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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

“Americans Have No Idea How Classy Damascus Is”

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | July 2nd, 2008 | Comments 1 Comment »

anna.jpg“Americans have no idea how classy Damascus is,” says Anna Mazhirov, an articulate, poised 20-year-old English major from Duke University. “[They have no idea] how rich Syrian history is, how well-formed Syrian character is, how open the people are. How good the food is! They have no idea how far [the reality] is from what they’ve built up in their minds from the media.”

Born in the Ukraine and raised in the Brooklyn, Anna has eclectic interests that take her from nasally riffing on Marisa Tomei’s “My Cousin Vinny” character to unselfconsciously performing an intricately graceful Arabic dance for the Middle East Fellowship’s Summer Encounter participants.
“Syrians know who they are, where they came from, what their priorities are,” she says. “They have an aesthetic they’re proud of. They’re all so well traveled and educated and they don’t need to look elsewhere to identify themselves.”

In Syria for 2 months, she is acing beginning Arabic and volunteering at the Greek Orthodox Church’s senior home.

“I really, really like Antoinette,” Anna continues. “She’s really old, but she still loves life. That’s a lesson to be learned. Other old folks [now] allow the character flaws that they pulled back when they were healthy. Antoinette still possesses a noble quality about her.”

“Part of the reason I wanted to be with the old folks is I don’t need [to be able to speak] Arabic. There’s more in a silence with an old person.”

[For more information about the Middle East Fellowship’s Damascus Summer Encounter, visit For fun blogs on this year’s Encounter, visit] Anna Mazhirov blogs at
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One Response to ““Americans Have No Idea How Classy Damascus Is””

  1. Pauline Field Says:

    The media is not the only problem. It is the politicians and the radicals who are not satisfied with “live and let live,” who think anyone whose views, beliefs or lifestyles are different are bad and wrong and must be put down or annihilated.

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