I love the way Our Man In Damascus leaves the poignant coda to his report: How to prevent Syrian radicalization? By civil society and … more freedoms. Full stop.
The Walls man in Damascus and beyond tells us things most Syrians know. Not for nothing has the Baathi system used schools, workplaces, youth groups, membership societies, party-affiliates, public servants, students, guild members and security and media professionals. Not for nothing has forty plus years of education, indoctrination, information control and herding expertise been honed. Our man gives the brief, telling witness to the cattle-show nature of the Potemkin rallies …
I am a stranger to Syria no more, though I have never been to an Arabic speaking milieu. Over the months since the Tunisia military escorted Ben Ali and his squawking wife into retirement, my cynical eye has been on the events moving in ripples across North Africa and now reverberating inside Syria.
Any longstanding authoritarian system has the benefit of entropy. One can burn oneself alive in protest at petty, soul-destroying injustice. One year later the same petty and/or grotesque injustices endure, in Sidi Bouazid, in Cairo, in Homs …
… and now in Damascus the scramble to deceive the Arab League and crush opposition under cover of “agreement.”
Will there be more freedom to come into the streets at the end of two weeks? Will the committee for the committee of National Dialogue pick up the phone to Syrians abroad? Will expatriate Syrians be able to return to the land of their births? Will faux-amnesties emerge, in “batches,” will Tal be released, will the missing be accounted for, will the murderers of Dera’a be put in the dock? Will we hear Najati Tayara on al-Jazeera next week? Will convicted criminals like Louay Hussein, Michel Kilo and all the rest be able to publish, to form political parties, to vote (at the moment, the octopus of the Syrian Penal Code continues to deprive them of civil rights)?
Will the faux-media law and faux-demonstration laws and faux-parties law and faux-Dialogue be the only result of the two week killing binge? Will Burhan Ghalioun be escorted to his wounded home town near Homs under Arab League laissez-passer?
Will the regime crack open its walls barring media, will Syrians be free to assemble in groups of more than six persons, to shout, to cry out, to hold placards, to march in the streets, to witness the reign of terror since March, push aside the walls that pen them in, the walls of the Penal Code, the walls of Shabiha, the walls and gates and cells and silences of fifty years of palace rule?
More freedoms. Full stop.
And now the real maneuvering, what I think will be the Two Weeks That Were in Syria this year. My heart is in my throat, thinking that Bashar al-Assad, the hereditary successor, the kingpin of a monstrous machine, will survive in office, that all the walls in Syria stay intact.
The many walls preventing freedom are well-documented here. Kudos to all for passionate, incisive and wise reporting.
Walls is the place!