Friday, May 27, 2005

Freedom for the Atassy 8!

It was bound to happen sooner or later I guess. Even my wife Khawla for all her fears of security crackdowns, is urging me to do it. The time for taking a loud public stand has come.

Khawla thinks of it in preemptive terms as well as sympathetic ones. That is, we might be victims of the ongoing crackdown soon anyway, so might as well start fighting now. On the other hand, one of the Atassy 8, namely Suheir Atasssy has an 11-year old son. Khawla was his age when security agents took her parents away and stayed with her and her brothers and a sister for a week in the hope of catching some of the alleged cell members who might drop for a visit.

A week later her mother was released, but her father was never released and has reportedly died under torture in 1981. Khawla can see these days coming, and rather than run away, she wants to pout up a better fight than she could have done back in those dreary days.

Now if Khawla feels this way, how do you think I feel? My sense of disgusts has been gnawing at me for years now, it is indeed about time I did something about it. I do not know about the preemptive value of all this though. If anything, I have been keeping relatively quiet for the last few weeks, so much so many people thought that I left the country.

My decision to remain quiet was not done out of fear though, otherwise I would have stopped blogging as well. It was done because I ran out of things to say, the regime is dead, and my fellow dissidents and activists are too set in their ways to accommodate my approach. So, there was really noting to talk about.

But the arrest of the Atassy 8, and Khawla’s strong reaction and recurring fears, and my own (foolish, self-promoting, describe it as you wish, it does not really matter, I don’t even understand myself) desire to make a difference even in the face of all these odds, are just too much for me to handle in the usual quietist manner.

So, let the fight begin.

At one point a couple of months ago, when I was going through that period of interrogations and travel ban, some of my fellow bloggers offered to flood the Syrian Embassy in DC with emails on my behalf, now I urge them to do it on behalf of the Atassy 8 and all the other prisoners of conscience in Syria. On the even of the Baath Conference, the President, and other elements in the regime, are trying to play it tough. I think we should do so as well.

This regime needs to be isolated like never before. While dissidents need to be empowered. We are the source of legitimacy and credibility of any regime, without us, without an active and vibrant dissent movement, no regime in the region should have any credibility whatsoever.

As for the international community, no country or government in the world who claims to be democratic and to be in support of democratization and human rights in our region or anywhere in the world, could maintain its credibility if it gives up on any of us, regardless of our political affiliations, so long as we are committed to basic principles of democracy and civil liberties.

As such, the Atassy 8 may not be known to you, you may not know what they have done over the years, you may not know what their exact political philosophy is (I don’t think they know that themselves really), but suffice it to know that they were committed to democracy, committed to reform and committed to dialogue. That should be enough for them to deserve our support.

So, flood the embassies with your emails, this is the least that we can do. Student groups that can hold vigils for their sake are more than encouraged to do so. Those who can write articles, op-eds or blog entries about them, go ahead and do so. Freedom for the Atassy 8 and all prisoners of conscience in Syria should be our rallying cry from now on. No reform package will be accepted from this regime if it does not include strict guarantees for our basic freedoms. We will not live at the whim of anyone.


Some relevant information:

Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC
Fax: (202) 232-4357

Ministry of Tourism:
Fax: +963 11 2242636


Syrian Arab News Agency