LONDON (Reuters) - While the world mourned the death of Apple founder Steve Jobs in California, many Syrians were quick to claim the computer genius as one of their own on Thursday through a little-known connection to his biological father.
Jobs, who died of cancer at the age of 56 on Wednesday, was given up for adoption soon after his birth in San Francisco to an American mother, Joanne Carole Schieble, and a Syrian-born father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali.
Jandali, 80, a former academic, has told how Schieble’s “tyrant” father refused to allow his daughter to marry a Syrian and so the baby was adopted by a married couple from California, Paul and Clara Jobs.
Only in recent years did Jandali, born in the Syrian city of Homs and latterly an executive of the Boomtown Casino in Reno, Nevada, realize that the Apple chief was his son.
“Without telling me, Joanne upped and left to move to San Francisco to have the baby without anyone knowing, including me,” Jandali told the New York Post in an interview in August. “She did not want to bring shame onto the family and thought this was best for everyone.”
With Jandali out of the picture at the outset, many Syrians were unaware of the connection between Apple and their homeland until recently. But they were quick to embrace Jobs when news broke of his death.
Users of the social networking site Twitter were also quick to draw parallels with Syria’s uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, which has cost more than 2,900 lives, by a U.N. count.
“The wrong Syrian died today,” said one Twitter user, echoing sentiments of the Syrian leader’s bitter opponents.
“A sick world we live in when Steve Jobs has to die of cancer and Bashar al-Assad remains Syria’s cancer,” another opposition supporter said on the website.
Others hailed Jobs, whose Syrian links have been little mentioned until now, as “a great Arab American” and “the most famous Arab in the world.”
In Syria, some people, who all declined to give their full names, said Jobs would have been unlikely to have had such a stellar career if he had lived in the land of his father’s birth, where the Assad family has ruled for 41 years.
“I felt sad, not because he is of Syrian origin but because we will miss the inventor and his inventions,” said Rana, a 21-year-old student. “But I think that if he had stayed in Syria, he would not have invented anything.”
“This is sad and we will miss a lot of his achievements, but the company will continue,” said Ali, a website designer. “If he had lived and died in Syria, he would not have accomplished anything.”
A 28-year-old Damascus resident, who gave his name as Ahmed, said he was happy to learn that Jobs had Syrian antecedents, although he was unable to afford any of Apple’s products.
“I think that if he had lived in Syria he would not have been able to achieve any of this, or else he would have chosen to leave Syria,” Ahmed said.
Other Syrians regretted that Jobs had no roots of his own in his father’s homeland.
“The sad thing is that he had lived and died abroad, and humanity lost him,” said Maneh, a 27-year-old bank employee, who posted an image of the Apple founder on his Facebook page.
Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut; Editing by Alistair Lyon