were forgotten for 3 days and didn’t have anything to eat. The owner of the bakery managed to locate where Dragan was allocated and got him back to work at the bakery.

It turned out that the gang leader was being paid by the head of recruits. Dragan is now on a dangerous trip to buy bread, many miles away and is not ready to cross a street where a sniper has already killed and injured many civilians who dared to cross to the other side.

Dragan is not a talker and he has been avoiding to meet and open any conversation with people he used to know. The sniper injured one of his close acquaintances Amina and he could not master enough courage to retrieve her to safety.  Amina was to deliver outdated medicines to an elderly person as a swap program among the inhabitants for lack of medication.

On the other side was a foreign cameraman trying to get interesting pictures of people crossing the deadly street. And Dragan got upset: This city would not be worth saving if dead people are not removed from the street for fear of being shot at. Dragan decided to walk the 15 meters separating him from a killed passerby and dragged the body to a safe place, even though the sniper tried twice to hit him.

Dragan will deliver the medicines in the name of his injured friend before passing and retrieving his loaf of bread.

And Dragan witnessed that stray dogs walked with a determined “dogged” mind: They had a destination to arrive at and didn’t stop to sniff the dead bodies. However, dogs knew the dangerous crossing, and would look at the hills before crossing. Maybe the dogs could be used to sense danger ahead of time?

Arrow is an exceptional sniper and she target officers in the hills. She works independently as she is entitled to select her own target.  Her commander assigned her the task of foiling snipers sent to kill the cello player. One of the sniper listened with total reverence to the music, and as he was about to shoot the player after the piece finished, and Arrow killed the sniper.

Things changed in war politics in the city. Her commander was assassinated and the new colonel wanted Arrow to work under his directives. The colonel wants to test Arrow for her readiness to target civilians, on the ground that this war is “between us and them”: There will be no difference between officers, soldiers or civilian.

As Hasan, the one designated to select for Arrow her targets put it: “They killed by father and my younger brother at home. I have no idea what happened to my mother and sister. I wish they are dead instead of slaving for these murderers…”

Arrow refused this deal of having target (civilians too) assigned to her, and resumed her unfinished job of protecting the cello player from any further assassination attempts.

Arrow is supposed to disappear and for 10 days she did just that, until the cello player finished his last “concert”. Arrow is back to her apartment, waiting for the military to barge in and assassinate her with “rashak” of bullets…

Note 1: The siege of Sarajevo (500,000 inhabitant at the time) lasted from April 5, 1992 to Feb. 29, 1996. The Serb forces had occupied all the hills surrounding Sarajevo in a valley. The only link to the outside was a tunnel under the airport.

The airport was monitored by an International force. Obviously, the Serb knew about the tunnel that served their interests: They could trade food with the city at exorbitant prices and received appliances at modicum prices, which families bartered  for foodstuff in order to survive.

The criminal barons  and gangs within the city had already invested the army as professional soldiers and officers and controlling the black market.

The UN estimated that ten thousands were killed and 100,000 injured. Over 10,000 apartment totally demolished and 100,000 seriously damaged, or 25% of the total buildings.

Note 2Vedran Smailovic managed to leave Sarajevo on December 1993 and is currently residing in North Ireland

Note 3: in 1945, an Italian musicology discovered 4 tempo of the bass partition of a burned sonata in the ruins of Dresden. He was convinced the tempo were composed by the 17th century Venice Tomaso Albinoni, and spent 12 years reconstituting how the original could have been composed. It’s a fake Adagio, but very beautiful.

Do Tag names of fiction characters: They are far more interesting characters than biographical names…

Tell me: Do you think children and adolescent people know any one of current personalities, or historical figures, except may be a few in the music or sport fields?

Who is more famous to children: Alice in the wonderland characters, Scrooge, Charles Dickens characters… or Madona…or any current personality over 50 of age?

Tell me: What characters and names do you think that children and adolescent people search on google or Wikipedia?

Who is more famous: Lolita, Madame Bovary, Gatsby... or current names that are over 50 of age?

I have discovered, after reading biographies and autobiographies that fiction characters in great novels are far more interesting than the way characters are described in biographies.

I decided that:

I should  go over my category of “Book Review” and tag the names of the fiction characters, particularly names that I might have developed to some extent.

It is clear to me that describing the plot of a novel is of no importance: It is up to the reader to discover the main story and the many more interesting side stories.

In any case, all stories are virtually repeat stories of what we read everyday in dailies and magazines.

It is clear to me that developed characters in novels can be found in thousands of people around us, if we had cared to observe and listen to.

It is clear to me that characters in novels are accompanied with detailed description of the surrounding environment, the ethical and moral standards expected in a community, sufficient background knowledge to make sense to the novel…

Reviewing a book or a novel means to develop in details a few characters that “shocked” the reader as highly controversial, and how the complex attributes and behaviors of a character relate to current idiosyncracies in particular communities.

Fiction characters are, one way or another, characters from the author’s environment, how he comprehended them and observed them, and the characters evolve and extend deeper meaning of our own behaviors…

We feel that we can generalize to the community from the few characters who lived and breathed within specific periods and societies.

There are billion of people who have read translated novels and can associate with these fictional characters, and they have no idea who are the historical or current figures around the world.

It is the novels that give sense to the meaning that “the world can be reduced to a small village, anywhere on earth...”

You read any fiction novel of the great authors and your horizon will widen, your heart will pound faster, your dreams are made real…

Take better care in reviewing novels, and take time to develop on the characters that meant something to you, and never forget to tag their names!

I’m lost: 8 characters described and presented in the first chapter…

The most interesting purpose in great novels is the complex description of the interactions among characters.

If even only 4 of the main characters are presented and thoroughly described in the first chapter, I am lost if they are not mentioned and refreshed in the successive chapters.

Just think of the number of interactions among only 4 characters: 6 interactions between 2 characters, 4 among three characters and one among all four characters…

Human brain is not able to keep all these interactions alive and refreshed at any moment: You need to keep written notes and refer to them every time a new interaction is happening… And this not fun and defeats the purpose of enjoying a fiction novel.

Unless a third of the interactions are “refreshed” in every single chapter, it is very difficult to keep track of the story and assimilate what the author is putting forth as controversial ideas, or tacit conspiratorial attitudes

Unless the novel is read in one setting…

Unless each chapter grabs you from the first sentence…

What if 8 characters are set forward in the first chapter? What can you do?

“Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi is not a novel.  It is a diary and memories of a period in this Islamic Republic of Iran.

Azar decided to set up weekly sessions for 8 of her former students in literature and discuss and keep diaries of the novels they read… The purpose was for the girls in this restrictive and theocratic regime to be affected by the independent minds of characters, particularly the female gender, their outlook to life, how it gelled perception about themselves, independently of external realities of the living…

I discovered the girls in the following chapters, as if their description in first chapter were redundant, since I forgot most of the description…

What saves this highly interesting book:

1. Chapters are self-contained

2. My good background knowledge and interest in Iran makes this book highly important

3. I read with Azar many novels that I didn’t read before, and enjoyed the in-depth characerizations of the heros and heroines

4. Azar studied in the same university in the USA: The univ. of Oklahoma at Norman…

5. I got to be acquainted with literature departments…

Now, you say that my rational premise of 4 main characters are one too many is just a hypothesis. It may be so. For the case of my simple mind, this is a fact.

In any case, I suggest to set up series of experiment to research my hypothesis.

The objectives are:

1. to discover the optimal number of main characters for the retention and emotional effects on a reader.

2. what is the better structure of the novel in order to maximize the personal effect of each character in the fiction story.

Experiment One:

For Group 1,

1. Select three characters and physically describe them accurately before writing a short story for each character.

2. Administer a questionnaire for comprehension and recollection of the characteristics of the person (physically and psychologically)

For Group 2,

1. Tell the stories of three characters first, and end the story with a thorough detailed description of the characters that were not included in the initial story version

2. Administer a questionnaire for comprehension and recollection of the characteristics of the person (physically and psychologically)

Experiment Two:

A month later, administer the same questionnaire to the two groups of people and analyze how well the characters were retained and recollected.

Experiment Three:

Repeat this experiment with 5 characters and then 7 characters

Experiment Four:

Repeat all these experiment using only pictures of the characters, no word physical description.

The experiments are simple. However, the quality of the stories and how the questionnaire is designed and well articulated, and what kinds of “data” are measured and captured… are the main difficulties that need to be ironed out and a lot of time invested in…

These experiments can be altered to extract the kinds of author’ styles that infuse the best impact.

For example, the stories of each character can be taken from different novels of the same author. The results will compare authors styles and additional pieces of information.

Obviously, the subjects in the experiments must be familiar with the connotations and exact meaning of each described attribute

Note: You may read one of my 11 reviews of “Reading Lolita in Tehran” http://adonis49.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/reading-lolita-in-tehran-by-azar-nafisi-part-1/

Historical background: “Rainbow over the Levant”

Note: I decided to split the background chapter of my novel “Rainbow over the Levant” in two parts.

This novel has been published 5 years ago on my blog in serial chapters.

A quick summary of the history of this region, the Levant or Near East (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Turkey), starting two centuries preceding the fiction events of this novel, can shed a satisfactory understanding for the setting of this historical fiction around the last quarter of the 14thcentury AD.

The Mameluks’ Sultan Baybars of Egypt had dislodged the Christian Crusaders from every remaining city in the Near East in 1291. The chased out Crusaders forces were just holding on to the island of Cyprus.

The Caliphates of the Arab empire, who were virtual rulers in Baghdad since the 9th century, were restored to their virtual religious polarization in Cairo under the Mameluks’ hegemony.

The Crusaders from Christian Europe had been defeated previously in 1187 in a critical battle of Hittine in Palestine by Saladin who managed that feat after reigning as Sultan in both capitals of Cairo and Damascus.

To better comprehend the Levant history we need to stress on the facts that the entire region that composes the present States of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and even Iraq (from the 12th century onward) has been throughout its long history under the direct or indirect domination of empires in Iran, Turkey or Egypt.

The local Emirs or appointed governors paid tributes to one of these powerful centers in return to governing their internal affairs, participating in military campaigns and defending the political dominions and interests of the regional Great Sultans.  The reigning Sultan of Egypt had the upper hand in this period of the novel in the Near East region.

In the 10th century, two dynasties ruled part of the Middle East. In Egypt, the Shiite Moslem Fatimid dynasty, coming from Northern Africa established their Caliphate in Cairo and stretched its influence to Aleppo in Syria. Their successor, the Ayyubid Sunni Moslem dynasty, from Kurdish descent, displaced the Fatimid.

The Mamluks (the serfs who came to hold high political and military powers in the Ayyubid dynasty) rose to power and defeated the Mogul invasion in two crucial battles in Palestine in 1260 at Elbistan.

In Iran, the Seljuk dynasty stretched their empire to Samarqand, Bukhara, Khorassan, Afghanistan, part of Turkey, Syria and part of Lebanon. They fought the Crusaders in the Near East during most of their reign through the intermediary of their appointed “Atabeks” in Turkey and Syria.

The Seljuk dynasty was taken over by the Khowarasmi dynasty whose Sultans were at odd with the Caliphate of Baghdad and helped the hordes of Genghis Khan the Mogul, led by his son Holako, to enter and devastate Baghdad in 1258 which ended the Arabic Empire.

The Moguls established two Viceroys in Iraq, one at Mosul in the Northern part and the second in Baghdad for the Southern part of Iraq.  The Arabic Era that lasted for 5 centuries ended as a cultural and organizational influence. The Emirs in Palestine were generally affiliated to the Sultan of Egypt.  .

The societies in the Levant region have experienced a different level of organizational skills and the beginning of the application of the rudiment written rules of Laws from their interaction with the European Crusaders.  We don’t have much information about the status of Mount Lebanon in that period or about its Emirs, its social structure, its allegiances, its demographic constituency or its economic development.

We assume that the Crusaders left a strong impact on the inhabitants in Mount Lebanon which forced the Arab Emirs to start relocating many Arab tribes from Southern Iraq into the Mount Lebanon regions to counterbalance the Christian population.

Even before the advent of the Arabic Empire, Christian monasteries were numerous and spread out throughout the Near East and Iraq and occupied the top of mountains, hills, and the best areas near fresh water sources in the same fashion you notice them currently in Mount Lebanon.

The monks had their special chambers (kelayye) for retreats and prayers.  Monasteries were very prosperous and maintained exquisite gardens of fruit trees, flowers and vegetables and were well stocked in provisions from their land and donations of the faithful.

During the Arabic Empire, monasteries were required to set up annexes of hostels in order to receive weary travelers and to lodge and feed them.  Usually, the relatives of monks maintained these hostels.  Caliphs, Emirs, and well to do noblemen used to patronize the monasteries and spent days in these quiet domains to eat, drink local wine and beer and have great time away from the scrutiny of city dwellers.

The monasteries in the Levant suffered during the Crusaders’ period because of the bad manners of the European invaders, their robbery and plunder, but the monasteries in Iraq and Eastern Turkey were as prosperous as ever because the crusaders did not venture deep in the land of Arabic Empire.

Many castles were demolished during that bloody period, a few were partially rehabilitated, but a lot of reconstruction of war infrastructure was needed.  What is important to note is that wars were no longer waged using chars with spiked wheels that harvest feet or employed exotic animals such as elephants as during the Antiquity.

Canons of wars were not invented yet, except may be in remote China where they were used during the main ceremonies related to their standing emperors. Wars were still waged with infantry, cavalry and archers in the conventional ways. Newly designed catapults for throwing rocks at castles’ walls and entrances were in use by rich nations with well equipped and sophisticated armies.

The full metal armor used by the crusaders was reduced by the noblemen to a vest of meshed chains and a metal helmet: The climate may not have been suitable to European fashion, since we do enjoy at least 7 months of hot and dry seasons.

“The summer of a life” by J.M. Coetzee

This book is another autobiographical attempt by J.M. Coetzee of how was life and his life between 1972 to 1975 in apartheid South Africa of the Afrikaners. Actually, it is how his girlfriends perceived him, through a third-party interviewing his girlfriends after his death.

Consequently, the exciting main characters are the women in the life of the author, and when women talk frankly about their relationship you should expect excitement and hilarious different perspectives on the nature of falling in love and sexual intercourse…

I am translating from the French version a few paragraphs and sections to set the tone.

Julia says: “I had dropped two rolls of Christmas wrappings in the supermarket.  This utterly non-handsome guy, skinny, and inelegant picked up the one-meter large rolls. It was obviously an accident, but one of the rolls stabbed one of my breasts. As I arrived home, I removed my bra and looked at my breasts.  I could feel the touch on my nipple for a week…

I invited John for a light dinner a few weeks later. I made it a principle to look the same as during the supermarket incident and refused to beautify my face, do my hair, or wear fancy clothes. The dinner was super light, and John arrived without his father. My little 2 year-old Chrissie was on my lap and she didn’t like John, and never did. My Chrissie was as blond as her father with his blue eyes. I had the sensation that I was to her an intruder, more like our colored house helper, though my husband Mark barely was home to taking care of her…”

“The Afrikaner father of John spoke English passably: He used to underline with a finger gesture the English idioms he told me..”  The father said: “John is pouring concrete around the perimeter of this humid house. We are witnessing less humidity inside.  This is a huge undertaking, isn’t John?”  From the tone of the dad’s voice I felt how he was trying hard to find any kind of merit in his 30 year-old eldest son…

“This week-end, my husband Mark made love to me with ardour, all the time and almost everywhere. Mark had this idea that I sensed on him the odor of his girlfriend in Durban and that I was out doing my erotic performances because of my acute woman smell…Mark had no idea that I cheated with John a couple of days ago, just for revenge. I felt a huge pride and excitement in thinking: “Wow, I am behaving like a slut, and I am discovering new horizons in my erotic abilities…”

“I spent seven consecutive nights with John as my husband Mark left to Hong Kong with his girlfriend. John would leave early in order not to meet with the house servant. My diagnostic of John’s love-making is that he was autistic in that matter.  An autistic regard the person he is in love with as an automaton, an entity created to his own desires. To John I was a Woman. Like the time he came extremely excited and asked me to make love on the adagio of Franz Schubert, on the ground that only music expresses the eroticism of the period. Like if I could care less how Mrs. Schubert felt with Mr. Schubert in Vienna of the 19th century…

I think sexual autistics prefer to masturbate instead of having real rapport with a human being…”

“The Afrikaners of the period (1970-1975) liked to be viewed as the “Afrikan” Israelite, cunning, unscrupulous, hard as leather, and attacking their prey overtly…In fact, the apartheid male Afrikaners were more like a pack of babies abandoned in a forest, a tribe of little kids with slaves to care for them…

“John could never be my charming Prince. Only once did John opened up his heart to me at the sight of my predicament of not knowing where my Chrissie was.  This is the only night I reached climax with John. He must have awakened at night and saw my beatific face and got scared.  I didn’t see him when I awoke. Do you think that I will ever forgive John for abandoning me after that night?…(To be continued)

Note 1: J.M. Coetzee received Nobel Award of literature in 2003, mostly based on his two autobiographical books “At the age of a man”, and “Scenes of the life of a young man”

Note 2: I liked the sexual autism part. I recall slapping the behind of a girlfriend once.  She was bewildered and demanded: “Why did you do that?” I replied: “I read in books that women like to have their behind slapped occasionally. This piece of intelligence is obviously not quite correct…” Enough of my dark humour for today.

Most ancient mythical story in 550 pages:  Who is Gilgamesh of Iraq?

German author, Thomas Milkeh, published the mythical story of “Gilgamesh, King of Uruk” in 550 pages, and 35 chapters, and a chronological list of names and historical events.  Nabil al Haffar translated the book into Arabic and was published by Cadmus.

Previous German archeologists and authors, Albert Shut and Wilhelm Soden, and Helmut Shmokel had published versions of the Gilgamesh story, a mythical grandiose account of the ancient Iraqi kingdoms of Sumer and Akkad…seven thousand years ago.

The gardener Chokalitoda of the town of Kish adopted the infant Gilgamesh. “The black bird of the storm, Amdod, deposited the infant, wrapped in cloth and in a reed basket, amid the trees”. Gilgamesh grew up to become a captain in the army of King Mbaraghezy of the city of Kish.

Gilgamesh occupied the rival city of Uruk and met with his mother Nin Son.  He forced-labored the inhabitants of Uruk to build a new defensive wall around the city and proclaimed himself King of Uruk.  Gilgamesh befriended the other hero Ankido.

While occupying the city of Uruk in the name of King Mbaraghezy, Gilgamesh was appalled by the savagery of soldiers and confronted them.  The leader of a group of soldiers, engaged in the massacre of unarmed people, said: “We are doing the mutilation for fun”.  In dawned on Gilgamesh that these soldiers were the mercenaries who were supposed to be defending Uruk:  They sided with the victor and were demonstrating loyalty to the new king by committing atrocities and more looting.

Gilgamesh is having this conversation with Paranam Tarra, the virgin girl serving the temple:

Gilgamesh: “What is the origin of Gods?”

Paranam Tarra: “Maybe from these Stars, to where they returned”

Gilgamesh: “What is the origin of the Sumer people?”

Paranam Tarra: “They came from the land of Milokha.  Over those eastern mountain chains”  This is an indication that there existed higher level civilizations outside the borders of Kish and Uruk, in Persia, Afghanistan, and India…

Gilgamesh: “Where is our destination when we die?”

Paranam Tarra: “The good people end up on the “Island of the Eternals” to serve the Man that the Gods extended eternity to Him.”

This is another dialogue between Gilgamesh and his close friend Ankido.  Gilgamesh ordered the construction of a new high fortification wall and Ankido have been observing the miseries endured by the citizens, resulting from the building process.  A titanic fight ensued between the two previous friends and this conversation:

Ankido: “Why this new wall?”

Gilgamesh: “Before engaging in a new war, I have to be capable of defending what I have.  Didn’t you realize that our walls are deteriorating and crumbling?  Don’t you realize that the Kings of Nipur, Laghash, and Shorobak are readying to plunder our wealth? Maybe my leaven is not ripe yet, but it is better to get a head start”

Ankido: “So far, you have been exercising your might on the weak”

Gigamesh: “You are wrong. I am preparing to defend my city against new waves of plunder, massacre, and looting from outside wrath.”

Ankido: “How could you claim to be defending the city from outside enemies when you are in the process of destroying it from the inside?”

Gilgamesh managed to overcome and kill Ankido and decided to travel to the Island of the Eternal to mourn his friend.  Gilgamesh had to overcome a series of obstacles in this arduous trip and is having a beer in a bar.  He is having this conversation with the girl attendant:

The bar attendant: “What is your destination?”

Gilgamesh: “I am heading to the Island of the Eternals”

The girl: “The Gods transferred feelings and emotions to mankind because they were unable to experience emotions.  The Eternals do not need emotions: They cannot suffer and they can live forever without this fear of dying. Mankind has to die because he can feel and suffer. ”

Gilgamesh was seeking a secluded island to learn detachment from people exigencies and unlimited wants and wishes.  He wanted to engage in introspection and get a handle on life and the universe.  He wanted to leave a few wisdom to posterity, in a calm and serene environment.

Isn’t what Homer undertook 4,000 years later?  Isn’t what a few Jews of Alexandria, 200 years BC, did by writing the Bible or the Old Testament?  A few learned Jews decided to re-write the history of a wretched community who was easing out of nomadic life into the learning stage.

All these mythical stories emulated one another:  Social behaviors are common in most communities; there is nothing new to add, except writing the stories in particular contexts of customs and traditions.  The sacred part of all these mythical accounts are the common denominator of mankind agitation as communities. What is most important in all these account are the frank and honest description of local customs, traditions, and social behaviors.

Note 1: A review of that book was done by Abd al Mahmoud in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar. It could be a most interesting read this summer.

Note 2:  It is very possible that this “Island of the Eternals” was the Island of Bahrain, a must stop destination for merchant ships to and from India and Iraq, and where “noble” princes from the neighboring kingdoms had vacation palaces.

Note 3: Empires vanish as demographics decreases steadily due to loss of hope for better future.  Consequently, empires hire cheap mercenaries for keeping control and the kingdom begins a non-reversible decline.  The Kingdom of Uruk was doomed because it hired mercenaries to defend its authority.

Discussions among insurgents: Rainbow over the Levant

Note: This is a section of a historical fiction novel (1371-75)

A tiny educated nucleus wanted to emulate the Greek form of democracy where the people elect their leaders for the executive and for the members of the legislative House, though they had not the slightest idea of how to proceed and implement these Utopian tendencies.  Gergis alone was deeply involved in writing down a rudimentary form of a Constitution.  The guidelines represented a set of laws that should govern the citizens, but he failed to communicate his endeavor because his work was in the tentative stages and he lacked the necessary information of the Roman codes of law and how they governed their vast multiracial Empire. Besides, Gergis he knew of no one to translate Latin manuscript for him.  In any event, he was not sure any member was educated enough to contribute in his research and rationally discuss his thoughts.

The sources of these confusions on an important matter as “how to be governed” was not solely attributable to a widespread illiteracy and ignorance on how they were actually governed, but also because leader Antoun did not yet expand his purposes beyond the Metn County.

Since most of the partisans were Christians, and the big majority from the Christian Orthodox denomination, the arguments of the partisans were superficial and lacked inclusion of other religious sects and races in their planning and discussions.  There were however many Moslem Sunni renegades in the mountains that fled from sentences of imprisonment, or were tracked down for fraudulent mandates against them. They constituted communities of their own and cooperated with the Christian outlaws in moments of danger.  On the other side, many Christian renegades lived in the coastal cities of majority Moslem communities but did not mingle as openly as city life offered in variety of opinions and customs.

It was obvious to any sensible partisan that Antoun was and wanted to remain the leader for as long as he could hold on without the need for a formal election and he was willing to accept any political system that would ensure his prime authority.  So the implicit attitude was to wait until the insurrection succeeded.

Thus any discussion was basically cut short on the political system to agree on.  Nevertheless, Antoun had a pretty good idea on the taxation reforms that needed to be implemented and the inkling to allowing the townships to elect their own leaders and council members in order to check any resurgence of the old influential landlords.

Separately, Mariam of the mountain outlaws gang and Noura in the city group were outspoken and relentlessly brought forth the consequences for fomenting a call to an insurgency.  They realized that the major burden in any calamity would ultimately rest on the females’ shoulders and that they would have to cater for the children, elderly people and the wounded. They insisted that if a definite action had to be decided then they had the right to discuss openly and at length the requisite changes that need to be enacted and the alternative duties and responsibilities of each committee.

The fact is both Mariam and Noura made Antoun realize that not much explicit serious discussion had been exchanged within the partisans because, mainly, the males were not that talkative and refrained from bringing topics that would be interpreted as cowardice or ignorance on their part.  Antoun knew that the Emir had infiltrated the outlaws but decided that, by taking judicious precautions, open dialogues among his partisans were necessary to generating the kind of feedback for clarifying the main objectives and problems facing the unity and steadfastness of the insurgents.

Mariam, Noura and Antoun discussed and devised a rudimentary conversational method to encourage open dialogue among the partisans and would interchange roles when necessary for prompting the partisans into speaking their minds as equals in the decision process.

In the practice of open dialogue Antoun learned a different kind of patience, basically how to listen carefully to opinions and refrain from interposing or delivering his own opinion before all information was proposed, classified and summarized. A series of questions were laid out to be asked and responses expounded upon. Antoun noted down a set of questions that he recapitulated on the many gatherings he had with his partisans such as: “What it is that we want?”, “What is it that we wish to do?”, “What is the most important objective for us all?”, “What is the final big thing we all are decided to fight and die for?”, “What is to be done if we agreed on that objective?”, “How are we to proceed if we win power?”, “What is the most important decision we must implement immediately after we take control?”, “Who is planning to resume his normal life after victory”?, “Who is willing to continue his services as a civil servant?”, “What committee are you willing and capable of serving in?”, “Who is ready to continue the fight and suffer additional hardships in the event things turned badly?”, “What comes first, family security or the achievement of the main objective?”, “Who is willing to learn reading and writing if teaching is provided?”.

Being essentially a business man who got dragged into politics, Antoun enjoyed discussing with his down to earth partisans, whom proved to be very meticulous to details when prompted to expand on their opinions; however, as the night dragged on a few partisans in the gathering, and in the spirit of companionship, would become sentimental and would divulge profound personal secrets that would throw Antoun into confusion.

One of the partisans declared in a passionate tirade: “I am ready to spell by blood for the movement because you are all my friends, but in case I die during the insurgency then I do not see who will benefit from my sacrifice since I have no relatives left in this world”  Instead of replying with abstract notions or rebuking a well founded and deeply rooted life needs for continuity, Antoun would get busy finding a wife for his distraught partisan and engaging the community into resolving this unhappiness.  The empathy routines were left to his more talented female companions.

The arguments that rattled Antoun into despair and sudden frenzy, and which were numerous at the start of initiating the gathering sessions, were related to religious affiliations.  Many partisans with limited knowledge felt the urge to show off and could not find any argument in their arsenal but to express the acquired discrimination attitudes toward the Moslems or other Christian denominations and made it a point of honor to display their ignorance and their isolation.

A few partisans went as far as accusing Antoun to cohabitating with the Jews and Moslem infidels and, not just trading on a grand scale but socializing, eating and drinking with them.  They blamed him to bringing a few of the Moslems to the mountains as associates to him and rub it in their noses by inviting them to the meetings. These sessions that dwelt on the sectarian issues were the most trying and delicate to contain and Antoun proved his leadership at these crucial moments, albeit not in a constructive manner.

The leader was habitually respectful with the clergies, especially those close to the people, but had comprehended that religion could be used as a lethal weapon in politics and, more often, to disrupt the fabric of harmony in society for local petty interests.  Antoun had taken stock of the discredit that the movement would suffer if he played in the hands of the extreme confessionals and decided to respond clearly and categorically to any deviation from unity of all the partisans regardless of sect, or religion, or place of birth.

In the beginning the partisans tried hard to deviate from the problems at hand by steering the discussion to the familiar ground of base discriminating aspects in this confined society but Antoun learned to be firm in directing the discussion and keeping it on the target.  He encouraged confronting the discrimination tendencies and steered the discussion toward fruitful dialogues and thus winning the mind of the vast majority of moderates. Soon the word spread that the quickest way to be cast away from the movement is to indulge in unsubstantiated recriminations based on religious discrimination; consequently, blunt references were transformed into innuendoes or wrapped in benign joking bouts that finally did more harm to the cohesion of the movement than opting for direct confrontation and patient enlightenment.

With the exception of confessional opinions, the trio of Mariam, Noura, and Antoun learned never to preempt any position or offer an opinion until everyone had answered the question, extracted clarifications and then offered a summary of the exposed opinions. The kind of answers that the trio would respond to in order to ward off taking definite positions was as follow: “It is not for me to say what should be your position”, or “It is for all of us to agree at the end”, or “We will do what we agreed upon”, or “We need much honesty among ourselves and we will eventually trust to respect each others opinions”, or “We need much information on our enemy”, or “Whoever can provide us with reliable sources it is his duty to strengthen our knowledge”, or “We need much thought; sharing knowledge, information and intelligence will enhance our confidence in victory”, or “I am one of you who also lack much knowledge and information and would not impose any position before you share with me facts and vision”, or “Until everyone feels secure to share with everyone else his difficulties, limitations and capabilities it would be an untenable situation for our struggle which will be plagued with inefficiency and shortcomings”.

Before starting on his trip to the mountains, Antoun would send a messenger to inform Mariam of the time and place of his visit and then would huddle with her for hours in secret, and occasionally with Mustafa when he accompanied him, rehashing the topics and the role playing mechanism before the general gathering with the outlawed gangs.

Mariam insisted on Elias joining her in the general meetings because she felt that his outspoken character would enrich the conversation with hard topics that should be dealt with ultimately. After three months of frequent meetings, which used on occasions to take the best part of the nights, a short list of positions and desires were condensed.  The renegades of the mountains expressed the following inkling:

The mountain renegades preferred a peaceful and secure life in their own towns.

They demanded compensation be paid for their participation after victory so that they could rehabilitate their shattered business and way of life.

They abhorred any kind of taxes but would eventually share in the expenses of running a government if fair taxes were levied on all citizens and if the city civil officers did not enjoy social or economic privileges.

They adamantly refused forced military recruiting and only voluntary participation with fair wages could be contemplated.

They expressed their staunch right to elect their village chief as well as the enforcers of the laws.

Donations in money or lands to monasteries or to the bishops should be taxed heavily and after the agreement of the community.

Profits generated from pro bono works by the peasants to monasteries and bishops should be taxed and the proceeds invested in schools or anything beneficial to the communities.

The coastal city group expressed different priorities in a mercantile spirit but with the same candor, reflecting a variation in their way of life such as:

The right of every city dweller to own properties in any section of town without any class or religious discrimination but price affordability.

Everyone could rent a shop in any ‘souk’ regardless of religious beliefs or artisanal profession.

Any religious denomination should have the right to erect its own center of worship.

Fair taxes should be levied on every profitable business with no exception.

Trade union should be allowed to organize and send petitions for legal demands.

Entrance fees to other coastal towns and cities should be eliminated.

Goods and services should be exchanged freely among towns and cities within the same county and export taxes eliminated to encourage trade and commerce.

The essential advantage of these meetings was that everyone believed that later important decisions would be discussed openly and freely.  This feeling that everyone’s ideas and opinions were important was a new discovery and trends of empowerment were enhanced within the insurgents.

Initially, the coastal city group and the outlaws’ partisans in the mountains were totally separated in the organization and had no communication with each other except through Antoun and one of his close fearless associates called Mustafa Baltaji in the contraband business.  Mustafa, a 26 year old Sunni Moslem, was a de facto right hand man of Antoun and was an eloquent and conversant negotiator. Mustafa infiltrated many garrisons and linked excellent communications with greedy officers and sergeants who enjoyed unavailable goods at reasonable prices.

The armed group of outlaws and deserters were supplied by contraband military hardware and organized formally into specialized units and indoctrinated to an upcoming uprising with promises of substantial loot and occasional revenge.  Coordination and cohesion among the various gangs were established and trained through small and many tactical attacks that generated loot and high morale among the infant army.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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