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There will be a car park at The Long Road Festival. The nearest train station to The Long Road is Rugby, which is a short shuttle bus journey from the festival site. Anyone aged 15 or under must be accompanied by a paying adult aged 20 or over.

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The Long Road (Dragon Age II)

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Three days of country, Americana and roots music. Headliners Kip Moore. The Assad clan, which has ruled since , are Alawites, an esoteric branch of Shiism that dominates Syria's coastal mountains as well as the armed forces. Poor Alawites also make up much of the rank and file of more shadowy government militias, such as the plainclothes thugs known as the shabiha.

Vicious government tactics have served to implicate the Alawites as a whole, raising fears of retribution should the regime fall. Other minority sects, including half a dozen Christian groups as well as Shias and Druze, are less privileged by or attached to the state. Yet they have benefited from the regime's secularist doctrine, which has maintained a degree of religious freedom unique in the region.

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

Although Syria's opposition leadership is cross-sectarian, on the streets it is the country's Sunni Arab majority that has suffered the brunt of the oppression. It is no accident that the areas which have fallen under rebel control are almost entirely Sunni. In line with much of the region, Syria's Sunnis have grown religiously conservative in recent decades, and increasingly influenced by the harsh anti-Shia rhetoric propounded by Saudi Arabia. As in Iraq, the Sunnis' predicament has pushed many into outright radicalism.

Many of the rebel army's local brigades carry names associated with Sunni triumphalism. Mosque sermons in rebel areas habitually describe government forces as satanic hordes. Such talk, seemingly reflecting a Sunni rage that has long simmered under the surface, frightens other Syrians—and with good reason. Alawites recall that what prompted the atrocity in Hama was a far smaller massacre of Alawite army cadets, carried out by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Fear of empowered Sunni radicals has pushed many Christians, who are keenly aware of the decimation of neighbouring Iraq's equally large and ancient Christian community, grudgingly to accept the government's characterisation of the rebels as terrorists. For reasons of class, many Sunnis, particularly among the privileged business elite that has profited under the Assads, also fear the revolutionaries. Middle-class Syrians, too, are often warier of growing economic hardship than of oppressive rule.

The fissures within Syrian society have stymied efforts to organise opposition to the regime. When Mr Assad succeeded his father 12 years ago, a flush of optimism emboldened intellectuals to demand democratic reforms in a movement known as the Damascus spring. Most were eventually jailed or exiled and have lost credibility.


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Neither do they have much influence in Syria, where local committees organise resistance. The two main opposition groupings have bickered over strategy, as the NCB at first counselled dialogue with the state and the SNC backed foreign intervention. In fact, neither course has proved fruitful.

Even the head of the Free Syrian Army has complained that the exiled opposition groups are dominated by plotters and traitors. All this has comforted Mr Assad, who appears to reckon that he is not as isolated as some think. True, 19 of the Arab League's 22 member states now shun him, along with the West and even countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa. And Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group that was long backed by Syria, has abandoned its Damascus headquarters.

But two crucial neighbours, Iraq and Lebanon, are politically dominated by Shia parties with no love for Mr Assad's foes. Hizbullah, the powerful Lebanese Shia party-cum-militia, is a staunch friend. Strong rumours suggest that Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has quietly funnelled money to his beleaguered neighbour. And Iran, the Shia superpower and a longstanding ally, views Mr Assad's regime as its most important strategic buffer.

Two of Syria's other neighbours, meanwhile, may have little interest in seeing radical change. Israel would dearly love to break the axis linking Iran to Hizbullah. Yet despite Syria's rhetoric about liberating the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in , the Syrian border has in fact been Israel's quietest for the past 40 years. Fearing that Syria's stockpile of missiles and chemical weapons could fall into less restrained hands, Israel may also calculate that maintaining a feeble, delegitimised Assad regime is in its interest.

Despite his own family's history of tense relations with Syria, Jordan's King Abdullah, too, may prefer the devil he knows to the possibility of an Islamist republic next door, though he has publicly called for Mr Assad's ouster. As for Russia, Mr Assad seems to believe that much as in his father's time, when Syria was a Soviet client state, the Kremlin will be willing to pay a high diplomatic price to prop him up. Syria has certainly been an avid customer for Russian arms—though whether it will have money to spend in future is another matter.

HIGHLIGHTS

It has encouraged Russia to revamp a naval station at Tartus that represents Russia's only military base outside the old Soviet Union. Yet on all these scores, Mr Assad could be overplaying his hand. Russia is driven less by nostalgic delusions than by cold calculation. Perhaps it believes that, as in Chechnya, a scorched-earth policy can fix a deathly peace. Like Israel, it would prefer to see its southern flank bordered by weak and polarised states, rather than an emerging Sunni Islamist bloc dominated by an increasingly powerful Turkey.

Russia may also be happy to cock a snook at Western powers it regards as hypocritically manipulative of public opinion, particularly in advance of next month's presidential election.

The Long Road to the Fast Track: Career and Family

But only if the price is right. That price could soon rise, dramatically. Most independent observers in Damascus believe that indeed, in the short term, the Syrian regime's savage offensive may succeed in containing most forms of armed resistance. But if Deraa is any indication, Mr Assad has little chance of long-term survival. As in a vampire film, citizens go through the motions of daily life, fearful of contact with officials. In the eyes of most, the government is totally discredited, at best an evil to be suffered.

The Long Road Exhibit: Reception & Talk

The cold fury that clearly burns in many homes, linked now in many hearts to religious fervour, may flare at any time. Even with the army's offensive at its peak, flash protests are frequently breaking out across Syria, including in the security-infested heart of Damascus. Over a recent weekend, protesters staged some separate demonstrations. Israel's military-intelligence chief reported in a recent public briefing that only a third of conscripts answered the latest call-up for Syria's compulsory military service.

pershoulumblo.tk He also cited intelligence of cracks in Syria's command structure, with officers speaking of the need to replace Mr Assad and his clan. This may be disinformation, designed to dismay Israel's enemy, Iran. But in economic terms Syria is pitching into a deepening crisis. Since then they are thought to have fallen by as much as two-thirds. Power cuts and fuel shortages are common, and many of the country's factories have closed. The tourist industry is all but dead.

Syria's modest oil exports, the staple of government revenue, have virtually dried up. Many Syrians are convinced that, eventually, Mr Assad will go. What worries them is how. Few expect the opposition to seize Russia's bait and engage in talks with the regime. Nor do they see Mr Assad retiring willingly. On the other hand, few expect much help from the outside world either. Those who can are leaving the country.