Why I am Not Surprised! Or, the Cowardly Heretic!

During my second and final encounter with Assef Chawkat, the one that sealed my fate, as it were, the desk of the Illustrious General was covered with black and yellow files and old law books with small white cardboard bookmarks sticking from their sides. The General has done his homework it seems. He has researched all the old law books in search of legal ways for intimidating activists while avoiding recourse to the discredited emergency laws and security courts.


As such, I am not surprised today to see that all dissidents are being tried in civil courts. Our old pre-Baath laws do provide enough ammunition for crackdown. No, not everything can be blamed on the Baath, I have to admit, albeit it is always tempting to do so.

But much of this current crackdown can indeed be blamed on Assef – he is either orchestrating the entire show, or he, perhaps unintentionally even, has set a trend that others, such as Ali Mamluke of the General Security Apparatus and Fouad Naseef Kheir Bek of the Internal Security Apparatus are now following. Whatever the case maybe, it is clear to me at least that whenever the Lions of Syria seem to really mean business and do busy themselves planning for it, something sinister is always involved: a series of assassinations, arrests, heists, what have you. This is the nature of the family business after all.

Good governance you say? Good God, what has that got to do with anything? God did not put these lions on this bedlam earth to be good governors and messiahs, but to be thieves and dark avengers for some unfathomable crime that none of us was born when it was committed so long long ago. See my next post.

But, to go back to my meeting with the Lion-in-law, the initial threat of “throwing the book” at me, and seeing that I was not really impressed by it, soon gave way to a more somber promise: “don’t count too much on your international links to help you, Ammar, we have no intention of making a hero out of you.”

I was not slotted for an arrest then, I thought. So, when I went back home that day, I told Khawla and the kids to start packing, while I proceeded to avail myself of my international liaisons, before it was too late.

Was this a cowardly thing to do? Well, I think so. But, sometimes, it makes more sense to be a coward than a hero. Or so I keep telling myself these days, as I watch the unfolding foolishness.

8 thoughts on “Why I am Not Surprised! Or, the Cowardly Heretic!

  1. To stay and be arrested would have been a romantic thing to do–but freedom shoud not be a romantic dream, it should be a reality. And it seems that leaving has been a more effective means to that end.

  2. Which is better to stay and be silenced and ineffective not to mention the emotional stress on the immediate family members or to change domicile and fighht another day. Its a no brainer, you have done the right thing.

  3. You spoke out then and there.And you are still speaking out.More courageous than many of us, and than 99.9% of our sheeple(s).Hats off to you.

  4. To have stayed despite the clear threats would have been foolish and counterproductive. The sterling work you are doing ‘in exile’ is immensely important.. far more valuable than ‘proving a point’ by staying.. and as josey wales said, far more courageous than what most of us are doing..Keep it up, and God bless you..

  5. Thank you all for your continued encouragement. I know I keep returning in this blog to this guilt complex I have, because I seemed to have received a differential treatment somehow, even after directly insulting the President. But I really can’t help it. It is not my intention here neither to brag nor to seek these kind words of support and praise (albeit they are always appreciated of course). But when I see what is happening to my colleagues, for all our ideological differences, my dissidence seems like it was a safari, an adventurous undertaking of sorts lacking real conviction. Indeed, and as I have repeatedly said before, I did not set out to be an activist, I just stumbled unto activism.And the fact that I received this differential treatment laid me open to all different sorts of accusations, not only by the regime, but my colleagues as well, with some claiming that I am a US agent and that the regime was treading softly around me so as to avoid falling into a set trap (indeed Assef Chawkat was under that illusion), while others accused me of being in bed with Bashar (Yuk, perish the thought), because, after all we went to the same high school and all that, and I still seem to be moving within that circle of people affiliated with the regime. But, you know, I cannot help my social background. Still, I always kept my distance, just like my parents had done. In fact, in school, this attitude of mine was considered to be quite arrogant. Indeed, I was the one who dared to be arrogant even vis-à-vis Bashar himself. One of the rumors about “us” at the time, just to cheer things up, claimed that we one day had a fight of sorts (in reality, we rarely spoke to each other), and that Bashar said to me: “Don’t you know who I am? I am the son of the President of the country.” “So what!” I reportedly yelled. “I am the son of Muna Wassef. The entire population of Syria would rather watch endless reruns of my Mom’s series than a single minute of your father’s stupid speeches.” Even though this was a complete fabrication, I like to think there is an element of truth in that alleged assertion of mine. I have to admit, in my younger years, I did relay this rumor to a few friends as if it were factual. It was so good I thought, I really wanted to believe that it had indeed happened. As for why I really received that preferential treatment, well the secret indeed did lie in the various the international connections that I had and which I intentionally flaunted for protection, which kept going for four years with little harassment I the first three. My mom’s fame and the respect she commanded played an important role as well. Vague childhood memories on part of Bashar might have also been involved, but it’s hard for me to tell really, I never met Bashar after we graduated from high school. And whatever rapport I established with my interrogators, especially Assef, in particular my inability to fall into the trap of fearing or cajoling them, must have influenced the way they behaved towards me as well. I know all that, still, I cannot help but feel guilty sometimes. A really good colleague of mine is now here attending a conference organized by the Syrian American Congress in Chicago. He did not come directly from Syria – that would have been impossible, for none of the dissidents is being allowed to leave the country at this stage. But he had already left the country for an activity in Europe before the onset of this round of arrests and intimidation, so he was able to come here. But what will happen to him once he returns to Syria, especially when we take under consideration that the conference will be attended by a member of the Syrian parliament and will be attended by many pro-regime figures?

  6. Ammar,I attended the Syrian American Congress today. Your friend’s presentation was excellent but what I admired most was his courage. Chief regime apologists Imad Moustapha and Bouthaina Shaaban did not attend. So other than the parliamentarian, the regime was not represented.

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