The Enigma of Damascus

By JAMES BENNET – New York Times

Ammar Abdulhamid, 39,  runs the Tharwa Project, which tracks treatment of minorities in the region. He  had a fellowship at the Brookings Institution in Washington last fall, and he  has decorated his Damascus office with photographs from his walk to work along  Connecticut Avenue. One shows the American flag through the bare limbs of trees.  When I stopped by, he called the regime ”defunct” and the Baathists ”idiots”  and ”morons” while we were still settling into our seats. He saw no  alternative in civil society either. ”They all want a leader or a messiah,” he  said. He did not advocate ”bloody revolution,” he said. But he also said that  the civil strife accompanying regime change in Iraq might be the only way  forward in the region. ”Stagnation is killing our souls and our minds,” he  said. ”Hopefully, this baptism by blood and mayhem will teach us to cherish the  liberties.”