Dylan Connor's Song 'Blood Like Fire' Evokes Syrian Civil War's Dark Heart
Dylan Connor (center) with his family (l-r), in-laws Ragheda and Taha al-Hariri, his wife Reem holding Jude, 7 months, and Fayrouz, 5.
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In 2007, years before the wave of protests, riots and civil wars known as the Arab Spring would sweep through the Middle East, Dylan Connor had a premonition. Fragmented images of bombs falling from the sky, men being beaten in the streets, ashes scattered over the ground, the feeling of drowning . . . .
Newly married, Dylan had just returned from his first trip to Damascus with his wife, Reem, a Syrian studying at the University of Bridgeport whom he met singing karaoke at a bar one night. It’s a trip the 38-year-old Westport native remembers fondly—meeting his extended family for the first time, taking in the sights of one of the world’s most ancient cities, performing music at local clubs. He and Reem planned to visit every other summer once their daughter, Fayrouz, was born. But hidden somewhere beneath the surface of a bustling metropolis, a fervor was boiling, the first hints of revolution Dylan believes he was able to tap into with his songwriting.
“I wrote this tune called ‘Blood Like Fire,’ and it was very dark,” recalls Dylan, poking at a few smoldering logs in the fireplace of his Stratford home, while Reem and her mother are busy preparing dinner. “Very dark. And it really had no light at the end of the tunnel. The song ends by saying, ‘I once was lost, but now I’m drowned.’ I thought, ‘Hey, this is a great song,’ but I didn’t know why I wrote it, or why it was so dark.”
After a moment, he adds, “It was definitely from the realm of dreams.”
Fast-forward to the early months of 2011 and the Arab world has erupted into a fury of pro-democracy demonstrations, some peaceful, others turning shockingly violent. Thousands of men and women in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Jordan and Iraq have taken to the streets demanding change from their governments. Dictators are being ousted from seats of power they’ve held for decades.
Watching the events unfold on TV, Dylan and Reem—along with much of the world—didn’t believe the protests would ever reach Syria. The Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad was too brutal, too merciless, to test. In 1982, Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, massacred some 20,000 people in the town of Hama in order to stamp out an uprising led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
“They were saying, ‘There’s no way it will hit Syria. No one in Syria is willing to go up against that regime, because they know it will be so violent,’” says Dylan. “We were all excited by Egypt and Tunisia, but [people] maintained until the day it happened that it would never happen in Syria . . . But it did. And it was pretty scary.”