Syria marks the World Environment Day

On June 5, the State Ministry for Environmental Affairs and Damascus Countryside Governorate co-organized activities to mark the world’s Environment Day.

Minister of State for Environmental Affairs Nazira Serkis and Damascus Countryside’s Governor Hussein Khallouf participated in the environmental activities in Qudsia Suburb, 18 km western Damascus, to increase the environmental awareness and culture.

The Minister, Governor and hundreds of volunteers planted 600 saplings of Damascene jasmine, pine, rose, palm and oak in the Suburb’s squares to increase the green areas.

Later, the officials moved to open an exhibition of paintings done by children of displaced families who are living in a shelter centre, in the Suburb. The children welcomed the officials at the centre’s gate , raising the Syrian flags and President Bashar al-Assad’s posters and hailing the Syrian Arab Army in its war against  terrorist groups.

The centre is run by the government to host 160 displaced families who ran away from the armed groups. Big number of these families had returned from Lebanon’s refugee camps. The children’s paintings show the terrorist attacks, crimes and sabotages perpetrated by the armed terrorist groups. Some of paintings show the heroic operations of the Syrian Arab Army and their love to their country’s flag as a symbol of the Syrians unity.

In a press conference attended by the Syria Times,  Minister of State for Environmental Affairs Nazira Serkis said that her ministry will cooperate with all ministries and concerned sides to improve environmental situation in the areas affected by terrorists and their attacks and plant  these areas to change them into green ones.  

For his part, Governor Hussein Khallouf said: “The Governorate and the Ministry are cooperating together to organize a

program on the occasion of World Environment Day to be briefed on displaced families in shelters and engage them in environmental activities.”

The Minister of State for Environmental Affairs issued a press release, get by the Syria Times,  saying: "The 2013 theme for World Environment Day is "Think.Eat.Save." This theme aims to encourage individuals to limit wastage and losses in food and decrease the amount of food waste.

Reported by O. Mohammad

Shisha: Companion of Friends' Evenings


Water pipe smoking (more precisely known as "hookah", "narghil" and "shisha") has  attracted more than billion people all over the world especially that this traditional way of smoking is perhaps as old as mankind. Media tackled this kind of smoking in terms of its social problems that are considered "dangerous". However, it cannot be denied that this tool is used daily and for long hours by more than a million persons of men and women in Asia, Africa and Europe at cafes and at homes.

Hookah, which dated back  to  four hundred years, originated in the East, and spread with the discovery of tobacco and the spread of cafes. It used to be accompanied with a cup of coffee. High class women used to smoke Hookah daily in their  houses.

 Some researchers said that a long time ago especially in the Levant, every bride trousseau had to include hookah. It is not a simple device since its length reaches sometimes two meters. It has a complex device to cool and purify the smoke by water ending with a snake-like twisted hose, which also may reach several meters in length, in addition to a number of complex issues such as the type of smoke and the means of burning this smoke and finally the time spent by Hookah lovers smoking in silence and contemplation.

As a social phenomenon, shisha smoking was concentrated in the Mediterranean countries, and practiced for long hours by all categories of people. It is curious that smoking the shisha was a thing of the past and it was linked to the lower categories of the community only, including the makers, craftsmen and the customers of the towns' cafes.

It was also smoked in the cabins and hospices scattered on the highway, which receive drivers  who want to rest and smoke shisha  with a glass of  black tea. They  sit lazily  after a long tiring manual work and enjoy smoking for a long time. But what evokes astonishment and curiosity is that shisha smoking phenomenon has returned again more strongly at the end of the twentieth and early twenty-first century by the various segments of society  including intellectuals, the educated and the illiterate  in different times than it was in the past. Smokers used to enjoy Shisha in evenings and at nights. Whereas now it  becomes a  part of the breakfast ritual. In Yemen for example, shisha was not accustomed in cafes, but nowadays, they are teeming with what is known as resting cafes which is similar to the café  we know where shisha is smoked all the time by everyone, especially young boys.

Tobacco used in hookahs is known as Molasses. It is has different fruits flavors such as apples, cantaloupe, pineapple and strawberry.

It was  mentioned that the beginning of smoking al-Molasses dated back to many centuries ago when jars of black honey, which were charged on a ship that carried next to honey a shipment of tobacco leaves, were broken. So honey mixed with tobacco, the merchant began to  cry for his loss, then he tried to find a solution so he could save some of the consignment. He tried to smoke tobacco mixed with honey but that did not succeed , so he experimented smoking it by placing it in stone pottery and put burning coal above it 

Shisha has spread faster. Authorities in different countries such as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates tried to control or even prevent Shisha smoking in hotels and public places but it was  useless. In Tunisia, the authorities banned shisha smoking in public places, so some people outwitted this prohibition by putting  shisha inside the cafe, and made its long hose pass through the window and smoke outdoors. 

Places of smoking shisha changed from public cafes to cafeterias in the luxury hotels and places inhabited by rich people .. The  customers are now from all segments of society.

Some people said that the unprecedentedly growing number of cafeterias and coffee houses, where shisha is smoked, is because of the great  increase in the rate of unemployment among young people besides the lack of the social clubs that absorb the vast number of youths.

The amazing thing about hookah is that it had been developed so as to lend some sense of health security. The most surprising was that the owner of this preventive development was "Dokdok", the  illiterate cafe boy, who has no qualifications in life except his ability to proclaim in a prolonged loud voice " you have one apple Shisha for Pasha and Salehowoowoowo!".  Dokdok decided to put a piece of aluminum paper on a piece of pottery (the stone) which contains molasses, then he enveloped the stone so well. After that he placed coal over the aluminum paper so heat could penetrate to Molasses to give the required smoke without being penetrated by the burning coal ashes.  "Dokdok" thought  that  this "development" will beautify  bubble stock rather than the stone pottery and will lead to a clean smoke.


Amal Farhat

Social Affairs Ministry Accords Attention to Cerebral Palsy Patients

DAMASCUS, (ST) – The Social Affairs Ministry on Wednesday held a ceremony to honor students from al-Nour Institute for Children and Special Education Institute for Adults.

The said institutes  are treating patients with Cerebral Palsy.

Dr. Kinda al-Shammat , the Social Affairs Minister, toured  the said  institutes.

 "the  Ministry will do its utmost to improve services provided to people with special needs the ministry-affiliated institutes ," al-Shammat told reporters.

" the Ministry is reconsidering laws on disabilities and working to prepare legislations that will have a positive impact on people with special needs, in addition to studying the possibility of expanding financial aid given to families of cerebral palsy patients, "underscored al-Shammat.

Rana al-Dahhan, the Special Education Institute Director ,clarified that the institute provides treatment, education and vocational training to 40 patients, in addition to free medical services.

Nada Abu al-Shamat ,the Director of al-Nour Institute Director , said that the establishment caters to 70 children up to the age of 12, employing an early intervention program, physical therapy, intellectual development, and training courses for families to communicate with their disabled children correctly. The institute course also includes life skills treatment  and speech therapy.

It is worth noting that cerebral palsy is  an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person's ability to move .It is a permanent life-long condition ,but generally does not worsen over time .It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.

Cerebral palsy affects people in different ways and can affect body movement, muscle, control, muscle coordination, muscle tone ,reflex ,posture and balance.

Cerebral palsy is not contagious and no link with hereditary.

People who have cerebral palsy may also have visual, learning, hearing, speech, epilepsy and intellectual impairment.


Government Continues to Provide Aid to Palestinians in Syria: Al-Shammat

DAMASCUS, (ST) -The Syrian government is keen to continue providing all necessary aid and services to the Palestinian refugees in Syria, Kinda al-Shammat, Minister of Social Affairs underscored following her meeting on Tuesday with the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner General Filippo Grandi.

Al-Shammat and Grandi discussed the current situation of the Syrian refugees who have been displaced to outside the Syrian territories as a result of the criminal acts being perpetrated by armed terrorist groups in the country.

The minister stressed that the Palestinian file is not a subject of debate, since the Palestinians are being and will continue to be treated the same as the Syrians.

She pointed out that her talks with the UNRWA representative focused the relief issue and the agency's concerns over how to deal with the Palestinian file in future.

Al-Shammat reiterated that Syria is the Palestinians' second homeland and that the Syrian people will never allow the Palestinian file to be a subject of debate or negotiations.

For his part, Grandi affirmed that the Syrian government is still providing the Palestinians with all kinds of services without any distinction between them and the Syrian citizens.

He added that UNRWA's mission is to provide humanitarian assistance and follow up the Palestinians' conditions under the critical circumstances Syria is being exposed to.

Grandi pointed out that the ministry of social affairs is sparing no effort to guarantee the arrival of UNRWA aid to all Palestinian refugees in need.

H. Mustafa    

Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash (1888-1982)

SWEIDA, (ST) –Sultan Pasha al-Atrash, the leader of the great Syrian Revolution against the Ottoman occupation, was a symbol of patriotism since he believed in resistance as the only way to combat colonialism and restore usurped rights. The leader, who played a major role in the writing down of Syria’s history, was distinguished by the merits of a real national hero. His attitudes were an example to be followed mainly in terms of confronting the schemes which aimed to create sectarian disputes among the Syrians.

In 1910, he joined his father Thoqan al-Atrash in the battles against the Ottoman occupation mainly in al-Kafer battle in al-Swieda governorate .

In 1916 he decided to join the great Arab revolution against the Ottoman occupation, so he called on the Syrian revolutionaries to support their Arab brothers in their struggle against the Ottoman forces.

On September 30th  of 1918, the Syrian leader entered Damascus via al- Meedan neighborhood gate and raised the Arab flag on the city's government house building for the first time after 400 years of Ottoman colonialism.

Sultan Pasha was a good believer in national unity. His motto in his struggle against the French colonialism was ''religion is for God and homeland is for all''. His first statement was a call on all the Arabs to participate in the great Arab revolution regardless their religion or nationality.

Researcher Jamal abu Jahjah, in a book titled ''Sultan al-Atrash a Source of National Feeling '' said  that the leader's motto “religion is for God and homeland is for all” constituted a preface for the Syrian Revolution all over the homeland.

Abu Jahjah pointed out that Sultan's letters to the Syrian revolutionaries aimed at consolidating national unity through rejecting sectarian calls and religious disputes.

 The researcher added that Sultan's potentials as a great leader and as a strong national hero appeared early in his life. He was adherent to national unity and he rejected sectarian calls and believed in armed resistance to restore usurped rights.

In a statement addressing the Syrian revolutionaries Sultan Pasha once said that “experience had proofed that strength was the only way to safeguard our rights, so we must fight if we want to live in dignity and freedom.”

The great leader never gave up in the face of the French colonialism. He was a staunch defender of Syria's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, and he urged the Syrians to confront occupiers in his historical statement: ''to the weapon, to the weapon''.

Sultan Pasha al-Atrash called for electing a popular government and a special council for issuing new laws to safeguard citizens’ freedom and rights.

On August 2nd, 1925, he led a battle against the French forces which in turn launched a big military campaign to kill him and his fellows . The 400 Syrian fighters defeated the French forces in al- Mazraa, al-Mssafra, Rssas, and Um-al- Roman battles.

Sultan Pasha al- Atrash led the battles in coordination and cooperation with all the Syrian revolutionaries.

On October 25th 1925, he called for convening al- Sahra conference in al- Sahra valley area, aiming at preserving Syria's independence.

It is to be noted that the leader was born in 1888 in al- Quraia village in southern al- Sweida governorate. His father, Thoqan Pasha al- Atrash was executed by the Ottoman authorities on March 5th, 1911 along with a number of other Arab hero fighters. The great leader died On March 26th, 1982.

Nahla Maaz    

Iqal … Heritage Profession Struggles for Survival

DAMASCUS, (ST) – (Iqal is a headband made of strong thick strings).  Iqal industry is a traditional one. It is threatened with extinction due to a drop in the number of workers in this field and because the limited number of families who hand it down from generation to generation. This industry has become known as the profession of parents and grandparents.

Ahmed Ramadan, 62 years, one of the prominent makers of Iqal at al Borghleyeh market in old Damascus said that this profession requires only simple tools including thread, a manual machine, wooden mould and a hammer.  He pointed out that the profession is more than 200 years old and it is inherited from his ancestors and he tries to pass it on to his sons after him to keep it from extinction.

Khaled Abu Badr, 45 years, has a long tradition in this profession, where he worked in this profession thirty years ago. He pointed out that we rely on the Syrian string, which is unmatched by another thread in the world and it was brought from Aleppo. But now, we rely on the string imported from other countries.

Abu Badr clarified that the profession is almost extinct and very few people who want to learn it because it is tiring and causes pains in the back and spine. This profession requires long hours of standing behind the machine and it also causes injuries to the limbs.

Abu Badr said that the price of Iqal ranges from 100 to 500 Syrian pounds according to the quality of the thread.

Sh. Kh

Pray to God for Syria

Al-SWEIDA, (ST)-With the participation of some Christian and Muslim religious men and a number of social and women parties, the Administrative Bureau of the Women Union in al- Sweida governorate has organized a special ceremony for Syria in the house of the General Leader of the Great Syrian Revolution Sultan Basha al-Atrash in Quraia city.

During the ceremony the religious men pray to god for witnessing an end to the crisis in Syria, for consolidating national unity and for attaining stability in the homeland, Syria, the land of tolerance, peace, fraternity and stability.

'' Syria is the beacon of civilization throughout history'' the religious men asserted, underlining the importance of abiding by the spirit of tolerance in the face of disputes.

 Head the Popular Organizations Bureau at the governorate Hiyam Qtami said the ceremony is important to shed light on Syria's history which is full of sacrifices and heroic attitudes mainly during the Syrian people's struggle against the French and ottoman colonialism.

''Syria is the heart of resistance and this is the real reason behind our ordeal now ,''she added .

 For her part, Dr. Reem al-Atrash, the granddaughter of the great Syrian Revolution's leader, urged adherence to tolerance and reiterated that Syria is for all the Syrians.

''We must spare no effort to preserve our homeland 's unity, sovereignty and independence,'' Dr. Al-Atrash said.

Also on this occasion, Sheikh Sulieman Skeer said that "These prayers are for Syria's safety, national unity, security and stability'', calling on the Syrians to keep hand in hand to save the homeland.

For his part, Priest Abidallah al-Shaheed said that "love is god 's word on earth and Syria is the land of love . It is the land of civilization and religions, so we must abide by our principles and by the word of God."

Priest Mahmoud Awabda also reiterated the importance of tolerance in putting an end to the homeland's crisis. He stressed the need to give priority to the role women can play in disseminating and upgrading awareness about adherence to national unity.

 Nahla Maaz