The trend of ‘wiping’ ElJokh (sucking up)… one of the oldest inventions of the Syrian regime


An elJokh wiper is a person who tries to gain personal influence from ‘sucking up’ to the powerful and rich.


Rita from Syria
26 June 2012

ElJokh is a type of fabric that is common in Syria and many other countries, and is considered to be a luxury fabric, which is why it is used in making suits and is seen in mainstream fashion and worn by officials and wealthy people despite the fact that dust sticks easily to it! No problem with the Jokh as a fabric, or with the suits made with it, no problem between fashion and me in general; the problem began when I was introduced – early on in my life – to the art of wiping ElJokh!!

An elJokh wiper is the person who tries to gain personal influence from sweet-talking and ‘sucking up’ to the powerful and rich. To be more specific, the more common name for this kind of person is a social leech living on the crumbs of officials and ruling officers. These are mostly people whose social circumstances have not allowed them to reach the high positions that they dreamt of. They have found their own way of gaining social and financial power through dirty underground communications channels between normal citizens and officials in a country ruled by patronage and interests rather than law.  

ElJokh wipers act as middle men and are involved in most official exchanges, legal proceedings, and even in trials. In fact you will find their footprint even in the smallest detail of a Syrian’s life – unless a citizen manages to bypass them to reach the decision maker directly. Through them   bribes are paid even for the smallest endeavour like an official or an employee’s missing signature, for example, on the handling of some inheritance. These issues arise because officials seek their own interest and not the member of the public’s, and in many cases the treatment you get depends on the official’s mood.

These people have also benefited from the revolution that started in early 2011 and flooded the prisons with political detainees. The security policy that is pursued withholds information about the detainees, so that some disappear for months and even years on end without a word to their families about their whereabouts, and state of health or even if they are dead or alive. The role of the ElJokh wiper is to trade information about the loved one or sometimes medicine in exchange for a large payoff.

On top of the gross exploitation of the families’ feelings, most of these actions are a sham and only exist to raise a profit. The thing about parents like the mother of one of the political detainees held at the airforce intelligence headquarters in Damascus, is that they will say: “My son has been detained for 129 days and I have spent the first month of his detention without knowing a thing about him. I did not know if he was detained. I thought he was killed until I read his name on the internet with the group he was detained with. Because his detention is administrative and does not conform to any particular rules I would pay with all I own to ensure his safety, make sure he stays alive, and reduce his torture. The life of a political detainee is worthless at the hands of these intelligence branches and they do not care if people die under torture”.   

This class of person forms the infrastructure of the rampantly corrupt system in the Syrian state, where corrupt people on all levels continue to pillage the country and its citizens without being held accountable. The lack of social cohesion in Syrian society and absence of an independent civil society for centuries has created a stasis and total inability to change on the part of the Syrian citizen.

This revolution, on the other hand, has brought back attempts at reconciliation, human dignity, and the refusal of oppression. I think that there is a return of a sense of belonging and the reappearance of a concept of citizenship in the Syrian street. Its developmennt beyond its nationalist sectarian beginnings is the first and most important step in dismantling the corrupt hierarchy, the regime and in fighting the phenomenon of wiping ElJokh to enable a fresh start in building a country for all Syrians.  

It would be difficult to establish a ruling regime clear of corruption after the revolution, especially with this confused state of mind, with the political polarization and lack of stability in Syria, after the Ba’ath regime. What is more important is to establish an accountable regime with strict monitoring backed by the people’s will.  We need to move onto a new level - a level where the politicians run around to ensure that the people are satisfied, and ‘wiping the used fabric’ to make cloth anew for normal citizens.

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