x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Syria's tragic comedy

The Syrian travel warning is a sad sign that even satire has become a weapon for Syria.

The Syrian government is worried about citizens travelling to Turkish cities that have been rocked by recent protests.

Yes, you read that correctly. "For their own safety," Syrians have been warned by their information minister, Omran Zoabi, to avoid travel to Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "repression of peaceful protest" in Istanbul and Ankara in recent days "shows how detached he is from reality," Mr Zoabi said. If Prime Minister Erdogan is unable to pursue non-violent means, then "he should resign".

The death toll in Syria's civil war has topped 80,000, and the number of refugees is now over 1.5 million. Many hundreds of thousands of those have fled to - you guessed it - the relative safety of southern Turkey.

Mr Zoabi's suggestion that bottle-throwing protesters in Istanbul are more dangerous than a regime deliberately shooting its own people is, of course, absurd, perhaps intentionally so. The Syrian "travel warning" was more likely a political statement directed at the Turkish prime minister, who turned against Bashar Al Assad in 2011.

Still, it's a sad sign for Syria that even satire has become a weapon.