5.09.2007

Syria under Totalitarianism

The Syrians are talking, are you listening?

The international community faces a challenge in the Middle East and in Syria particularly to choose democracy, peace and moderation over totalitarianism, violence and extremism. There is no other way or other choice.

Ignorance and prejudgments about the Middle East are not options anymore exactly as totalitarianism, extremism and terror.

So, the international community should listen to the Middle East's intellectuals and make its decision against totalitarianism and extremism and for democracy and moderation without delay.

The following is a letter from Syrian intellectuals, the prisoners of conscience and opinion in Damascus; it really explains so much the world has to know.


From the Syrian Prisoners of Conscience in Damascus Central Prison

We are prisoners of conscience and opinion in Damascus Central Prison, lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, writer Michel Kilo, Dr. Kamal Labwani, activists Mahmoud Issa, and Faek Al Mir, and Professor Aref Dalila, who we couldn’t reach as he spends his sixth year in solitary confinement. After the sentencing of lawyer Anwar Al Bunni on 24 April 2007, we would like to thank you and greet our families, friends, and all the people, groups, committees, organizations, associations, parties and political assemblies of Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians in Syria and the Arab world. We thank and greet the official representatives, the countries, media and websites that have been supporting us by protesting our trials and arrests, and denying the accusations against our colleague Anwar Al Bunni.

We would also like to express our most heartfelt greetings and thanks to all of you and hope that your noble and brave attitude will not stop only with denying these accusations and supporting our cause. Our case as prisoners of conscience is part of the continuing crisis of basic freedoms and human rights in Syria that began with the implementation of the Emergency Law 44 years ago. This crisis reached its height in the 1980s and again today with the increase of tyranny, arrests and the suppression of fundamental freedoms.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have paid a terrible price; some have lost their lives, others their youth because of the inhumane prison conditions and the cruel torture. More of them have also suffered from being forced to escape the tyranny by choosing voluntary exile, while other Syrians had no choice but to conceal their grief to save themselves pain. Those who couldn’t live with their tongues tied faced a future in prison, homeless and alone. As for the few people who chose to climb to the top of the tyranny and to darken the Syrian society, they have contributed to corruption, theft and poverty that have strangled the necks of the Syrian population.

The violation of all fundamental human rights in Syria is our main struggle today and your support for prisoners of conscience is part of this fight. Fighting for the release of these prisoners is a duty, not only to spare them, and their families this great sufferance, but also to encourage others and show them they are not alone. We must give our society hope, making sure that its doors and streets are kept wide open. The power of hope is our sole arm against the crisis of freedom and human rights in Syria in a peaceful way.

Terrorism is the enemy of mankind and civilization itself. It flourishes in societies that violate the people’s freedoms and that close doors to peaceful expression, leaving violence as the only way of expressing oneself. Consequently, people who actually live in these pour societies would find no better solution but to turn to the heavens and become vulnerable to all extremist ideas that might be offered. The violation of basic freedoms and human rights coupled with poverty are the two faces of the same coin in the Third World. And Syria is unfortunately at the forefront of all totalitarian countries; the power is therein monopolized by one person and its citizens only have two choices; concealing their pains or being labeled as traitors.

The lack of freedom, of means of expression, of political participation and accountability leads to the spread of corruption, despotism, looting of public funds, extensive poverty and the collapse of moral values. The real fight against terrorism must not only be about combating extremist ideas. These ideas have existed throughout history, and they are condemned to remain on the periphery, isolated and shunned, unless they find a fertile soil to take root and grow. If they are allowed to develop in the soil of society, they will spread like toxic plants, poisoning communities and innocent people.

Addressing the root causes of terrorism requires opening up pathways to free expression and allowing the peaceful exchange of ideas. Through giving people unfettered freedom we can break the sword of injustice, oppression and domination and promote a full political participation in future decision-making, accountability, the preservation of equality and a life of dignity. This would make the world a safer place and will improve the international security.

Syrians have paid a high price during their struggle for their rights and freedom and we hope to be the last group forced to do the same for the sake of the great Syrian people. To do this we need more than your solidarity and denunciations. We need constant and tireless efforts to compel the Syrian authorities to respect human rights, international law and all treaties and agreements it has signed and which call for the respect of the freedom of expression and opinion. The release of political prisoners is a necessary first step, including the abolition of the State Emergency Law and other laws such as the Decree 49 signed in 1980 or the Hasakah Accountability Decree of 1962. Syria must close down the State Security Court, compensate those who that have suffered, create an independent judiciary, put an end to torture and sue all criminals for their deadly actions. The Syrian authorities must put an end to all political arrests and ensure the respect of the freedom of the press, allowing political participation and the formation of parties, organizations and civil society.

They must stop the looting of public funds and fight all policies of impoverishment and domination. However, these actions would just be the first steps necessary to put Syria on the path of security in order to move towards development, progress and the protection of our national unity that now suffers from division and tension. These rifts and divisions are now impossible to conceal, despite the illusive dancing, celebrations and empty rhetoric about a healthy society that in reality is sick and suffering. As prisoners of conscience and opinion we are apprehensive about the future of our homeland, our children and our very decision to shape Syria’s future. However, we will not be deterred by the threats, intimidation, and repression of these long years of imprisonment that we are facing to save our country and ourselves.

Adra Prison. 28-4-2007
Prisoners of Conscience in Damascus Central Prison

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Some related materials:

- Free Anwar al-Bunni

- Totalitarian Baath and Free Anwar al-Bunni

- Syria's Independence: Free Anwar al-Bunni

- Free Kamal Labawani

- Wave of Arrests of Syrian Intellectuals Following the Beirut-Damascus Declaration

- Middle East Human Rights 2007

- Freedom in 2006, Worst of the Worst

- The 13 Internet Enemies 2006

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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

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