Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Risks of Virtual and Other Forms of Activism!

In Syria, we have several cases where people were arrested, tried in a security court and jailed for having an illegal content on their pcs, or in their emails. Still, software to circumvent the government firewall is available everywhere at a cost of less than one USD. Everybody uses this software to access forbidden sites, such as those of various opposition groups abroad. No one has so far been jailed for accessing an actual opposition site, but there was a recent arrest against a well-known dissident who read a statement from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in a public forum. He had received the statement via email.

Some of those currently rotting in Syrian jails for having illegal contents on their pcs are not even dissidents or politically active. Others are. Some made the choice to have certain "forbidden" contacts and content, others didn't. Yet, none deserve to be jailed. But, we live in an authoritarian country, and this is part of our lot.

I guess what I am trying to say is this: people are now increasingly making the choice whether to take certain electronic risks or not, the more we can expand this sphere of choice, the better. Very few people stumble blindly unto activism and dissent, even if it is virtual.

So, if I should get jailed one day for these blog entries, for my newspaper articles or for my activities with the Tharwa Project, among other things, there should be no doubt that I will have earned it. Whether I deserve it or not, in the moral sense, is a different matter. I am sure there will be people who would think so, but who really cares about them? I know that most will not.

Tomorrow I will be venturing out of the country again to attend a conference in Europe. I don’t expect that the country will have changed by the time I come back on Sunday.

But to be honest with you, there is something ominous in the air, I am not really sure what to make of it, I mean there is nothing really concrete, just a vague feeling that something bad is about to happen…

It could be my sinuses though. They usually act up this time of year.