It came as a shock to many Syrians that people in the capital Damascus would spend an estimated 18 million Syrian pounds (about 165,000 US dollars) to throw a lavish party inspired by the Turkish soap opera “Harem Al Sultan” (Muhteşem Yüzyıl/The Sultan's Harem) as people in the war-torn country are being killed and starved on a daily basis.
But one group of wealthy families did just that in November 2013. Photographs of the participants’ dresses, decorations and drinks were widely shared on social networks at the time. Just a few kilometres away from the party, Syrian children in Yarmuk refugee camp were dying of hunger.
Several websites and news portals in Arabic reported on the fancy dress soiree, such as thawrtalsoryienalahrar, Syria-news, Aksalser, Al-marsd and All4Syria [all ar]. AlSulta AlRabeaa (the Fourth Authority) published photographs of the smiling party-goers on Facebook.
Syrian artist Jalal Altawil explained the details of the party on his Facebook page:
آل الدباس في مدينة دمشق تقيم حفلاً تطلق عليه اسم “حريم السلطان” تدعو إليه العائلات الدمشقية العريقة , وتبدو في الصورة شذا المعلم بنت وزير الخارجية السوري , وعائلة الشيخ غزال وآل الحفار , الحفل أُقيم في منتجع يعفور وتكلفته الاجمالية مع تكلفة الالبسة التي تم تصميمها على ايدي ايلي صعب وزهير مراد وتم نقلها من اوروبا الى دمشق بلغت حوالي 18 مليون ليرة سورية. دمشق. يعفور .
The Dabbas family in the city of Damascus held a ceremony under the theme “Hareem Al Sultan” for famous Damascus families. In this photograph, you can see Shaza Muallem, the daughter of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, and the family of Sheikh Ghazal and Hafar family. The ceremony was held in the resort of Yafour – Damascus suburb, and the total price – including the cost of clothes designed by Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad brought over from Europe to Damascus – amounted to about 18 million Syrian pounds.
The Syrian Observer wrote that “the entertainment ceremony was described by activists as the ‘Harem of Power’, saying that it doesn't represent original Damascene families.” It followed with comments from some of the party-goers:
Rouaa Daoudi, who attended the ceremony, replied saying that she did not understand what was wrong with the party and why the others are upset. She expressed in her own impolite manner that she had beared with the revolution for two years and were now bored. [all sic] She said she wants to “celebrate with the other girls” and in doing so, she asked: What is the mistake? She mocked those who objected, saying she believed their objection was because they were not invited.
Rouaa Daoudi took the same position.
“Yes, we are in Damascus and we want to celebrate as if there is no war, you have no right to blame us, may your anger kill you,” she said.
Diana Moukalled, who is a Lebanese TV journalist, documentary producer, columnist and women's advocate, expressed her shock at the situation:
Syrians are starving while regime's women are carousing. An expensive ceremony in Damascus under the theme “Hareem Al Sultan”, including the daughter of Walid Muallem.
Nothing further to write, a picture is worth a thousand words. I'll leave you with some of these fantasy photos from the country of war and let you judge for yourself.