Syria slaps fines on satellite dishes

Faced with a sea of satellite dishes on rooftops, Syria is making Damascenes remove personal dishes in hopes of boosting rooftop restaurants and cafes.

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    A rooftop satellite in Old City, Damascus.
    Stephen Starr
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Authorities in Damascus have instructed residents to remove thousands of individual rooftop satellite dishes or get hit with a $250 fine. Damascenes must now pay a $30-per-household fee to install a central satellite for each building. Reactions are mixed.

“I think it’s a good change. We need to clean up our neighborhoods,” said Yazin Fallouah, who lives in the wealthy Kafr Souseh neighborhood. Maher Suwaneh, who sells satellite dishes, feels differently. “Of course my business is down; it has decreased around 50 percent,” he said.

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City officials hope the cleanup will help attract more big-spending foreign tourists to rooftop cafes and restaurants.

Satellite dishes weren’t allowed in Syria until 1996. But before the ban was lifted, people would set out dishes at night under cover of darkness. Western soaps and movies were favorites, at a time when few people even had cars in this country.

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