In Syria, Building a Civil Society Book by Book

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Damascus, Syria 

Leave it to others to devise grand programs for bringing democracy to the Middle East: Ammar Abdulhamid wants to lay the intellectual foundations of citizenship one book at a time.

Two years ago, with a small group of Syrian writers and academics here, Mr. Abdulhamid, a 38-year-old American-educated historian and novelist, founded DarEmar, a nonprofit publishing house dedicated to making canonical works of Western philosophy, social science, and literature available in Arabic. His goal, he says, is to print books that will foster “debate on a broad range of issues pertaining to civil society and democratization.”  Continue reading “In Syria, Building a Civil Society Book by Book”

Why ignoring Syria is misguided

Ammar Abdulhamid & Moshe Maoz / Special to The Daily Star

It is time for U.S. President George W. Bush, following his re-election victory and the death of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, to reconsider his Middle East policy. The Palestinian-Israeli problem is not going to be settled soon, even under Arafat’s successors. That’s why the second Bush administration should start by encouraging Israel and Syria to resume peace negotiations. Continue reading “Why ignoring Syria is misguided”

Letter from Damascus: Superhighway to Damascus

BookForum – Jan/Dec 2005 

One of the most significant deficits in the Arab world today—and one which the highly publicized United Nations Arab Human Development Reports have so far failed to mention—is the staggering absence of young voices on the intellectual scene and in the public debate concerning societal and political reform. This is perhaps the starkest manifestation of the “knowledge gap or deficit” referred to in the reports, issued annually by the United Nations Development Program to monitor socioeconomic and political conditions in the Arab states. Arab countries, it seems, have somehow ceased to produce intellectuals—artists, novelists, poets, and political and social analysts—who could navigate new courses and harness popular sentiment to help lift their countries out of the morass in which they are mired.  Continue reading “Letter from Damascus: Superhighway to Damascus”