Carter v.s Forward Magazine: 1st Syrian media outlet to conduct an interview with a U.S President

Forward Magazine is the first Syrian media outlet to ever carry out an interview with an American president. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is the first American leader to speak to Syrian media – he spoke to Forward last month and broke many important news, including:

  • The appointment of a US ambassador to Syria is expected soon.

Jimmy Carter speaks to Syrian media outlet, Forwrad Magazine (1)

The 1st American president to give an interview to a Syrian media outlet…

Carter to Syria’s Forward Magazine: I’m carrying Assad’s good greetings to Obama

DAMASCUS (January, 2009) – Former American President Jimmy Carter said that Syria and the United States can expect there are “better times ahead” for their bilateral relations. In the first-ever interview for an American president with a Syrian media outlet, Carter told Forward Magazine, Syria’s first independent English monthly, Carter implied that the near future will see the return of the US ambassador to Damascus, filling a post that has been vacant since relations plummeted in 2005. Such a move will coincide with re-opening of the American school in Damascus, Carter said, in addition to reopening the American Language Center – both of which were closed by the Syrian government after US warplanes raided the Syrian town of Abu Kamal last October killing 8 civilians.

Speaking to Sami Moubayed, Forward’s editor in chief and Syria’s top political commentator, Carter confirmed that he “will be carrying some good greetings to the leaders of the new administration, through my meeting with President Assad.” During his visit to Syria, the fifth since 1983, Carter met with President Bashar al-Assad, whom he described as “popular among his people.” They discussed Syrian-American relations, in addition to regional developments in the Middle East, including the peace talks between Syria and Israel. Speaking of the involvement of the upcoming administration in Washington, Carter asserted that Obama cannot “put enough pressure on either Syria or Israel to yield on their basic principles.” He added, “My hope and my belief are that there are enough compatibilities between the two parties to reach a final agreement.”

The full text of this exclusive interview appears in the January 2009 issue of Forward Magazine (Syria).

Profile of a young photographer from Syria: Mais Shourbaji

Mais Shourbaji, Forward MagazineMais Shourbaji photography

Mais Shourbaji photographyMais Shourbaji photography

It doesn’t take one a long time to realize the young woman, holding her camera and getting busy searching for good angles, is a talented one. Born in 1983, Mais Shourbaji is one of Syria’s self-taught photographers; ready to snap a picture with great ingenuity and passion as long as she is in love with the experience.

Her regular office working hours – as executive assistant in a multi-national company – take up most of her day, but after 5pm every evening she is ready to change into casual dress and join her friends at concerts, Jazz festivals and the theatre. That’s where she fulfills her heart’s passion and spends many evenings taking snapshots of Syria’s buzzing cultural life.

Mais is popular, very active and has a lot to say about women in her country. She advocates freedom and adventure, two aspects that define her photography. Recently, she has taken part in a documentary to be released in the near future about the changing face of the Syrian society, the contradictions young women of today are facing, and the ambitions someone like Mais has.

Photo Passion

mais shourbaji

I met Mais last year, on one of
Music Matbakh‘s stops in the region. She was the photographer assigned to take photos of us while we performed at Qasr el Azem. I had the pleasure of meeting Mais again when I relocated into Damascus and joined Forward Magazine as its associate editor-in-chief.

The young woman with a lot of zest believes “success is to love what you do, to persist and never give up no matter what obstacles you face, and to keep on developing your skills in order to excel.”

That’s indeed an indication of a very driven person. But where did Mais get her inspirations from?

“My father is one of the most influential people in my life; he’s an artist, a cultivated and quiet man. He’s my friend… he hears me out and supports me in everything I do, at the same time he is a harsh critic who wants to see me stand out. My dad has a great role in shaping my personality; he helped me liberate myself from one-track mindedness and taught me to look at life from different angles with open mindedness.”

Mais photos on Flickr can be found here.

Writer: Ruba Saqr (associate editor-in-chief, Forward Magazine. Damascus, Syria)

Syrian bloggers form book club/blog

Syrian blogger Razan Ghazzawi – whose personal blog goes with the title “Razanisms” – made it possible for us to learn about a new blog on wordpress, an interesting online book club bringing together bloggers from around the country to discuss impressions about a certain set of books – recommended by the blog’s authors.

All of us read

Syrian bloggers initiative titled: "All of us read."

The blog is in Arabic and holds the URL of:

If you read Arabic, we recommend you take a look and participate.

Writer: Ruba Saqr (FW: Magazine, Associate editor-in-chief, Syria).