The Absentee Heretic?

Well, not quite, I was actually present elsewhere (Syrian Elector) doing exactly the very thing that I said I will not be doing: doing something extremely cockamamie like monitoring some sham and farcical elections in a backwater Third World country of which I remain proud citizen.

And how can I not be proud? My people have shown that they are far more savvy than all of us pretentious fools speaking on their behalf. They did so by sending a message to the Assads regime that is as unambiguous as any it could ever receive: the people are not happy, not by a long shot. 

And if the best that regime spokesghouls can do is to accuse the Syrian people of being “agents of America,” as Spinster of Expatriate Affairs, Bouthaina Shaaban, so ingeniously did, or keep trudging up that tired contrast between Iraqi chaos and Syrian stability, as Deputy PM, Abdalla Dardari, so creatively did, the message sent by the popular boycott notwithstanding, then the gulf between the Syrian regime and people may have just become unbridgeable. Well, it has been unbridgeable for quite a while now, but popular awareness of it might just have taken hold now. Not a moment too soon. 

So Bouthaina, Abdalla, you can just kiss our fucking Syrian ass during a bout of real viscous diarrhea. 

And Bashar, careful now, jasmine may not smell as sweet for you after today.

From the Prisoners of Conscience in Damascus Central Prison Al Adra 

We are prisoners of conscious and opinion in Damascus Central Prison, lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, writer Michel Kilo, Dr. Kamal Labwani, and activists Mahmoud Issa, Faek Al Mir and Professor Aref Dalila that could not be reached as he spends his sixth year in solitary confinement.  After the sentencing of lawyer Anwar Al Bunni on 24 April 2007, we would like to say thank you and greet our families, friends, and all the people, groups, committees, organizations, associations, parties and political assemblies of Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians in Syria and the Arab world.  We thank and greet the official representatives, countries, media and websites that support us by protesting our trials and arrests, and denying the accusations against our colleague Anwar Al Bunni.   

We would like to send our heartfelt greetings and thanks to all of you and hope that your noble and brave attitude will not stop only with denying these accusations and supporting our cause.  Our case as prisoners of conscious is part of the continuing crisis of basic freedoms and human rights in Syria that began with the Emergency Law 44 years ago.  This crisis reached its height in the 1980s and again today by an increase in tyranny, arrests and the suppression of fundamental freedoms. 

Tens of thousands of Syrians have paid a horrible price, some with their lives, others with the loss of years and youth from inhumane prison conditions and cruel torture.  Still more have suffered by being forced to escape the tyranny or enter into voluntary exile, another difficult experience.  Other Syrians stayed, throwing salt on their wounds and binding their tongues to save themselves pain.  Those that couldn’t live with their tongues tied faced a future in prison, homeless and alone.  For the few people that climbed to the top of the tyranny and darkened Syrian society, they have contributed to the corruption, theft and poverty that have strangled the necks of the people. 

The denial of fundamental human rights in Syria is the main case that we work for and your support for prisoners of conscious is part of this fight.  Fighting for the release of these prisoners is a duty, not only to decrease their suffering and their families’ pain, but also to encourage others by knowing they are not alone.  We must give society hope, making sure its doors and streets are not closed.  With the power of hope it is possible to fight the crisis of freedom and human rights in Syria in a peaceful way.

Terrorism is the enemy of mankind and civilization itself.  It flourishes in societies that lack freedom and close doors to peaceful expression, leaving violence as a way of expressing oneself.  Inside these societies suffering from poverty, where they find no well being on earth they will turn to the heavens and the answers that it may provide them.  The lack of basic freedoms and human rights coupled with poverty are two faces of the same coin in the Third World.  Syria is at the forefront of totalitarian countries, ruled from an isolated point of view with its citizens either idle passengers or doomed to be labeled traitors.    

The lack of freedom, means of expression, political participation and accountability leads to the growth of corruption, despotism, looting of public funds, rampant poverty and the collapse of moral values.  The real fight against terrorism must not only be about combating extremist ideas.  These ideas have existed throughout history, though they will always remain on the periphery, isolated and shunned, unless they find fertile soil to take root and grow.  If they are allowed to cultivate in the soil of society, they will spread like toxic plants, poisoning communities and innocent people. 

Addressing the root causes of terrorism requires opening up pathways to free expression and the peaceful exchange of ideas.  By giving people unfettered freedom we can raise the sword of injustice, oppression and domination to grant full political participation, a hand in future decision-making, accountability, the preservation of equality and a life of dignity.  This would make the world a safer place and improve international security.   

Syrians have paid a high price for their rights and freedom and we hope to be the last group forced to pay this price and help the great Syrian people.  To do this we need more than your solidarity and denunciations.  We need constant and tireless efforts to compel Syrian authorities to respect human rights, international law and the treaties and agreements it has signed which demand freedom of expression and opinion.  The release of political prisoners is a necessary first step, including the abolition of the State Emergency Law and other such laws like Decree 49 signed in 1980 or the Hasakah Accountability Decree of 1962.  Syria must abolish the State Security Court, compensate those that have suffered, create an independent judiciary, end torture and hold perpetrators responsible.  They must stop political arrests and ensure the freedom of the press, allowing political participation and the formation of parties, organizations and civil society.  They must stop the looting of public funds and policies of impoverishment and domination.  However, these steps are just the beginning necessary to put Syria on the path to security and move towards development, progress and the protection of national unity that now suffers from division and tension.  These rifts and divisions are now impossible to conceal, despite the dancing and celebrations and empty rhetoric about a healthy society that in reality is sick and suffering.  As prisoners of conscious and opinion we are apprehensive about the future of our homeland, our children and our very decision to shape Syria’s future.  However, we will not be deterred by threats, intimidation, and the repression of long years of imprisonment that we face to save our country and ourselves.

Adra Prison