Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Revolution Hits Syria

I have a good friend who is from Syria. We talked about the wave of revolutions that have hit everywhere from Libya to Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain, seemingly affecting authoritarian countries in North Africa and Middle East that have good, bad and neutral relationships with the West. The wave of revolutions has been vindicating for people, like yours truly, who have actual contact with people from that region of the world and know that they desire the same things anyone else in the world does.

When I talked with my friend, she said basically that Syrians are too complacent to really break from the shackles of the Assad family. A magazine I contribute towards called Earthwalkers had a writer located in the country and he seemed to paint a similar picture:

Still, while calls for an Egypt-style “Day of Rage” protest in Damascus in early February garnered 15,000 Facebook supporters, UPI reported that only about a dozen protesters actually showed up, and were promptly beaten away by plainclothes police.

So how much does online freedom actually equate to freedom in the streets?

Ramy Mansour, a print and TV journalist who also edits the news website shukumaku.com, says that government repression of information is minimal, and mostly self-imposed.

It goes on:

So what’s really keeping Syria from a people’s revolution like we saw in Egypt?

According to dissidents like Abdul Nour, it actually has less to do with technological repression, and much more to do with old-fashioned intelligence: people spying on their neighbors and reporting subversive conversations they overhear in cafes to intelligence services.

Or maybe the country is just not fertile grounds for protest because most Syrians are still happy under the 40-year dictatorship. After all, almost everyone I broached the subject with was quick to tell me how much they loved the government.

Protests continued in southern Syria Monday as demonstrators tore down the statue of Hafez al-Assad, Syria's former president, al-Arabiya reported. It remains unclear whether the statue was torn town Monday or last week as some opposition websites claim.

Protestors in the city of Deraa burned the house of the ousted district governor as well as the ruling party's HQ and a local culture ministry office. Al-Arabiya also reported that Syrian army tanks arrived in the city on Sunday.

The closest analogy here is still the one Tariq Ali made: This is the Middle East's 1848. Universalism is on the march. Beyond it's perception as a wasteland of ignorance, oppression of women and dependency on fossil fuel economics, deep at the heart of the Arab world (and the Persian world, and the Berber world) is the desire for freedom and self-determination.

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