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.
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.
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.
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:
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Voices Threatened vs. Years in Power*