Syria’s civil war leaves its cities, economy and cultural heritage in shambles

Quote in The Washington Post.

“In terms of infrastructure, major parts of Syria have effectively been bombed back to Ottoman times,” said Ammar Abdul-Hamid, a Syrian activist and a Washington-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies…

“We have a long way ahead before we put the country back together again,” Abdul-Hamid said. “But once we do, and we will, it will be our achievement.”

Rebels With a Cause, But Not Much Consensus

Syrian opposition fighters are committed to Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, but disagree on just about everything else.

BY AMMAR ABDULHAMID | OCTOBER 1, 2012

As President Bashar al-Assad’s forces disintegrate, the Syrian civil war is devolving into a battle between Sunni rebel groups and Alawite-dominated militias fighting in support of the old regime. This may increase the rebels’ chances of victory, but it also means that the work to rebuild Syria after Assad falls will be even more challenging. Continue reading

How the Rushdie affair has inspired some fine Arab writing

A mention in the Daily Telegraph:

As it happens, it was the Rushdie affair that inspired the book in the first place. The essay writing contest was the idea of the Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-educated Syrian who became disillusioned with radical Islam after the fatwa issued against Rushdie by Iran. He pointed out to the American Islamic Congress that while the Muslim world had vast, well-organised networks of people pushing extremist visions, nobody was doing the same thing for liberal ideas. “What we need is an essay contest on liberty with significant cash prizes,” he said.

Twin bombings shake Syrian capital

Quoted in the Christian Science Monitor

Meanwhile, exiled activist Ammar Abdulhamid interpreted the attack in a very different way:

Assad’s grip over Damascus has become tenuous at best. Rebels are able to conduct bombings and attacks even in the most secured areas aided by informants embedded within Assad’s own security establishment. The battle of Damascus is set to begin at earnest soon, in what promises to be a very bloody development.

Free Breech!

Long ago, I learned that “the mere tendency of speech to encourage unlawful acts is not a sufficient reason for banning it” (Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition). But, many incidents over the last decade or so have made me wonder: what if someone is intentionally trying to solicit a violent response to serve a particular political agenda that has nothing to do with freedom? Continue reading