Syrians turn to astrology for signs of hope

January 19, 2013 - 3:49:01 am

BEIRUT: Tired of failed forecasts about their country’s bitter conflict that has left more than 60,000 people dead, some Syrians have turned to fortune tellers and astrology to try to predict what lies ahead.

Nearly two years into the fighting, many have lost faith in political analysts and claims by parties on both sides of the conflict, who frequently promise that victory is near.

A group of well-off Syrians gathered in a Beirut restaurant found solace in what famed Lebanese medium Maguy Farah told them in a private seance.

“What will our country’s future be?” asked one businessman, who longed for the fall of President Bashar Al Assad.

“Assad will leave in March,” Farah told the group.

“Many merchants have abandoned their businesses, and their horizons are empty,” a Syrian businesswoman guest of Farah who identified herself as Mona said.

“When a fortune teller gives them a reading about Syria’s future, they feel they can work again.”

After decades of stability, Syria’s war has ravaged much of the country, struck the economy hard and turned everyday life into a struggle for survival riddled with uncertainty.

“Syrians do not like living in uncertainty,” said Mona.

Just as the country’s crisis has divided much of Syrian society into pro- and anti-regime camps, astrologers’ contrasting predictions reflect the split.

In Syria’s neighbour Lebanon, which was dominated politically and militarily for nearly 30 years by Damascus, television astrologer Michel Hayek predicted the fall of Assad in his latest annual reading on anti-Assad on channel MTV.

Hayek, the country’s most famous astrologer, wrongly forecast the toppling of the regime in 2012. This year, he said that women and members of Assad’s minority Alawite sect will play an important role in Syria’s future political life.

Mike Feghali, who works for pro-Damascus Lebanese broadcaster OTV, disagreed with Hayek. Assad, he predicted, “will remain strong. He will not fall.”

Feghali’s popularity soared when history proved him right after he predicted former prime minister Rafiq Hariri’s 2005 assassination.

In 2013, Feghali said, much of Syria will be “mostly calm.” But violence in the central city of Homs, dubbed “the capital of the revolution,” will continue, he added.

“A drowning man will clutch at a straw,” said a journalist from Damascus, who said she has developed an “obsession” with astrology.

“In this crisis, it is unsurprising that books about esoteric subjects have become more popular,” she added, speaking on condition of anonymity. In early 2012, an astrologer said “black smoke will rise from the presidential palace, followed by white smoke, symbolising good news — the fall of the regime,” said the journalist.