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Monday, June 27, 2011

SYRIAN CRISIS: Syria awakes again!

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IN 2009, National Geographic published an article on Syria by a special correspondent, Don Belt, who had interviewed President Bashar al-Assad. In 2000, shortly after the funeral of his father, President Hafez al-Assad, the son entered his father’s office for only the second time in his life. His first visit had been at age seven, “running excitedly to tell his father about his first French lesson”.
The President “remembers seeing a big bottle of cologne on a cabinet next to his father’s desk”, Mr Belt wrote. “He was amazed to find it still there 27 years later, practically untouched.” The bottle can be seen as an allegory for Syria itself — the Syria that has been out of sight for the 40 years of the Assads’ rule, a country and its aspirations placed on a shelf and forgotten for decades in the name of stability.
Now this other Syria is appearing before our eyes to remind us that it cannot be forever set aside, that its people did not spend the decades of the Assads’ rule asleep, and that they aspire, like all people, to live with freedom and dignity. I remember my father, Nureddin al-Atassi, who himself had been President of Syria before he was imprisoned in 1970 as a result of Gen. Hafez al-Assad’s coup against his comrades in the Baath Party. I was three years old then, and it took me a while to understand that prison was not only for criminals, but also for prisoners of conscience. My father would spend 22 years in a small cell in Al Mazza prison, without any charge or trial. At the end of a struggle with cancer, for which he had been denied medical treatment, he was finally released. He died in Paris in December 1992, a week after arriving there on a stretcher.

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