- To all those who expressed doubts about the possibility of a positive response from the Baath regime: indeed I am not that naïve, and I am quite cynical about the possibility of having the proposed plan adopted by the regime. But I do have to hope, don’t I? After all, the alternative to this seems to be isolation, sanctions and, eventually, invasion.
- As for the connection between reform and the return of the Golan, it is important for the Americans and the Europeans to make an announcement in this regard because this will give the reformers the needed credibility to focus on internal reforms and not have their distracters accuse them of giving up on the Golan. For part of the reforms will involve change with regard to foreign policy a well, and it is important in this regard for the US, in particular, to the Syrian people that such changes will not reflect negatively on the possibility of getting the Golan back.
- With regard to talking to ordinary Syrians, Catherine is quite right. It is not possible at this stage to go ahead and talk to people in the streets. We need to do it through institutions, and the existing ones are state-controlled and we will not be allowed to use them, and trying to establish independent ones is almost impossible under present conditions of repression. Still, this is exactly what we are trying to do with DarEmar and the Tharwa Project. But it will take time and a lot of effort to get where we want to go, and, frankly, we are being overtaken by events.
Also ask yourself this, what credibility does a westernized Americanized liberal atheist has with the people in impoverish Syrian towns and districts (and by the way, I am indeed an inhabitant of the plush Mazzeh neighborhood)?
The only credibility I could have is the one that I can earn by involvement in developmental activities meant to cater to these people’s need. Even then things will be quite tricky. And of course, I will not be allowed to do any of this until I get my regime to grant me more freedom to do this kind of work, but the regime won’t grant me, or any of us, this freedom, would it?
(The fact that we are allowed to operate such projects as the Tharwa Project from Damascus is intimately related to our ability to get outside endorsement and support of it, yet, we remain hostage to the whims of our leaders and their calculations in this regard. Moreover, we will not be able to be truly effective until we are granted more freedom to operate on the ground and work with the grassroots, we know that. But we won’t granted such a freedom. We were told clearly that we are only being tolerated because our activities remain constrained to operating websites and do not extend to organizing any sort of on the grounds activities, not in Syria anyway).
So, to oppose the regime we need the people on our side, to get to the people we need to change the regime. How do we deal with this situation?
To make things more complex, add in the fact that outside powers are already interfering, whether we like it or not. Then again tell me what do we do! What do we do?
Well, I said my two bits to the only audience that I can reach at this stage. Which does, by the way, include people that can influence policy in both this country and outside. And that’s the best I can do, at this stage.
Still, to some, I am always bound to appear as a pretender, a charlatan, an opportunist, or, as Sasa so eloquently put it, a “Damascene rent-a-dissident.” To others, on the other hand, I might even make a hero, albeit a rather foolish one.
But at the heart of it really, and here is where my namesake in the Far East seems to have a point, I am just a disgusted Syrian venting my frustration to the world, at the expense of everything almost, safety, dignity, whatever, and the price for that, and there will probably be a price for that, sooner or later, could be too high.
Still, if I should be lucky enough to survive my own steadily growing foolishness, there could be one possible benefit in it for me: I could actually live long enough to see something positive coming out of some of the projects I helped envision.
Now that will suffice for me. There is enough “glory” in it for me, if glory is indeed what is involved here. But then, what else would an opportunist rent-a-dissident be after anyway, eh?