ANALYSIS-Syrians silently gripped by Arab upheaval

Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:12pm GMT

The government raised a key fuel subsidy and tightened Internet controls, while a special security court jailed a 69-year-old leftist for seven years this month for discussing alternatives to the Baath Party's monopoly on power.

Although Syria and Egypt have been at odds politically, backing different Palestinian and Lebanese factions, the two countries are ruled through emergency law and suffer an acute gap between rich and poor, widespread corruption and 10 percent unemployment estimated independently at least double that.


They have similar Gross Domestic Product per capita at around $2,500 and two great rivers -- Egypt the Nile and Syria the Euphrates. But water mismanagement has turned Syria's eastern region that borders Iraq and Turkey into a dustbowl.

The water crisis in the east, Syria's agricultural heartland, has displaced hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years. Violent demonstrations by the ethnic Kurdish minority swept the east in 2004, resulting in scores of deaths.

A United Nations report last year said 800,000 people in the region were severely affected by lack of water and living in extreme poverty and "should be benefiting from much higher level of support than is now provided by the Syrian government".

In a stark reminder of Syria's wealth gap, the region produces all of the country's output of 380,000 barrels of oil per day, down from a peak of 590,000 bpd in 2006.

"You have a lot of discontent, and many people of the east have found themselves dispossessed refugees and are now around major Syrian cities," an unemployed Syrian engineer said.   Continued...

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