Syria: Back to the Future?
Middle East Quarterly
December 2000, pp. 84-85
The Daily Star, an English-language Beirut newspaper, published "An Appeal from a Syrian to His President," by Sami Moubayed,1 on August 15, 2000. Soon after, the open letter spread widely in Syria itself. The author is a young Syrian political analyst and the author of two books on contemporary Syrian political history.
. . . Syria is facing many problems that should be addressed immediately. The most visible problem is inequality. I'm sure you know that in our country, a citizen is worth little if he or she is not related to an influential person, an acquaintance of an influential person, or is an influential person. Many people can recount stories of humiliation suffered either in the bureaucracy, the military, the university, at schools, on the street or even in their own homes, simply because they did not have influential connections. This problem has developed and spread into every home throughout Syria.
The second complex is fear. A citizen is afraid of the employee, the employee is afraid of his master, the master is afraid of his superior, and so on, leading to the highest authority in the state hierarchy. …
I was never a member of the Ba`th Party, nor was I an advocate of Ba`thist Syria. I am a man who believes in the democratic, multi-party state that existed prior to 1958. With all its faults, it was a transparent system that sought what was best for the nation.
Obviously, to see Syria being ruled at one point by patriots like Khalid al-‘Azm, Faris al-Khuri, and Shukri al-Quwwatli, and less than 10 years later by opportunists like Amin al-Hafiz, Salim Hatum, and ‘Abd al-Karim al-Jundi is a great disappointment by any standard. The Bath Party, Mr. President, may be appealing to some but it is not a religion to be followed by all. . . .
In the 1950s, the people were ready for democracy; the officers were not. Today, however, many things have changed. On the whole, the people, both civilians and officers alike, are more aware, more educated, and better able to interact in a democratic society.
In your parliamentary speech you said; "we cannot apply the democracy of others to ourselves." We do not want an American democracy Your Excellency, nor do we want a French, German or British democracy. All we want is the Syrian democracy that we once enjoyed. . . .
Speaking for my generation and myself, we are an ambitious people who have high hopes and dreams for our country. These dreams were triggered from the deprivation we experienced in our most vital years of childhood. Yet as young adults, we were lucky enough to travel and see Syria from abroad. We had the chance to see how the real world worked, and compare it to our country. Dr. Bashar, we grew up in a Syria where napkins were non-existent. Cooking fat, bananas, and sugar were so scarce that we had to journey to war-torn Lebanon to purchase our basic needs. Videos were banned for being "unnecessary" luxury items and satellite dishes were covered with blankets to avoid being spotted by a nearby intelligence patrol. We grew up in a Syria threatened on one front by the knives of the Muslim Brotherhood and on the other by the guns of [your uncle] Rif‘at al-Asad.
Our lives were a mixture of deprivation, fear, confusion, and hope a most unusual combination. We hope that our children will not see similar circumstances in their future. All of us dream of a better Syria, and you have given us hope that our dreams will become, for the first time in decades, within reach.
Our list of demands and requests is a long and burdensome one Mr. President. Yet you are not alone in your quest, for we will all work with you for their attainment. Loosen the hold of the Syrian intelligence and restrict their duties to surveying the security of the state, not the lives of its citizens. Our intelligence service has come to remind us of the "thought police" in George Orwell's novel 1984. Let them give us the right to live an honorable life; we deserve it Your Excellency. Let the Syrian intelligence refrain from regulating the thoughts of the Syrian intelligentsia. We ask of you to allow for political diversity, to privatize the media, liberalize the economy, and conduct an honorable peace with Israel as your late father had so sincerely wished.
Revolutionize the Syrian university Mr. President; you are a graduate of its program and know how much work it needs and how it could be. Proceed with your campaign for information technology and work for the education of the youth. Punish those who are corrupt, reward those who are honest, and create a team of advisors and decision-makers based on experience and merit. Put an end to what you have termed, "the state of carelessness, passiveness and the evasion of carrying out duty." Create an ideal Syria and we will all uphold your legacy. Work for your people all your people, and we will pledge to work for you.
God bless you, and God bless our beloved Syria.
Related Topics: Syria | December 2000 MEQ
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