Unraveling an absent part of Syria’s history

Badria al-Bishr
Badria al-Bishr
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“King of the Sands” is a recently-released movie by famous Syrian director Najdat Anzour. Anzour decided to screen the movie in Britain. Although I've only watched few parts of it so far, the circumstances in which the movie was released indicate it is more of a politicized move than a mere flick. While describing the movie, Anzour said: "It presents an explanation for the roots of the concept of terrorism which spread across the world and (it also explains) the Wahabi intellect which led to the creation of violent groups."

He said this despite the fact that violent militias killing people in Syria are not only from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Syrian regime has, until today, displaced 5 million Syrians, killed more than 100,000 people, destroying houses, mosques, churches and historical forts. The Syrian regime does not carry extremist Sunni Salafist ideas and the same goes for the Shiite militias, like Hezbollah and others, which are killing people in defense of dictatorial regimes. This confirms that terrorism has no religion, no country and no nationality.

The Syrian regime does not carry extremist Sunni Salafist ideas and the same goes for the Shiite militias, like Hezbollah and others, which are killing people in defense of dictatorial regimes. This confirms that terrorism has no religion, no country and no nationality.

Badria al-Bishr

Anzour decided to support the Syrian regime, which most global regimes, including Saudi Arabia's, criticized for its brutality, by making a drama movie pictured as facts against the founder of the Saudi state and its leader King Abdulaziz - whom Saudis know as a genius political leader who managed to unite lands of the Arabian Peninsula, where rival tribes lived according to laws of domination and oppression, and who established a state seeking to integrate with the modern times.


He who reads the history of unifying the kingdom outside the context of politics and outside the context of the law of domination and oppression - which reigned back then - is the same as someone measuring water using a measuring scale made for wheat.

‘King of the Sands’ or king of the Baath Party?

The phase in which King Abdulaziz engaged in wars of incorporation confirm that he was the competent person for leading that historical phase and for containing the cultural changes. The struggle which happened between King Abdulaziz to regain the governance of the Saudi state was a mutual political struggle and not treason or western conspiracies. The British government stood by him against his rivals from other tribes, because it was aware that he's the competent man for a wise and strong administration.

In a chapter of his book "Kuwait and Her Neighbors," Harold Richard Patrick Dickson wrote an amazing description of the resistance to some tribes which revolted against King Abdelaziz during the process of modernizing and uniting the state. These tribes wanted to destabilize the state's pillars via excuses which appear to have religious basis but which in fact aim to attain governance.

They wanted to violate treaties and threaten the security of neighbors, like Kuwait, under the excuse that these neighbors were cooperating with infidels and allowing people to smoke tobacco. These tribes also wanted to fight Iraq because its citizens are infidel Shiites, and they considered King Abdulaziz's prevention of fighting Iraq as a violation of God's law. They therefore concluded it's acceptable to revolt against him.

Dickson also mentions how British forces aided King Abdulaziz in eliminating the defectors - not because they aimed for wealth as petroleum did not appear by then, but because they knew he was the genius competent man capable of managing the area and of controlling its rivalries and eventually provide stability and development.

At a time when other parties weakened and lost their popularity among the people, King Abdulaziz managed to gain the people's consensus. This history is documented by witnesses from that phase. These witnesses do not only include Abdulaziz's men but also westerners who had the opportunity to be in the area and document neutral and brave history.

I think we must not be angry because a Syrian director chose to attack the Saudi kingdom via a movie which some do not realize is a political work. Since the art of movies is sometimes helpful at explaining absent history, we have to present them with a movie on the Baath Party which ruled Syria with an iron fist and which era included many terrifying conspiracies, murders, treasons and coups that ended with Hafez al-Assad attaining power and passing on the Republic of Syria to his son, Bashar, who in turn destroyed it according to a terrorist process that is no less violent or brutal than al-Qaeda's. So was Assad a Salafist, a Wahabi and a product of terrorism too? Or is he the Baath King who implemented the policy of the Baath (Restoration) Party by sending people to their deaths?

This article was first published in al-Hayat on Dec. 22, 2013.

Dr. Badria al-Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi columnist and novelist. A PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the U.S. State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud University's Department of Social Studies.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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