Here’s a fun idea for Syria: Disneyland. Just because your government has oppressed you for generations and your country is in the midst of a full-scale civil war and your house is on fire right now doesn’t mean you don’t want to have dumb photos taken with Mickey and Goofy before you get soaked on Splash Mountain, right?
Like me, Syrian businessman Tarif al-Akhras thought erecting Cinderella’s Castle in his country was a no-brainer, which is why in July 2010 his company signed an agreement with the French firm LOFTUS to build Disney Syria inside TransMall, a massive shopping center in the city of Homs. They might have been onto something, but we’ll never know, since eight months later anti-Assad protests kicked off in Daraa, and the site that was planned to house the Happiest Place on Earth is now a major battleground in the brutal war.
Very few details about the project can be found online, but I did discover that the estimated cost of establishing Disney Syria was only $22 million, which is teeny-tiny compared with the $400 million it took to construct Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando back in 1971. To me, this means that everything about Disney Syria would theoretically be very hilarious. It would probably look like a living, breathing issue of Adbusters—especially with all of the heavy street fighting going on around and possibly within it!
Since May 2011, rebel forces in Homs have been at war with the Syrian Army, with more than 6,700 casualties reported thus far. In a short time, the city has transformed from a bustling, sunny tourist destination into a smoky desert of rubble. But I don’t see any reason for Disney Syria’s backers to not move forward with their plans. If anything, the country could really use all the positive symbolism and reinforcement it can get—“Dreams really do come true!” etc.
I was so excited about the potential of riding It’s a Small World in the middle of a war zone that I called Disney’s corporate office to ask when we can expect to see some Pixie Dust—and not just Murder Dust—sprinkled over Homs. The American lady I spoke with told me that she wasn’t sure about the time line for the project plans, and suggested that if I was interested in getting a job at the nonexistent Disney Syria I could visit their careers webpage and apply. OK! (Whoops, it doesn’t exist.)
Maybe after all of the fighting is over, Disney should completely demolish their theme parks around the world and leave us with only Disney Syria as a testament to the thousands of children who have already been murdered in the most atrocious ways possible in this complex conflict.
For an overview of the issues that have fueled the conflict in Syria, we recommend reading "Road to Ruin," our condensed timeline of Syrian history, and "The VICE Guide to Syria," a crash course on the country's geopolitical, cultural, and religious complexities.