BBC NEWS JAN 18TH, 2010......Women in Syria enjoy a measure of freedom unlike women in many other Arab countries. Damascus is getting trendier these day. As Syria opens up, western-style cafes and restaurants are mushrooming. Men and women gather together, sipping coffee and smoking and in the evenings, bars are filled with liberal-minded Damascenes gathering over a bottle of wine or Arak, the local aniseed-flavoured spirit. Nights out may start with a lively debate about politics and end up on the dance floor.
Damascus is one liberal bubble in Syria, but even here women feel the traditional barriers around them. Almost every woman, once she steps out of her house, exposes herself to some degree of harassment. Whether covered or uncovered, women here are used to hearing foul language and sexual suggestions from frustrated teenagers, sometimes even from older men. Wandering hands....They are also used to seeing men look hungrily at them as they walk by in the street. Sometimes the men brush against them, touching parts of their body. This is strictly forbidden of course, but these incidents are rarely reported.
Syria's a changing. "When I went there a year ago, I was shocked when I stumbled accross hardcore porn DVDs being sold openly in a shop in the downtown flea market. It is all open - more open than here in Australia". Not what I expected to see in an Arab country.
November 2008... a slew of new strip clubs have also opened in Damascus where mostly Iraqi women perform: a phenomenon that aid workers sometimes refer to as the “survival” sex industry.
Washington Post May 29, 2007... For anyone living in Damascus these days, the fact that some Iraqi refugees are selling sex or working in sex clubs is difficult to ignore. Even in central Damascus, men freely talk of being approached by pimps trawling for customers outside juice shops and shawarma sandwich stalls, and of women walking up to passing men, an act unthinkable in Arab culture, and asking in Iraqi-accented Arabic if the men would like to "have a cup of tea."
Most of the semi-organized prostitution takes place on the outskirts of the capital, in nightclubs known as casinos a local euphemism (for strip clubs), because no gambling occurs. At Al Rawabi, an expensive nightclub in Al Hami, there is even a floor show with an Iraqi theme. A 10-piece band warmed up, and an M.C. gave the traditionally overwrought introduction in Arabic: "I give you the honey of all stages, the stealer of all hearts, the most golden throat, the glamorous artist: Maria!"
Maria, a buxom young woman, climbed onto the stage and began an anguished-sounding ballad. "After Iraq I have no homeland," she sang. "I'm ready to go crawling on my knees back to Iraq." Four other women, all wearing variations on leopard print, gyrated on stage, swinging their hair in wild circles. The stage lights had been fitted with colored gel filters that lent the women's skin a greenish cast. After the dancers filed offstage and scattered around the room to talk to customers, Sahar told a visitor she was from the Dora district of Baghdad but had left "because of the troubles." Now, she said she would leave the club with him for $200. Aid workers say $50 to $70 is considered a good night's wage for an Iraqi prostitute working in Damascus. And some of the Iraqi dancers (strippers) in the crowded casinos of Damascus suburbs earn much less.
Zafer, who spoke on condition that only his first name be used, refused to discuss specific women and girls at the club, but said that most of them did sell sexual favors. "They have an hourly rate," he said. "And they have regular customers." Inexpensive Iraqi prostitutes have helped to make Syria a popular destination for sex tourists from wealthier countries in the Middle East. In the club's parking lot, nearly half of the cars had Saudi license plates. From Damascus it is only about six hours by car, passing through Jordan, to the Saudi border. Syria, where it is relatively easy to buy alcohol and dance with women, is popular as a low-cost weekend destination for groups of Saudi men.
And though some women of other nationalities, including Russians and Moroccans, still work as prostitutes in Damascus, Abeer, a 23-year-old from Baghdad working at the same club as Hiba, explained that the arriving Iraqis had pushed many of them out of business. "From what I've seen, 70 percent to 80 percent of the girls working this business in Damascus today are Iraqis," she said. "The rents here in Syria are too expensive for their families. If they go back to Iraq they'll be slaughtered, and this is the only work available."
Jan 15th, 2010....Osama bin Laden's son Omar believes the al Qaeda leader has achieved his aim of humbling the United States but warns his death could unleash "very, very nasty" attacks by militants. In a rambling interview with Rolling Stone magazine conducted in part in a Damascus strip club, Les Caves de Boys, Omar bin Laden (and his wife Zaina her photo above) said that US President Barack Obama was making a mistake by scaling up the troop presence in Afghanistan.
"It is like adding water to sand, as we say in the Arab world -- it only makes the sand heavier," Rolling Stone quoted bin Laden as saying in the interview. "If I was in his position, the first thing I would do is make a truce. Then for six months or one year, no fighting, no soldiers. Afghanistan can never be won. It has nothing to do with my father. It is the Afghan people." He left his father in Afghanistan in 2001, several months before the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Bin Laden said his father was overjoyed when US voters elected George W. Bush in 2000, predicting that he was just the kind of president the United States needed -- "one who will attack and spend money and break the country". Despite the huge amount of money and effort spent hunting for bin Laden, believed by many intelligence analysts to be hiding in tribal areas on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Omar bin Laden said he believed the United States was actually lucky that his father had not been killed.
STRIP CLUBS IN DAMASCUS SYRIA ; Meetings held by terror leader of the PIJ, Ramadan Abdullah Shallah (his photo above). The PIJ has a strong following in Gaza (some of the Tampa used car dealers are from Gaza) and the PIJ has it's "home office" in Damascus Syria with it's ex Tampa Fl and one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah. Shallah was one of the founding members of the PIJ in the late 1970's, he was an operative for the PIJ when he lived in Tampa up to the Spring of 1995. In Tampa Fl the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has a base of operations receiving counterfeit DVD's, CD's and Microsoft Vista programs which they sell in a variety of grocery stores and music stores across the greater Tampa area.
Bill Warner Director of CSPI..Covert Surveillance by Private Investigators at WBI Inc.