Crowds have chanted it at rallies throughout the country these past few weeks, and thousands more have listened to it and shared it online. "Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar" (It's time to leave, Bashar), seems to be the standout song of the Syrian uprising so far. With simple, catchy, sometimes profane lyrics, the song tells the Syrian leader to "screw" himself. "Freedom is near."
The story of the song's author -- Ibrahim Kashoush -- took a sad turn with news that he may have been killed in a protest last Friday in Hama. Reporting out of Syria is hard to verify these days, but one Lebanese news site said his body was reportedly dumped in a nearby river Wednesday morning.
"The song has rallied people," said U.S.-based Syrian activist Ammar Abdulhamid. "It hit a nerve because it's clearly and simply designed to tell Assad to leave. It's very straightforward. And it uses some profane language."
Abdulhamid said there have been other protest songs before this one, but "Yalla Erhal Ya Bashar" stands out as the best.
Listen for yourself.
Kashoush was a little-known local singer in Hama before the revolution, according to Abdulhamid.
"When he did this song, he became sort of a hero," he said.
Abdulhamid -- who believes the songwriter is in fact dead based on conversations with sources in Hama -- said his murder adds a layer of poignancy.
For example, there's this haunting lyric near the end: "To die but not be humiliated."
Wow, watch this less-than-four-minute video and you get the flavor of the Middle East and the “Arab Spring” in every respect. It’s an amazing story.
First, there are the masses of people in the Hama square, as far as I can see they are all male and all dressed in Western clothes, the latter point contrasting with the more pious Egyptian counterpart. They are jammed together, they are happy, celebrating, and fearless in their opposition to a terrible dictatorship. It is truly inspiring. If Obama made a thrill go up the leg of a well-known MSNBC host, this video made my spirit soar.
Remember, this is Hama, the city where the regime murdered between 10,000 and 20,000 people in 1982, levelling large whole neighborhoods, because of a very small-scale Muslim Brotherhood insurgency. Without taking anything away from the real sufferings of Egypt’s people, Syria is a real police state on a level with Stalinist Russia and Saddam’s Iraq; Mubarak was a sweetie in comparison to the Asad regime in Syria.
To go into Tahrir Square in Cairo was to take some risk; to go into Hama’s square like this you better write your will beforehand. In fact, the author of this song, a local singer, was already killed by the regime before this recording was made.
Yet how can you have a revolution–or anything in the Middle East–without blaming the United States? The words call dictator Bashar al-Asad and his colleagues American agents. Get it? In Egypt, the Obama Administration backed the revolution and the result is massive anti-Americanism.
In Syria, the Obama Administration (let’s face it, despite the minor squeaks of dismay from the White House) backs the dictatorship and the result is massive anti-Americanism. And for balance, the United States also gets no street credit for the policy of President George W. Bush for the toughest anti-regime policy in history.
So these are the paradoxes of the region: anti-Americanism if you do; anti-Americanism if you don’t. An inspiring massive upwelling of popular demands for freedom but with the Muslim Brotherhood and all type of extremists waiting to seize power. The hope for real democracy and the shadow of just another repressive dictatorship.
Still, watch this video for one of the more glorious moments in the modern history of the Arab peoples. (Note the “s” in people, contrary to Arab nationalist ideology.
PS: Since this is a “family blog” don’t post on the talkbacks the translation of the obscene line that the translators left out!