|Date: August 2012
Syrian soap operas (musalsals) that once united a country – now are a “casualty of war”.
Soaps like Damascene Days(Ayam Shamiya) were popular, even if closely allied with Assad’s Baathist regime and ideology in the ’90s. One soap harked back to Sultan Saladin, a 12th century hero who defeated the Crusaders and liberated Jerusalem. This soap thinly disguised the Crusaders as Americans and Israelis — both manipulative and unacceptable. These soaps also focused on Ottoman oppression and demonized the French colonialists in Syria.
Arab media expert Omar Adam Sayfo, however, makes a key point: even propaganda infused historical soaps united diverse viewers – Druse, Christian, Sunni or Alawite. Viewers cheered on the TV hero confronting the French soldiers and the TV heroine, “Um Joseph, the Christian woman who protected the Muslim neighborhood.” Bottom line: The soaps – though poisoned by ideology and demonization — made Syrians proud of their history and heritage, even as they entertained viewers on hot, sultry afternoons in Ramadan. Though Turkish soaps now fill the gap for Syrians, old is still gold for the old timers, I suspect – if only in memory.