Remembering When Syria’s President Saw the Irony in Richard III 

Dispatches from the front.
June 5 2014 2:45 PM

Watching Richard III With Bashar al-Assad

Not long ago, the Syrian dictator was a darling of the West.

bb poster

Last year Brooklyn Brewery launched an interview series at their brewhouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in conjunction with RISC, a nonprofit that offers instruction on life-saving skills for freelance war journalists. The conversations were an instant hit.

For its second season, Slate partnered with the brewery to film the series. Each month we’ll release our favorite excerpts from the conversations. In the first installment, Steve Hindy, founder of Brooklyn Brewery and a former Associated Press foreign correspondent himself, sits down with Deborah Amos, NPR's Middle East correspondent and the author of Eclipse of the Sunnis. Check back in the next several days for more of the talk.  

Before Bashar al-Assad became defined by barrel bombs and starvation tactics—before the ruthless Syrian civil war and its unthinkable atrocities—there was a time, brief as it may have been, when he embodied a new hope for Syria, the Syrian people, and the Middle East at large. He was a charming, Western-educated doctor, an Alawite who crossed the sectarian line and married a Sunni, a fan of Shakespeare who at times was willing to work back channels in negotiations with Israel. He was, in the words of Deborah Amos, the "embodiment of everything Syria wanted to be.”

Advertisement

In the clip above, Amos reflects on the man behind the international pariah, recounting a trip to the Damascus Opera House with the Syrian president to watch a performance of Richard III—a performance where he knowingly slapped his knee in laughter when Baldrick wins an election with 99 percent of the vote.

Ayana Morali is the executive producer of Slate Video.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The Simpsons World App Is Here, and Nearly Perfect

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Education
Oct. 22 2014 4:45 PM Welcome to 13th Grade! Several Oregon high schools are offering a fifth year of high school. Every district should consider it.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.