Archive for the ‘For Discussion’ Category

A Response to a Syrian Regime Loyalist

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Image by: الشعب السوري عارف طريقه on Facebook

Often I find myself debating with Syrians who are pro the regime on Facebook, twitter, and Google Plus. Below is my response to comments by a fellow Syrian who supports the regime  on a public G+ post. Feel free to click through to the post to see all the comments. Below are his(her?) comments and my response. They said:

 It is very shallow to paint the situation as angels versus demons in Syria. Both factions have criminals among their ranks. But as a supporter of the regime I can’t overlook the fact that a significant portion of the opposition is based on a sectarian ideology and bonds upon the hatred of the other rather than through any civil dogma.

it is a stand against chaos and lawlessness. It is supporting the idea of the state not the imprisonment of your friends. Though the experiences of your friends might have been tragic, which I am awfully sorry for, but still the tragedies that the community as a whole will face in case Syria slips into chaos is much more greater than any personal suffering.

My response: I’m interested in seeing where you got your stats when you said “significant portion of the opposition is based on a sectarian ideology and bonds upon the hatred of the other rather than through any civil dogma.” Please don’t try to pass your opinions as fact. The regime is trying desperately to paint the protesters in a bad light. Heck, if we want to talk about percentages, I can easily prove to you that a larger portion of regime loyalists have committed far more atrocities, crimes, and human rights abuses that any abuses committed by the protesters are a mere fraction of that.

Also, care to explain why the regime is targeting peaceful activists if the claim is that the regime is fighting armed gangs? Why did +Anas Maarawi spend two months in jail? Why did Ghayath Matar, the renowned peaceful activist, get arrested by security forces, tortured and brutally murdered? Why was Ali Ferzat assaulted? Why did the parents of the Internationally renowned musician Jandali get viciously beaten up because he composed a song calling for freedom? Why is Syrian media publishing statements by groups promoting violence against Syrian protesters AND their parents? Why am I (and my parents) along with countless others, such as Hakam AlBaba being threatened by the dirt-bag Ammar Ismail from Damascus News Network who’s heavily supported by the regime and is constantly appearing on Syrian TV channels? Why were peaceful artists and intellectuals arrested for days and threatened and almost assaulted when the court finally freed them? Why are pro-Assad thugs assaulting people in Europe and even Washington DC?

I can keep going for days. In brief, the current regime is the antithesis of the “idea of state” that you claim to support. The Assad regime is a ruthless clan clinging tooth and nail to power at any cost.

What kind of state keeps hundreds of thousands of its people stateless and without any rights for decades? Why all the repression of the Kurds?

Syria has been in masked chaos since the sixties. “Stability” enforced by human rights abuses and fear is not something to be proud of or defend. The Assad regime is a sectarian regime if I’ve ever seen one. They claim to be secular but they do everything in their powers to scare the minorities from what would happen if the regime falls.

If your idea of state is North Korea, then congratulations, the Assad regime is bringing us ever so closer to it.


Fragment: The Audacity of.. Reform

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Note: the article below is an incomplete fragment. It was written on April 16th; the day President Assad gave his second speech. I was interrupted before finishing it and it has remained a draft ever since. It lacks links, sources, fact/grammar checking. I publish it as is. Please do NOT quote elsewhere.

au·dac·i·ty/ôˈdasitē/Noun

1. The willingness to take bold risks: “her audacity came in handy during our most recent emergency”.
2. Rude or disrespectful behavior; impudence: “she had the audacity to pick up the receiver and ask me to hang up”.

I watched Al Assad’s second speech today, to the newly formed cabinet. The main change: he did not laugh. It’s hard to laugh when people are tearing your pictures apart and destroying statues of your late father and setting them on fire.

He opened by talking of conspiracy theories and infiltrators. Not too promising. There was definitely a change of tone from the previous speech and not interruptions with poetry or parroting chants like what happened at the parliament. However, removing status law is still going to take another couple of weeks. I expect it to be announced on a Thursday.

Algeria(?) lifted their emergency laws promptly after some protests. But in Syria we still need sometime. Time we can’t afford. We have a constitution, be it faulty as it is, so why does it need weeks just to be reinstated?

Giving hundreds of thousands of Kurds citizenship, and even the thought of  establishing a Parliamentary committee to study removing the emergency law were red lines. It was unthinkable that anyone would dare discuss them openly in the public sphere.

It took a few weeks of protests by– if you were to believe the Syrian official line– “infiltrators;” “conspirators;” “agents of Bandar, Hariri, Israel, and the US,” and trained foreign nationals to push the regime to announce that they’re going to give Syrians some of their basic rights back.

Assad talked audaciously for an hour about reform. I’ll leave it to you dear reader to choose which meaning of the word applies here. Meanwhile thousands of people are rotting in jails for committing though crimes against the “beloved leader”  and motherland. Convicted felons, thieves, frauds, and the average thug are released in hours with a .frequent presidential pardon. Bigmouths aren’t so lucky.

Adding insult to injury, Assad talked about ensuring citizens’ dignity, on day after his security forces tied down every man in Al Baida village in Baniyas for daring to protest. Heavily armed thugs gleefully walked all over the men tied down like cattle, frequently kicking them in the head and face and beating them with sticks.

Of course, the speech did not leave out political reform. Assad talked about improving life standards, supporting the drought impoverished  Eastern provinces, improving transparency in the public sector and economic processes as a whole. There was no mention of the economic titans–or Economic Bulldozers as they prefer– of Assad’s close circle, Makhlouf and Shalash, who have been treating the Syrian Economy as their personal trust fund for decades. A promising start indeed.

After the speech, some of my fellow Syrians were optimistic, hopeful, excited even with all the seemingly serious promises and apparent change in tone. I wonder how those promises are in anyway more serious than similar promises from Assad in 2000, or his promises two weeks ago that had a fair share of blood chilling jokes and chuckles as blood of Syrians were coloring the streets red.

For the time being, I’m going to hold on to my skepticism and cynicism. Studies show that cynics are more bitter than the average person, but also have a firmer grasp of reality. To my fellow Syrians that took the redpill and set themselves free I say: I’m forever humbled by your bravery and persistence. I’m honored to be your compatriot and had the pleasure of knowing some of you whether in person or online.

 


World Day Against Cyber Censorship

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Today, March 12, is the World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Thus, it’s a perfect timing to finally pen down some of the ideas on the topic that I’ve intended to write for so long. Threatened Voices is a Global Voices Advocacy “collaborative mapping project to build a database of bloggers who have been threatened, arrested or killed for speaking out online and to draw attention to the campaigns to free them.”

As you can see from the map, Arabic speaking countries are a ‘hot area’ where many voices are threatened. I looked closely at the data to see what I can get out of it. My approach was to select a sample of the worst offenders and do a little comparison. I chose the following regimes for this mini-research project I did: Assad of Syria, Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mohammed VI of Morocco, Saud of Saudi Arabia, Al Nahyan of UAE, and Sabah of Kuwait. Now wouldn’t it be interesting to see comparison between a regime’s years in power opposed to how many voices were threatened in those years? I thought so too and here’s what I found:

Voices Threatened vs. Years in Power*

Voices Threatened Vs Years in Power Read the rest of this entry »


العلمانية العربية، هل تعاني الفصام حقاً؟

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كتب أنس أونلاين تدوينة بعنوان “انفصام الشخصية العلمانية العربية !” تساءل فيها عما إذا كان العلمانيون العرب يعانون من انفصام الشخصية بما أنهم يدعمون المقاومة الإسلامية المتمثلة بحزب الله وحماس على الرغم من أنهم يرفضون التصويت لها في انتخابات سياسية وقد يرفض بعضهم فكرة وجود أحزاب دينية سياسية من الأساس.

لن أتحدث عن المتشددين من الطرفين، سواء العلمانيين أم المتدينين، فكما لا يرغب العلماني بأن يفرض المتدين عاداته وطقوسه وتعاليمه عليه، لا يرغب المتدين بالمثل أن يفرض العلماني نمط حياة لا ديني عليه أو أن يمنعه من أداء بعض فروضه الدينية. نقاشي التالي يفترض وجود احترام متبادل بين طرفين يختلفان بوجهات النظر بشدة. صححوني إن كنت مخطئاً ولكنني أعتقد بأننا لا نريد العيش كما في السعودية حيث يتم فرض لباس معين على الأشخاص (يتعدى متطلبات الحشمة بشكل غير معقول) ويمنع فيه الاختلاط والتفاعل البريء بين الجنسين، وتمنع فيه النساء من قيادة السيارات والانخراط في العديد من مسالك العمل ويضرب فيه الناس في الشارع لقسرهم على الصلاة؛ وأيضاً لا نريد العيش في دولة كفرنسا تضطهد الأقلية الدينية المسلمة بحظر الحجاب أو النقاب مثلاً تحت غطاء حقوق المرأة وحقوق الإنسان.

في طرحه لوجهة نظره سأل أنس السؤال التالي:

كل هذا جيد ولكلّ جهة حقها بأن تؤمن بالأفكار التي تريد لكن … لماذا لا يثبت العلمانيون على مبادئهم وأفكارهم بنفس طريقة ثبات المتدينين والتمسك بمبادئهم؟

سأرد على السؤال بسؤال، عن أي المتدينين نتحدث؟ هل نتحدث عن متديني الخليج الذين لا همّ لبعضهم (كي لا أظلم الكل، ولكرهي للتعميم بشكل عام) غير الحديث عن ضرورة مواجهة المد الإيراني الشيعي (أو الفارسي حسب الحاجة والسياق)  في المنطقة؟ أم عن متديني حركات المقاومة الإسلامية الذين تدعمهم إيران نفسها لمقاومة الإحتلال الإسرائيلي الغاشم؟ هل نتحدث عن متديني هيئة الأمر بالمعروف والنهي عن المنكر سيئة الصيت في السعودية؟ أم عن متديني الأسر الحاكمة في بعض الدول العربية الذين سُرّت أبواقهم الإعلامية بالهجمات الوحشية على المقاومة الإسلامية والمدنيين في لبنان وفلسطين وشمتت بهم بكل صفاقة؟

في النهاية هذا ليس موضوعي ولكني أردت أن أشير إلى افتراض خاطئ في الجملة التي اقتبستها، علينا التركيز على التفاصيل الدقيقة وحيثيات هذه المواضيع، كي لا نقع في مغالطات لمجرد تسرعنا بإطلاق تعميمات أقل ما يقال عنها أنها غير دقيقة.
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Hamas, Hezbollah: A Change of Tone

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Thanks to a Syrian tweet bot, I keep on top of everything that’s said about the country in the Twittersphere. And Today I came across a rather interesting AP article: Netanyahu: Israel open to peace talks with Syria. What caught my attention was not the doublespeak of an Israeli official about peace with Syria. Israelis have expressed no interested in returning the occupied Golan to Syria; To them, Syria has nothing to offer in return. Peace in their logic, is overrated. A simple search in prominent Israeli media shows how prevalent that opinion is.

I was especially interested in the particular use of words in the article. I quote:

It has been a quarter-century since Israel and Syria fought directly, but Syria backs anti-Israel forces like the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic organization Hamas. Israel’s sworn enemy Iran backs Hamas and Hezbollah.

In this article, Hamas and Hezbollah were not referred to as.. *gasp* “terrorist organizations.” Now I was not able to determine if this was an AP policy not to refer to them as such outside of a direct quote, or whether there’s more to the matter. I’m going to layout a few happenings, and let the readers come out with their own conspiracy theories.

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No Way Through

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The following video came through my RSS reader. It’s an award winning short film on the illegal checkpoints imposed by the Israeli Occupation(sic). Routinely, Palestinians in need of immediate medical attention are denied access to it, harassed, assaulted, and forced to give birth with out access to basic medical attention. Sometimes they’re even shot at those checkpoints. I leave you with video.

No Way Through

Update: The video embedding was disabled so you’re going to have to click through to view that video on youtube.

[Hat tip to Jazarah]


For Fuckin' Fuck's Sake! Cut it Out!

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Karim Arbaji has just been sentenced to three years in prison for defending human rights in Syria. Meanwhile, the Syrian blogosphere is bustling with posts advocating admirable and worthy campaigns. There’s the astounding campaign against masturbation, the noble Blogging Week for Moral Decay, and the enlightening campaign for Blogging Against Fossilized Thinking.

The background of this story is this post by Abu Fares, a response ridiculing the infamous call for a campaign against masturbation. The commentators on that post eventually came up with their own ideas for  random blogging campaigns. In essence to further mock that blogger, and the perceived religious bloggers he’s associated with.

I have to say that upon reading about the anti-masturbation campaign I cracked up. Also, I posted about it on Global Voices, sans-sarcasm. Some people were amused by the idea and tweeted the link of the article and a friend of mine wrote to me saying that the campaigner is likely to have a crowd supporting his campaign that you could fit in a phone booth. So, many people find – me included – that idea outrageous, But does that warrant the ridicule of the blogger? Does that make it ok to put aside all the great words and thoughts I’ve seen many Syrian bloggers write on each of their blogs to combine forces to fight this supposed “common enemy” called religiousness?

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For Those Who Argue "Scientifically" Against Homosexuality

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The Alchemist, by Joseph Wright of Derby
Image via Wikipedia

Hey guys I do appreciate your attempts at arguing against homosexuality with scientific arguments and proof, but all you’ve written was either based on misunderstanding or misrepresentation of what you’ve read, selective quoting and of course citing people with biases against homosexuality as doing genuine research.

Allow me to rephrase something I read somewhere I can’t quite remember: I’m as likely to have a real scientific argument with you as with an alchemist or someone who’s convinced that the earth is flat… what you speak of is not science and I refuse to acknowledge it as such. please spare me and save my time and yours.

Wish you all the best,

Anas

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HOMOPHOBES!

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I was really disappointed, although not surprised, by the recent campaign against homosexuality launched by a number of Syrian bloggers.

Seriously?! I see this only as generating from  plain xenophobia. As humans we’re genetically coded to be afraid of those who are different from us, and the herd mentality is hard wired into our brains that we don’t even want to acknowledge it. We, as humans, are instinctively to feel safety in numbers, numbers of those who are similar to ourselves and we label those who are different as dangerous, outsiders, abnormal, or even immoral as our consciousness advanced.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when that freedom is stretched to the extent of demoralizing groups of people based on grounds of religious or racial, or in this case sexual preference, differences that’s freedom gone too far.

Bloggers who participated in this campaign recycled the same old rhetoric eternally used by homophobes. Although I genuinely don’t believe in the efficiency of ‘dialogue’ with people entrenched behind a certain belief I will respond to the arguments that are most irritating to me personally:

  • “Homosexuality is immoral”: homosexuality is in no way synonymous with promiscuity or lack of morals in any sense PERIOD.
  • “Homosexuality is a sickness requiring treatment”: a sickness is defined as a disorder hampering the being’s ability to function properly. and that’s in no way the case with homosexuality; it doesn’t affect a person’s well being or their ability to be an active contributor to any given society.
  • “Homosexuality is a sin: hmm, all I can say is this, if everyone stopped trying to impose their religious belief, which of course they are entitled to have, the world would be a better place. All religions are creeds of love not hate, yet people always find a way to utilize religion to their own purposes.
  • “Homosexuality is abnormal/against nature”: who defines what’s normal and what’s not? deviation from a majority doesn’t make those who are different as abnormal based on this difference. As for it being against nature? seriously? if the sole purpose of human sexual intercourse is reproduction would someone explain to me the abundance of birth control practices and products. Over more, I don’t think any one should fear that homosexuality could endanger our species survival, Earth already harbors 30% more humans than it can provide for.
  • “Studies showed that Homosexuality is not normal”: such studies were conducted with no intent of original research, but for the sole purpose of finding a scientific looking ‘proof’ to support a false claim, such studies are best described as “junk science.”

Is it that hard to live and let live? And were there no more worthy issues to be addressed under the third Syrian blogging week? I ask rhetorically.

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Random Thoughts

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Tree decorated for Valentine's Day in San Dieg...
Image via Wikipedia
  • Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, and people will say that you don’t need a special day to celebrate love and that everyday should be a Valentine’s Day. Just because there’s a special day to celebrate love that doesn’t mean that you should ignore it the rest of the year. Conclusion: stop whining, suck it up, wear red tomorrow and go buy roses and chocolates and other Valentine’s Day stuff to make the corporates happy you cheapskate!
  • People are more inclined to sympathize with the tragedies and suffering closer to them (geographically) regardless of proportion (i.e. people suffering a far get less sympathy for more suffering.)
  • Anytime you take action based on anger you’re likely to regret it and/or apologize for it later.
  • Being different is good, and people would still judge you for it.
  • I like this internet cafe because they published an ad in a magazine using Firefox icon instead of the broweser with deteriorating market share Internet Explorer.
  • This post was written on a slight hangover; who says alcohol is bad for you?