A World Without Heretics Is Forever Flat

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Profiles of Ammar Abdulhamid

The Freedom Collection: Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian human rights activist who in 2003 founded the Tharwa Foundation, a grassroots organization that enlists local activists and citizen journalists to document conditions in Syria. In response to his activities, the Syrian government subjected Abdulhamid to repeat interrogation and threats. In September 2005, he and his family were forced into exile in the United States. From his home in Maryland, Abdulhamid remains one of the leading bloggers and commentators on events in Syria through the Syrian Revolution Digest. (More)

The Washington Post: Going out on a limb almost comes naturally for Ammar Abdulhamid. He grew up in an artsy milieu in Damascus, the only child of a celebrity couple whose daily existence depended on living on the edge of what was acceptable within a rigid political system. His father, Mohammed Shaheen, was a movie director, and his mother, Mona Wasef, is a top Syrian actress. To succeed in their field meant breaking barriers. (More)

The New York Times: Political engagement is unfamiliar territory for a writer who grew up in an artistic milieu (his mother is one of the country’s most popular actresses) and describes himself as a reluctant activist. ”I got politicized in spite of myself,” Abdulhamid says. After the publication of his first novel, ”Menstruation,” a sometimes-surreal depiction of the sexual and intellectual mores of young Syrians, the foreign diplomatic community in Damascus identified him as one of the important voices articulating the rising generation’s disenchantment. ”The novel made it so that many embassies wanted to hear my take on things,” he explains.”I was frank before, but no one was asking.” (More)

Newsweek: “After returning from a brief stint at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C., [Abdulhamid] showed increasing interest in expanding the framework of opposition fighting against oppressive regimes beyond Islamist circles to include secular and liberal voices. His struggle is beginning to have an impact on the status quo.” (More)

Smithsonian Magazine: Ammar Abdulhamid is founder and general coordinator of the Tharwa Project, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that works to increase awareness of the living conditions and aspirations of religious and ethnic minorities throughout the Arab world. He is also a thorn in the Syrian government’s side, having written columns harshly critical of Assad for Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper. Abdulhamid, who is in his 30s, once compared the president to Fredo Corleone, the youngest and weakest of the brothers in Mario Puzo’s Godfather. (More)

The Chronicle of Higher Education: 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. (More)

Epoch Times: Ammar Abdulhamid’s views on modernizing Syria sound more like revolutionary solutions for most of the Arab world. Not surprisingly then, the activist, democracy spokesperson, and scholar hasn’t been allowed in his home country of Syria since 2005. (More)

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