Naji Arwashan | Syrian Consul Michigan
August 25th, 2007

Re: ‘Syrian expatriates

I welcome this invitation from Creative Syria to participate in the discussion on the role of Syrian expatriates in building a better Syria. Being an expatriate myself for the last 20 years, and serving as Honorary Consul of Syria in Detroit since 2001 working on expatriates issues and concerns on daily basis, and being involved with a variety of cultural exchange programs made the topic presented by Creative Syria of a particular interest to me.

First, one should give credit to the Syrian leadership for recognizing the potential treasure of the Syrian expatriates, and for taking the initiative of issuing the necessary legislatives to keep the expatriates in touch with their homeland. This has been demonstrated by the creation of the Ministry of Expatriates, the military service ‚??badal‚?Ě decrees, and the continuous support by the government to expatriates conferences and organizations.

The response of the Syrian expatriates to the government overture has been very warm and very encouraging. When the Minster of Expatriates, Dr. Buthaina Shabaan, did a tour in U.S in 2003 we were overwhelmed in Michigan by the number of people who wanted to come to her reception. They showered her with their love and support, and many presented to her ideas for projects they would like to start in Syria. When we founded NOSSTIA (Network of Syrian Scientists and Technologist Abroad) six years ago, we were so pleased by the enthusiastic response of the Syrian scientists who were invited to the founding conference. Some of them had been away from Syria for over 30 years, and were just waiting for the opportunity to share their talents and expertise with their home-country. Also one should mention with pride the recent initiatives taken by expatriates to promote the image of Syria on the internet. The quality, the richness, and amount of volunteer work put in developing certain websites are simply inspirational. Creative Syria is certainly a bright example of what I am referring to here.

One general observation about Syrian expatriates is their desire to work independently from government bureaucracy. In the last expatriates conference organized in Damascus last May, the session that received most attention from expatriates was the one when Syrian NGOs presented their work. Conference participants wanted to hear more from independent non-government speakers, and to learn more about the NGOs activities and to find and identify ways of cooperation with them. We have seen this also in our experience with NOSSTIA where the board of trustees always values and maintains its independence from any government influence.

The Ministry of Expatriates is putting a lot of effort reaching to Syrian expatriates all over the world. But in my opinion, communication with expatriates is an area where more investment can be done. Unfortunately, there are still many expatriates who are not in the loop! Large number of them didn‚??t know about the expatriate‚??s conference or about the activities and services provided by the ministry. I would suggest here to the Ministry of Expatriates to commission to an NGO the task of starting an electronic newsletter dedicated to the affaires and news of the expatriates. The Ministry should put a big effort distributing such newsletter to all Syrian expatriates in the world (with the definite understanding that unsubscribing can be done by a click of a mouse). This certainly requires also an effort from our diplomatic missions to build and share their email lists. The newsletter would focus solely on expatriate‚??s news and would be a forum to address their questions and concerns, and also to explain new legislatives of interest to them.
The Syrian satellite channel is doing excellent work reaching out to expatriates and creating programs tailored to their need. But here we take this opportunity to advise the Syrian TV to join the league of Al-Jazeera, ART and the other prominent Arabic channels by migrating to subscription-based satellite where far more expatriate audience can be reached.

The unfortunate events of 9/11 created in the west a huge interest to learn more about the culture, religion and language of the Middle East. And here the Syrian expatriates can play an important role, on individual basis or on collective basis as clubs and associations, educating their neighbors, friends and colleagues about the richness of our culture and history. However expatriates need to take advantage of the tools available to them. The Ministry of Tourism is putting excellent publications and producing excellent CDs and DVDs about Syria that any expatriate can freely use but might not be aware of! That is another example where better communication with the expatriates can be of a great value. Sponsoring Syrian musical group to perform outside Syria is an excellent venue where Syrian expatriates can contribute. Syria has some very well established musical groups but also new talents and new groups are emerging every day. It is our experience that a good musical performance can be very effective in enhancing our image abroad. Two years ago when we sponsored Hamzeh Chacour and the Dervishes of Damascus to perform in Michigan, we were very pleased to see the Michigan theatre in Ann Arbor overbooked by American audience who were enchanted and delighted by the concert.

Second generation Syrian expatriates is a huge resource waiting to be cultivated. The national feeling of our youths and their pride of their cultural heritage is phenomenal. Private universities in neighboring countries in the Middle East have very successful summer programs created to attract their second and third generation expatriates from around the world. I believe our Syrian private schools and universities can and should start similar programs. Especially that Syria has the reputation for being the best place for learning Arabic!

Finally certain Syrian expatriates are regular visitors to Syria but some other might not be. An expatriate who has not been to Syria for a long time will be pleasantly surprised to see all the activities and animation that is taking place in Syria especially in the old quarters of Damascus and Aleppo. I strongly suggest that any expatriate can be proud if he brings a non-Syrian family member or a friend to show them round in Syria. Last year we arranged for the Consular Corps in Michigan to visit Syria. These are people who have traveled around the world. In Syria, they were impressed by the warm welcome of the Syrian people, the good food, the richness of our historical and religious sites, and by the degree to which the Roman ruins are preserved, and how close they can get to and touch those ruins. At the end of their stay, they told me with total amazement ‚??Syria is a very well kept secret!‚?Ě
I strongly believe that, we Syrian expatriates have an important role to reveal this good secret to the rest of the world!

Dr. Naji Arwashan
Honorary Consul General of Syria in Detroit

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129 Responses to the Article

Alex Says:

Thank you Naji. You are doing a wonderful job.

But it is ironic that the more we succeed when we “reveal this good secret to the rest of the world” the more we take away from the special charm experienced by Syria’s foreign visitors… as you start to see many more tourists and tourist buses in Palmyra, it starts to turn into another Egyptian Pyramids’ commercial experience … not the quiet and exotic isolated desert site it is today. The experience of visiting or living in Damascus is similarly deteriorating already due to the unbearable traffic and pollution…

We need to keep Damascus and Palmyra the charming places that they used to be … success (bringing more visitors) will turn Syria into another Egypt or Morocco… not as charming.

some simple ideas:

1) keep hotels and tourism establishments (KFC?) at a sufficient distance away from the ruins in Palmyra and other popular ruins (like the many crusader castles)

2) Start some serious programs to fight pollution in the major cities of Damascus and Aleppo.

3) Educate Syrians about the health hazards of cigarette smoking … they are chain smokers, and nargeeleh smokers. It is sad that nothing serious is being planned by the government to fight smoking.

I heard from many tourists this year that it really bothered them to have to smell cigarette smoke everywhere they went in Damascus.

Why not start by forcing restaurants to have a 50% non-smoking areas? would that be too difficult? Why not ban smoking in public places?

4) Setup parking meters in downtown Damascus. Charge high fees for parking downtown. This can generate some income that can help finance the cost of anti-polution government measures in the future. It should also make many people consider to walk for 5 minutes instead of taking their cars downtown. Otherwise it is already highly frustrating to go anywhere downtown Damascus. By the time you manage to arrive to your destination through the heavy traffic, you can’t find a place to park your car … not even double park it.

This is not the calm and pleasant Damascus that tourists (or Damascene residents) used to love.

Majhool Says:

‚??One should give credit to the Syrian leadership for recognizing the potential treasure of the Syrian expatriates, and for taking the initiative of issuing the necessary legislatives to keep the expatriates in touch with their homeland‚?Ě
‚??Long-live the leadership‚?Ě for allowing us to keep in touch with the homeland. Indeed that is a great achievement. I say since we are already in ‚??lala land‚?Ě discussing this topic was not necessary.

‚??Recognizing the potential‚?Ě It does not take a genius to do that. This post is nothing more than sucking up ‚??tamseeh Jokh‚?Ě and propaganda to the leadership.
Few fallacies:
‚?Ę Badal: 12 years and $ 12, 000 and you call that an accomplishment?
‚?Ę Buthayna‚??s tour focus on advancing national and Arab struggle against the hegemony of the imperialistic powers, Zionists, etc. It has little to do with addressing the issues of the Expatriates.
‚?Ę Expatriates Conferences: you mean ‚??investment conferences‚?Ě?
‚?Ę ‚??They Showered her (Buthayna) with their love and support‚?Ě sounds more like a Nancy Ajram concert!! Get real.
‚?Ę NOSSTIA?? Also get real.
‚?Ę Email list and a news letter? Lol
‚?Ę The country needs some serious work and collaboration. You seem to be stuck in concerts and dervishes.

Hammam Yousef Says:

Majhool,
I love you man :) )

Yazan Badran Says:

Sir, with all due respect,

A mailing list is not the top priority of a country that blackmails its expats and their families for “badal”, a country that does not recognize that Syrian mothers are fit to give their citizenship to their sons and daughters…
If you do care to know a bit more about what our revered expats think of this, you might wanna take a look at this post by Syrian Brit, and see the reactions of the readers…
http://syrianbrit.blogspot.com/2007/05/held-at-ransom.html

Everything that is being done by the expats, is being done out of the passion that we all still have for the country [which is natural], regardless of how its government treats us. It is definitely not being done out appreciation to that treatment.

Sir, a government that makes an effort to put to jail distinguished people that still lived in Syria, obviously cares little about us living abroad.

david s Says:

Dear Najif,
Your report is very encouraging, and I too am optimistic about a path of progress by the government. Considering your particular charge, you may want to consider what other countries with large, emigre populations have done to succesfully draw back the attention of their expats. Ireland is a good example of a country which modernized its tax system and attracted investment quite succesfully.
The opening of the Damascus Bourse is a tremendous reform which Bashar deserves great credit for. By adopting measures that emote transparancy, simplicity, and a course of incentivization, I believe Syria will elicit a subatantial increase in economic activity from abroad.

Bob Says:

With all due respect, everyone is solving the wrong problem. Everyone talks about Syrian expats as a resource, a treasure, a source of investment, as… it is exactly this attitude which is going to lead to nowhere. When Syrians see expats not as privileged, but as deprived of living in their homeland, and when they seem them as in need of support and a path to reintegrating them into the fabric of Syrian society, then you will you get Syrian expats to return and to contribute as a natural expression of their talents because you will have won them over and brought them home with the things that NOWHERE else can offer them, not the things that everyone has and is offering them much better than Syria, which btw, Syria will minimally also need to do to COMPETE for expatriate talent in the global marketplace for top talent. Syria DOES NOT OWN expatriates and should stop treating them like they are there to be exploited. With time, the links and likelihood of this theoretical discussion gets weaker and weaker as bonds get stronger with their host countries so generations have been lost because of this thinking. Further, many expatriates are in fact VICTIMS and their unique oral history must be taken into account or you will never win them over if you do not address the CAUSES of their emigration. Finally, programs need to be created to integrate large numbers of Diaspora Syrians into Syria. Look no further than Israel for the examples of what you need to do and what the Ministry of Expatriates is not even close to doing. If I am critical, it is because there is a long road and we are always heading in exactly the opposite direction, looking at what Syria can get from people who owe LESS to Syria than anyone else because they no longer live there, if they even ever have!!!

Majhool Says:

Bob,

You are right on. God bless you.

Hammam Yousef Says:

Bob,
I second that, right on.

Alex,
looks like Majhool is not the “atheist” :) so… who is it :/

saint Says:

Alex, I‚??m going to put my comments for all posts on this post. Sorry for that.

Alex, you are a wonderful man, and sometimes I feel you aim deeper than what looks like na√Įve causal opinion. Your list of suggestions is too strong, and will requires a change of the interior Minister and to do that need a change to prime Minister and maybe the whole Ministers even Bothaina and I do not know how far needed to go up to apply those suggestions.

Yazan Amen to what you said: ‚?? Sir, a government that makes an effort to put to jail distinguished people that still lived in Syria, obviously cares little about us living abroad.‚?Ě
Because those people in prison may be want to immigrate running away from the hell, as we did, but they have been denied their fundamental right of leaving the country like Mr. Riad Saif who has been denied life threatening treatment. I wonder if the government really looks at us as expatriates or as escapees should pay ransoms for running away.

Bob, I third you and really god bless you. You have reminded me with all those poets‚?? expatriates who died in (Mahjir) we have read their works in schools, I wonder if any of those ever visited home or returned back home and if ever being treated as a human being, other than highlighting his love to the country.

saint Says:

Majhool, I agree with you but not on this one. The expatriates may vary in their look at the government behavior and honesty but we all stand together to achieve our goals to get them to recognize our independent and our freedom of speech. If they want our ‚??badel‚?Ě or our money, let them pool us and see want we want. I hope for a day we as expats have one organization who can tell those beggars what and how much we are willing to pay. I‚??m an American and I love my new country and I demand my right to visit my birth place with respect, any time.

The garbage metaphor is really the centre of the all discussions. I will say that all negatives observed by people visiting or living in Syria can be solved if we have a president who actually and physically picks the garbage as a model and example for his people to follow. And until then, do not expect anyone to solve any problem if you do not have a leader who can champion the cause. We do not need president who fight the mills, we need an example to lead civil life of everyday life which we miss since 1963.

In 1968, the dean of civil engineering in Damascus UN Mr. Kaddorah, with his American wife picked the trash, littered by a student from the floor of the building. That act was the last civilized behavior carried out by official who know the meaning of value and leadership.

Maher Amin, from Ohio Says:

Excellent article Dr. Arwashan, and excellent work! God bless you and bless the Syrian community in Michigan…
It is very easy for some to sit on the margin and just lecture, criticize and express frustration or anger without making any minor and meaningful contribution… So please don’t get discouraged by some of the comments of the like of Majhool! And You Alex you have done a superb job with your creative website so please don’t let some extremists, hiding behind fake names, to hijack your good work.
I understand that paying the badel is upsetting to many people. But why should I spend two good years of my life serving the military service in Syria (before immigrating to US) and some other get away with it and not even willing to pay a penny! I would be more
than happy to pay much more than the badal to buy back two good years of my twenties! And even those who don’t want or cannot afoard to pay the badal can still visit the country once a year (and who visits more than that anyway!). I guess some peole will never be happy no matter what you do to them, and will always see only the negative… Could it be because they are in the negative! Truly too bad for them

Naim Nazha MD Says:

Maher ,
You are right , people forget that many who did not have their parents pay their way to the US had to serve in the militery before leaving and to have nothing to pay is not fair to them.

Yazan Badran Says:

Maher,

Why don’t you ask yourself if everyone is doing such a superb job and syria is the milky heaven of tolerance, why would Majhool need a fake name…?

Alex is doing a great job exactly because he’s publishing the two sides of the story.

Majhool Says:

Extremist?? Not even a minor contribution? Hiding? Hijacking good work?

Alex, Abu Kareem, Yazan, Saint, Mazen, zenobia, etc..

Why don’t you speak your mind? I would love an open trial. remember silence would be condeming of me.

Naim,

You don’t get don’t you!! 10, 000 or 100000000 that is not the issue, I know many who send 10 times the ammount to help the poor and still upset that they don’t have the option to go work/live in syria for the betterment of syria before the 12 years.

It is the time period…TIME PERIOD…TIME PERIOD

You get it now?

Alex Says:

Dear Maher,

First, thank you for appearing and writing about your feelings of unfairness in case the government decided to completely exempt Syrian expats (without any conditions or badal) from their military service obligations.

I wanted to write the same thing but I preferred to wait for someone who did his military service to say it himself, like you did abocve.

I totally agree with you. I would keep some restrictions. HOWEVER … there are some ideas that one can consider to make the process more widely accepted.

1) To deal with the perception that the money is going to end up in some corrupt official’s pocket .. why not turn in into a charity? … setup a number of charities managed by respected NGOs to which expats can decide to send their $5000. Think of funds for purchasing Cancer treatment medical centers … you can encourage visiting doctors to help in setting up those centers. Another fund could be setup for the mentally handicapped abandoned children… or to the poor … it would be beautiful to see Syrian expats donating those $5000 with pleasure instead of cursing the corrupt (unknown) official who they feel is going to take their money.

2) Why was eligibility set to 12 years+? … why not five? … a 12 years minimum means the person probably got married with two children, got a house, and a rewarding career. It is much more difficult to dismantle everything at that stage.

Five years, on the other hand, means you just finished your University degree and perhaps worked for one year … then it would be easy and convenient to go back to Syria.

3) this whole issue could become irrelevant over the next five years if we manage to reach a just peaceful settlement with Israel. Then we won’t need such a large army, especially if the United States starts to cooperate with Syria to solve Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine’s problems.

I have been trying to convince my negative friends here : ) that in the long term, it is in their interest to redirect some of their energy towards lobbying for peace… they should continue criticize the regime sometimes, but not all the time!

As Yazan explained above. We need people to be critical of the things that are not done right. This would be a boring forum if we were exclusively from one side or the other.

Don’t worry about them hijacking the forum … Zenobia and Dr. Naim can take care of them! : )

Having said that, I still think that Majhool was not exactly proper in the way he expressed his opinion of Dr. Arwashan’s post. But he immediately acknowledged that it was not the proper tone and he told me he will be more careful from now on.

Majhool Says:

Alex,

So, am I

Extremist?? Not even a minor contribution? Hiding? Hijacking good work?

I might be not the most proper fellow out there but i stil would like to hear your opnion about the serious acusations above.

Awaiting more testimonies from the others.

Alex Says:

“Extremist”? on what scale? compared to who? … : )

Ok, without taking sides, or dramatizing anything … you are an extremist in the way you do not trust the regime AT ALL and you blame almost everything on “the regime”.

There is some extremism there.

However, you are not an extremist in your expectations and hopes. You are quite reasonable.

Majhool Says:

Alex,

The scale you should always use, is sound logic and good intentions.

So am I

a minor contributor? Hiding? Hijacker of good work?

Also, you don’t seem tp be outraged with the improperness of Mr Maher..sad huh?

Alex Says:

Majhool 7abibi,

No I am not “outraged” … was I “outraged” at your improperness?

Yours was worse by the way. Why? … because a political science student like you should have known that Dr. Arwashan is an official and he has specific guidelines that he is not supposed to go outside when he writes, so you should not have ridiculed him for that… he did not sound much different from any typical official of any country.

As for maher, he does not know much about you except the negative comments he read here.

I commented on Maher’s points one by one and I agreed with him on some and disagreed on others, including the suggestion that we should not have people with your views on this forum.

As for the scale that “should be” … I already said: “However, you are not an extremist in your expectations and hopes. You are quite reasonable.”

But I will remind you that you are “not fair” .. you blame everything on the regime… that makes you an “extremist” on that scale.

You are not alone … there are many who would criticize the Syrian leadership for one thing and its exact opposite. I remember one commentator who was upset at Bashar for being an “Iranian puppet” … but he was also upset at him for his role in “ensuring that the Iranian Saudi plans for reconciliation in Lebanon failed” … how can he be a puppet while working against Iran’s good efforts in Lebanon?

Now, forget about you and Maher and Alex.

What do you think about my suggestions for turning the Badal into a charity and reducing the minimum period to 5 years (down from 12)?

Hammam Yousef Says:

Guyz!

I just woke up ‚?¶ and, BOOM!

A regime cavalry had rushed to the rescue! What a spirit! Keep up the anger Mr. (Maher ‚??positive‚?Ě Amin.) Your vocabulary puts you in the same category with Buthayna, another proof of my theory‚?¶ ‚??if you are not with us then you are‚?¶Extremist, Hijacker, Hiding and not Contributing‚?¶ in other words‚?¶ AGAINST US‚?Ě same exclusionist attitude‚?Ě

Alex,
You tired to get into details‚?¶ discussing ‚??Badal‚?Ě is a diversion from replying Mr. Amin‚??s accusations, and the fact that Majhool (who didn‚??t quit :) ) addressed the same issue does not mean that he, and the other Hijackers :) , discussed more crucial issues such as ‚??Rule of Law,‚?Ě and I can‚??t figure out how demanding it could be considered Extremism?!

Now‚?¶ If you consider the stand against the regime extremism, then you are ruling out the role of ‚??Opposition‚?Ě of the political process, this my friends is called‚?¶ DICTATORSHIP!

If people, like Mr. Arwashan, are trying to do their best then our thanks to them for doing THEIR JOB! Looks like, nowadays, doing your job is something you expect gratitude for!
Besides‚?¶ as a government and its representatives, you should expect that there will always be someone who is not satisfied, no matter what they do! and calling all those hijackers and extremists is a sign of paranoid psycho behavior!

Alex,
( Ok, without taking sides, or dramatizing anything ‚?¶ you are an extremist in the way you do not trust the regime AT ALL and you blame almost everything on ‚??the regime‚?Ě.)
Maybe he profoundly does not trust the regime, for a whole bunch of reasons, and I believe we already mentioned few, it is his RIGHT! blaming everything on the regime is extreme if it was a pattern, but when you ask for ‚??Rule of Law‚?Ě which will put you under the same judgment/ scale with the regime, it doesn‚??t make you an extremist.
If this forum is real Democratic platform, it should welcome extremists of all sides‚?¶ after all this is what I believe it was meant to be.

Majhool,
If you consider someone an opponent, you wouldn‚??t be surprised if he tried to swing a fist at you, would you! :)

Zenobia Says:

ok,
no…i don’t think Majhool is an ‘extremist’… he is pretty typical actually.

and as for his reply to Arwashan, well.. it was just unhelpful because of his language. but the criticque is fair. its fair gain.

and the comment from Maher Amin… was just as unrealistic and ‘extreme’ in its characterization of Majhool or anybody like him…..

so round and round we go…..

maybe everybody should just stay away , period, from these ad hominem attacks…. and stick to criticque ideas instead…. there’s a thought!

Naim Says:

Alex, I like the 5 years time , but what would you say to the poor people that can not leave Syria for lack of family support , bad luck.
you should sereve .

Zenobia Says:

yes, i also like the idea of the transformation of the badal into a charitble contribution. this would mean that it is fairer to those who cannot pay their way out or decide to serve their time in the army. and at the same time – it would help those who pay…. feel that their money was going to some constructive purpose rather than down some black hole to nowhere.

Majhool Says:

Extremisim is when one asks for something reasonable and still be denied that.

That is you and your regime :)

here is the count so far.

Majhool an Extremist? Hiding? HIjacking good work?
Yes: Alex, Maher (Arwashan’s friend)
No: Yazan, Zenobia, Hammam
Clueless: Naim

waiting for abu kareem Mazen, and Saint

If I am deemed to be such, I vow to take Alex’ “moderate” position in the future.

Alex,

I like your suggestions, that is what i have been calling for all along. Naim seem to have a hearing problem.

Naim,

My dear, is it fair that those who stay in syria get to be arround their family and friends but the expats cannot? is it fair that makhlouf now owns billions? is it fair that 20,000 were killed in Hama among them many innocents? is it fair that Aref dalila is in prison? is it fair that the syria’s port of latakia is the biggest gang operation in the history of Syria?

Reducing the time period for badal is for the betterement of Syria. thanks for Alex for being very articulate..

Alex Says:

Hammam,

I tried to stick to ideas instead of attacking people. There is this tendency to expect dramatic statements about every issue and every other … statement.

It is much more constructive to make your opinion known politely instead of making grand statements that make you (or me) sound like a moral authority.

Majhool and I sometimes use more dramatic language against each other’s arguments but we talked about it, agreed that we are both OK with it and we do not take it personally. There is some humor in many of those seemingly nasty statements.

But this is not the case in general. Not with people you do not know.

If you disagree with Maher’s tone, then when you reply to him try to not match his tone … otherwise you are not any better.

Maher, while I am closer to your opinions than I am to Hammam, on the political options of Syria, I agree with Hammam that there is often an automatic rejection of ideas from those who are angry at “the regime”.

While it is disappointing to hear some of their arguments, other arguments are worth considering, I personally interact more with people I disagree with than people I agree with.

Now Hammam … what are you talking about? … I welcome Majhool’s opinions and I listen to them and I accept some of them, but he asked me to mediate between him and Maher …. my opinion was that Majhool’s intentions and goals are mainstream, but in his analysis he is EXTREMELY not reasonable with anything involving the regime… blaming the regime for everything is something that can be done in parliament from members of official opposition parties. It is typical politics and everyone knows that politicians play those roles. But is it constructive? no. Is it for the best of the country’s interests? … no. It is done for personal, or party’s interests. So I am not fond of anyone who ALWAYS puts the blame on any party… but there is no “dictatorship” here as you know … always happy to hear the good part of everyone’s opinions, because everyone is right sometimes.

Now can I ask you a question: you found it more useful to attack Maher than to continue with the ideas I proposed which you called “details”?

I hoped that the purpose of this discussion is to come up with solutions rather than to announce who we blame …. again and again.

What motivates you the most? … attacking the regime or designing solutions?

Alex Says:

Lak ya zalameh! .. if Naim has a hearing problem, you surely have one too!

Is this really “the count so far”??

Majhool an Extremist? Hiding? HIjacking good work?
Yes: Alex, Maher (Arwashan‚??s friend)
No: Yazan, Zenobia, Hammam
Clueless: Naim

Naim Nazha MD Says:

Alex , MAJHOOL like many in the regime in Syria that he attacks , When they can not make a point and convince others they chose name calling , that is a shame coming from you Majhool , I expected more from sombody studing political science and propably is going to be a Lawer.

saint Says:

Some regime supporters go extreme, they know it is a dictatorship and they go out shouting long live the dictator. I think such attitude should not be tolerated on this forum if we want to have intelligent discussion. The country has a lot of problems and should be a dialogue not shutting others up attitude.

Majhool, you may know that the pool for the expats in the North America done three years ago, resulted in over 80% anti regime population. And you may know that the results of such high percentage related to that people here have the freedom to speak their minds, not like the poor people in Syria where there choices is ( Bashar or Bashar).

Alex Says:

Saint,

Don’t worry, no one will be asked to not speak him mind. Whatever the BBC allows, we allow here, and their limitations are limitations here too … any idea is welcome, sarcasm is fine if everyone remains polite. I just hope we do not describe those we do not agree with as traitors, Baathists, idiots …

So can we go back to the ideas & solutions please?

As for the 80% poll for Syrian expats in North America, I am not familiar with it, but I believe it … only because it was three years ago. At that time (2004 to 2005) the regime looked like it is leading Syria straight to a US invasion … for about 18 months the regime seemed to be lost.

I think now the percentage is probably closer to 50/50 +- 10%

This means that Syrian expats are not one united group. There are the Naim’s, Alex’s Najis and Mahers, and there are the Saints (sounds good!) Majhools, Hammams and Yazans …

And of course within each group there are differences as well. Hammam is definitely not an Atheist for example : )

Saint, I love that name … when you are done with it, can I inherit it from you?

Also, I just realized that I do not have your email among the list of authors on this blog. If you feel like writing a post please feel free to send it to me and I will upload it.

saint Says:

I wish one of the founder of SACongress, (Mohyeddin Kassar, Economist, college professor,) can respond to this, because he was the one who prepared the poll and I‚??m not sure about the year. But still you can contact him for the info. Also, the SAC has adopted more balanced policy recently between opposition and regime support; I think you might be familiar with this Alex. Please read recent press release: http://www.sacongress.org/press_release.php
I do not agree with you on the 50/50 and I do not want to speculate. Thanks for being gentleman and support the democratic forum for discussing, and I hope your forum would not take the trash forum direction of Syria-news. Also, I hope one day we will see a forum like this in Syria, where the opposition figures like Kilo, Dalila, Sief and Labwani are participating not from prison.
One last thing, I felt really good for only one thing I noticed in my visit to Damascus last year. Some of the expensive schools start teaching the concept of critical thinking. This was great thing, but still I hope we are not going to wait 20 years for these kids to grow to allow people in the country to criticize their government and question their acts.

abu kareem Says:

Majhool,

Were your criticisms of Naji fair? Yes
Was your tone angry and irritable? Yes
Would I have responded in the same way? No, but not because I wouldn’t have been irritated by the uncritical, propaganda-like tone of the post, but because I have mellowed with age.

Are you an extremist? lol, No

Frankly, I think most of us expatriates on this forum who have grave misgivings about the Syrian regime show a great deal of restraint. We see a need for change and are willing to see it done within the system. If those looking from the other side consider everything the government does is fine and dandy and that there is not need for change, then this discussion is over. Each side has to reach out to the other in a genuine way.

Alex,

If the badal goes to an NGO, I will send my check for $12,000 tomorow. Better still, do you really need two years of military service that is disruptive to people’s livelihoods and careers? I think it can be substantially reduced and dispersed over time. In Switzerland, which has a strong military despite its history of neutrality, young people go for a couple weeks a year over a number of years to fulfill their service.

Ŕ?Ŕ?Ŕ?ōßŔ? Ŕ?Ŕ?ō≥ŔĀ Says:

Alex,

“What motivates you the most? ‚?¶ attacking the regime or designing solutions?”

Ok… quick answer? I choose SOLUTIONS! and one of the best solutions is “Rule of Law,” now… will this solution make the “regime” happy? I highly suspect it! …does this make me “regime attacker?” I wonder? :/

As for what you’ve suggested… Totally agree, could be a nice middle point… The thing is, we are taking this “Badal paying” for granted, we are not discussing its legitimacy, I believe we are the only country in the world which have such a thing!

Definitely and Absolutely -I feel this should be clear- I don’t blame the regime for the flaws mistakes and shortcomings of the people, I also must say -as the first commenter who mentioned the “garbage” thing- I put the first blame for all the garbage that the country swims in, on the people… it is a cultural/ behavioural symptom, not political one… of course when the leadership sets an example, all will follow, but people lost faith in the “leadership.”

Yes, they might still have some belief in Bashar as a person, but deep inside, they know that there are much more issues/ garbage he is overlooking, or incapable of changing it.

What I also feel is very important to make clear is, Pointing the finger at the “Regime” as the only source of all our problems, is drastic misleading to our country men, the CHANGE should take place on the base level, people’s level! This might look like a 180 degrees direction change on my part, but it isn’t, as I believe, there is political/ tactical approach, and strategies, we need to have accountability with regard to all those in position of “public service,” And… we need public awareness and raising the general level of education/ cultural views among our people, and this Strategy, too, should be of a concern to the leadership.

You are right, I’m not an atheist :) but I am also a man infested with doubts and big questions, many “believers” don’t feel I am a good example of a Muslim, I don’t mind! I have my own perception/ understanding of Islam, and I deeply believe it is capable of helping Humanity! :D

Alex Says:

Hammam, now that we all agreed to stick to discussing the original discussion topic of this month, let’s see what are the government’s options.

1) No military service?

2) Obligatory military service for Syrians who can not travel outside, but all those who live outside get exempt from military service?

3) Obligatory military service for insiders and outsiders .. no exemption for expats through payment of Badal?

4) Exapts can be exempt after a time period and after paying a Badal (the way things are now).

If you are not for number 4, then what is your preferred option? and why? and if you (and other expats) might be happier with that option, will the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who had to do their military service be happy with your suggested option?

Alex Says:

As for the “Rule of Law” … as I told Majhool yesterday … very reasonable demand … but rule of law is just like “democracy” … the kind of achievement that we can not achieve over night .. it will take years and years, and even then, it will never be perfect, just like in all the other wonderful countries where there is rule of law.

So if we decide not to do anything useful for Syria or Syrians until we have “rule of law” … then aren’t we automatically escaping any responsibility?

saint Says:

Alex, do you think your audiences are bunch of kids in the elementary school. Rule of law can be achieved tomorrow when the regime listen to all freedom seekers, to expats, to lawyers, to opposition figures and to all opposition parties by removing the emergency law which has been in effect for over 40 years. This is how I understand the discussion from the beginning when Majool suggested first step.
Please, have respect to your audience? do not make me angry?

Alex Says:

Saint,

I did not invite any elementary school kids to this forum (even Yazan is in University now : )

Please do not assume I, exclusively, can manipulate your opinions. I am willing to have my opinions manipulated by any one of you.

I spoke to Majhool in detail about it yesterday. When most of the country is corrupt, and when you have many powerful corrupt people, then “rule of law” means end of corruption, among other things. Are you implying that the end of corruption “can be achieved tomorrow”?

What do you tell all those who can not tomorrow make money the way they could yesterday? … why do you think no other middle Eastern country has this perfect “rule of law”?

Again, I am not opposed to rule of law …. I just want to see how we can go there fast enough. In the mean time, we can work on many other things … like the peace process… because it can really take us to where we want to go faster than the status quo.

Yazan Badran Says:

Alex,
I wish I can go back to elementary school…

But I agree with saint wholeheartedly, you basically, want us to believe that if we sit back, and if we believe “in” the regime… and never try to pressure the poor thing, or just ask them for a those trivial details such as better education, less personality cult, maybe just a bit less of milking the country… maybe, just maybe, they will try to listen to all this babling noise of us, I mean after all, who are we? we’re just people who live there…

Maybe I am just really too blind to see where ur vision is taking us, but honestly, I don’t buy it.

saint Says:

Thanks Yazan,
Alex, please do not play hide and seek. If you read my comment I said applying the rule of law can be easy by starting with removing the emergency law. The emergency law is putting the Syrian law on the shelf. If expats or investment companies want to work there, they need normal country, not emergency law. You talked about corruption and peace process, those are noting to do the expats and their contribution. Isn‚??t enough to stop the time since 40 years on emergency law to the benefit of the dictator and the rule of the coup?
You ignored the sentence or emergency law completely in your reply. And if you respond directly, you might say (I‚??m here talking from your brain) that the regime is not going to be able to remove the emergency law till the pressure from America and the international court is removed. Then I would say, I do not care, I care, as exapt, to see the regime giving up something on the road of change to start the give and take, we have to get something to build confidence. And believe me, I do not represent anyone, only myself. Then, at this point we could agree not to disagree and the story is finished. But, you chose to ignore what I said and treat the subject as elementary school.
Look man, I like your site you have wonderful taste but tell the truth, you can not gain the hearts of the expats this way, at least not mine.

naim Says:

Rule of law , That is interesting coming from people who want everybody to serve their military service except themselves or they want to pay less instead than the people who can not leave the country , they keep talking about emergency law , we have that in the US it is called the Patriot act , they can arrest people without trial , they did that to Paideia, and they let OJ Simpson and Micheal Jackson go free , that is the rule of law , everybody knows that there is law for the rich and another for the rest of the people in the US.
I agree that peace will make it easier to cancel the military service and make it volunteer army of men and women ,
If they want to keep the military service as it is the case in Israel it should include men and women and only child as only boy or child is not more dear than children of families with more than one kid.
about paying to a charity , That is a noble idea but it should not replace paying to the Syrian treasury , the Charities do not pay the salaries of the people in the Army , the teachers or the people providing free health care ,
the Syrian treasury does all that , the Syrian people should start paying for the services they get , Syria can not function without revenue and the Syrians are the ones to provide these revenue , the more people participate in providing revenue the more the government is obliged to listen to them , Syria today as it looks like a place where the government provide services while the people complain about their civil liberties .

naim Says:

Some people will not help Syria until there is a change in the regime , my experience in the US is that we have corrupt Democrats , and corrupt Republicans , in south New Jersey we have a charitable organisation called RNS cancer and heart fund , they donate to hospitals in the area no mater if there is a Republican or a Democratic regime , they use a charitable Gala and donations to do their work , the people who work there are volunteers , Syrians abroad can do the same.

Alex Says:

Saint,

Please read again what you said:

Rule of law can be achieved tomorrow when the regime listen to all freedom seekers, to expats, to lawyers, to opposition figures and to all opposition parties by removing the emergency law which has been in effect for over 40 years.

You did say it can be achieved tomorrow simply by removing the emergency law.

I am for the lifting of that emergency law early 2009 … but I am for easing its terms starting tomorrow… it would send a strong message to the outside that the regime is strong and it is feeling secure that a majority of its people are behind it. There is a lot that we can modify in that law without risking anything.

But that will not give us that rule of law … Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan … are as corrupt as it gets, and they don’t have our emergency law.

I don’t disagree with you and Majhool and Abu Kareem about what is good and what is bad … I disagree on the timing and on the high expectations that some of you seem to have sometimes.

Alex Says:

Naim, I agree with most of your examples and points. However, Syria needs to spend money buying medical supplies and equipment anyway … if this money goes to a charity first, why is that a bad thing? … read Abu Kareem’s comment above .. he said he is willing to send a $12,000 check tomorrow if he knows it will go to a respectable NGO.

Alex Says:

Yazan

You said:

you basically, want us to believe that if we sit back, and if we believe ‚??in‚?Ě the regime‚?¶ and never try to pressure the poor thing, or just ask them for a those trivial details such as better education, less personality cult, maybe just a bit less of milking the country

I will repeat another time … I don’t like “never” or any other absolute.

Asking for “better” education is great … asking for “the best” education is unrealistic.

Asking for “less personality cult” is great .. asking for “tomorrow remove all photos of the president and all banners and all the baathist slogans from any school or factory or army residence” is not realistic.

Asking for improvements is the right thing to do, not “sitting back and believing in the regime” … I never suggested that.

However, “Rule of Law” and “democracy” are not within the compass of our attainment… not any time soon. Not with this regime, nor with Michel Kilo or with anyone in control… only organic change will get us there … we need to move in the right direction .. at the speed that the country can take .. if it moves fast, then great … if it does not move fast enough, then it is the best we can have.

Alex Says:

And if I may ask again, which one of the following military service and badal options sounds right to you?

1) No military service?

2) Obligatory military service for Syrians who can not travel outside, but all those who live outside get exempt from military service?

3) Obligatory military service for insiders and outsiders .. no exemption for expats through payment of Badal?

4) Exapts can be exempt after a time period and after paying a Badal (the way things are now).

saint Says:

Alex,
You have a conflict with the rule you are playing. As a leader, owner of the site, a facilitator of the dialogue, your rule should be to create vision of the goals and objectives of the panel, set standards, create and foster a ‚??no blame‚?Ě environment, delegate with measurable goals and ensure to refer to resource that fulfill the subject and the objective.

What I realized that you maneuver the subject, like if I said we should have shared vision as expats to ask for the rule of law and this can be achieved gradually by first demanding the lifting of the emergency law as a condition and first step for investment and co-operation, which will set the cloak for improving legal environment and put us on the road to the rule of law, you turned and said, OK but after two years.
May be you would like the appeasement strategy with the regime, it is OK, but do not dwell and argue like the other points is wrong, it is better to have a dialogue not argument.
I wish after each subject you will come up with a brief of the results of the dialogue and after you tested the feeling of the panel to come up with conclusions, this will make this forum productive.
For Naim, I served my previous country more than you imagine. In the US, Mr. Naim, a lot of people including me, did not appreciate the patriots act and freedom advocates talk, write, demonstrate and demean the administration. I hope you are on this side and I wish you would be on the same side for Syria too.
Alex, as expats we have no say in military service if it should be or not. This is a Syrian people call not us.
Me, as expats, I want to know after me acquiring new citizenship and have my kids borne, taught, and pledged the allegiance every morning to the great USA, what in the hill have to do with Syria, and why they should pay ‚??badal‚?Ě to Syrian government who have no connection to, explain this please?

Hammam Yousef Ŕ?Ŕ?Ŕ?ōßŔ? Ŕ?Ŕ?ō≥ŔĀ Says:

Alex,

I am trying to post a comment, it is not working, is it a technical problem?!

Hammam Yousef Ŕ?Ŕ?Ŕ?ōßŔ? Ŕ?Ŕ?ō≥ŔĀ Says:

Alex,

Even though the issue of ‚??badal‚?Ě is not the main thing in this topic, I see a lot of focus on it?! I wonder why? But I will answer your questions, regardless of the ‚??School-children‚?Ě feeling of it‚?¶

I choose option‚?¶ 5) or 6) :)

5) Expats pay to a ‚??Syrian Students‚?? Fund.‚?Ě A proposed entity of Damascus University*. This fund supports all Syrian University students who show talent and interest in studying abroad, the administration board of this fund is joint, Expats representatives and Local DU staff. Records are made of all those who paid there contribution, thus exempted from military service. (* and the other Syrian universities)

6) Obligatory military service is canceled, and the Syrian Army to be changed into a professional army, i.e. Volunteers! There can still be a preparatory military training for all university students, whether in summer camps or integrated in the program as is the situation right now, this is necessary in case of an emergency draft.

BTW, I‚??ve served my time in the military, finished it in 1995!

Naim @ 10:38 pm,

I was hesitating for a while to reply to you, but why not, and I will try to be calm.

‚??Rule of law , That is interesting coming from people who want everybody to serve their military service except themselves or they want to pay less instead than the people who can not leave the country‚?Ě

The least to say about the previous paragraph is, that it questions the intentions of others if not judge it, here I have to stop you Mr. Naim, the concept of ad hominem applies to you!

***

‚??they keep talking about emergency law , we have that in the US it is called the Patriot act , they can arrest people without trial , they did that to Paideia, and they let OJ Simpson and Micheal Jackson go free , that is the rule of law , everybody knows that there is law for the rich and another for the rest of the people in the US.‚?Ě

This is simply poor logic! If Patriot Act in USA is violating the rights of Americans, that doesn‚??t make it right, or gives an excuse to the Syrian Emergency Law to stay applied onto Syrian people. The fact that USA is descending towards a situation much similar to a 3rd world country dictatorship like Syria is a sad thing, not an example of an accepted situation.

‚??Syria today as it looks like a place where the government provide services while the people complain about their civil liberties .‚?Ě

Sorry, but if I got what you are suggesting here right, I feel it is a Mukhabarat agent talking, or‚?¶ you really have some serious problems.

Does names like Arif Dalilah, Michel Kilo, Anwar al-Bunni, Kamal Labwani, Hussam Milhem, Tareq al-Ghorani, Ali Nazhir al-Ali, Allam Fakhour, Maher Esber‚?¶ and so on, and many others on a daily basis! Those are ONLY COMPLAINING about some irrelevant civil liberties RIGHT!?

Ammm‚?¶ Aaaaa‚?¶. Ehhh! For some reason I feel I shouldn‚??t even comment back at you words!

I don‚??t know‚?¶ is it me only or there are some body out there who feels the same?!

Alex Says:

Saint,

I know you feel that I am too friendly to the other side’s opinions and therefore I am not very neutral. But Maher probably feels I am not firm enough with your side either.

Believe me, I am closer to the center of Syrian opinions today. I am not as forgiving as Naim, and I am not as critical as you.

In this post you will see that I questioned Dr. Arwashan, Maher, and Naim (the “pro regime” group) … in case you feel that I am only picking on you and Majhool.

One of my favorite journalists (moderators) was Tim Sebastian who used to host the BBC’s interview programme, HARDtalk. Now he is the moderator of the Doha Debates

Even when he interviews presidents Tim would not let them make a statement without questioning every aspect of that statement. You would think that he was opposed to that person he was interviewing, but he did the same with anyone he interviewed… including Buthaina Shaaban by the way.

I am indeed going to start a summary at the end of every topic. That’s why I am insisting this time to get enough answers to some of the questions, like the Badal ideas before I present everyone’s ideas and opinions in that summary…

I really hope each one would make it a challenge to make sure he/she came up with some practical recommendations, ideas, solutions … practical in the sense that we know what the limitation are (regime’s resistance, Syrian people’s preferences, regional situation, costs involved …)

When you suggested “rule of law” … I needed to question you regarding the practicality of that suggestion … because if we left it as “rule of law” .. it is too generic to be considered “an idea”.

Now to answer your last question. I don’t know … maybe it has to do with the same reasons that make it hard to lose the citizenship of many other countries … like Israel, or Canada…

But if your children were born in the United States, I don’t believe they should be required to have the same obligations like those born in Syria.

Alex Says:

Hammam .. I like Naim! … he almost never blames it on the regime … in that sense he balances someone who almost always blames it on the regime … now you understand how some of us feel : )

Where is Majhool?

I will start preparing this topic’s summary the next two days. Don’t worry, I will be neutral.

Majhool Says:

Real fast,

Naim enta wahad momil. and you just dont get it. ( sorry guys i had to say it, i just cant help it anymore. sorry Alex.

We are actually helping the regime by just writting, this forum is read mostly by foreign journalists giving them somewhat a misleading image of reality: the pro-regime camp (alex & Co) appear reasonable, smart and well intentioned (which is not the really the case with the regime itself) and the Pro-rule of law camp, is moderate, reasonable, and willing to compromise, which is not really the case either.

All in all it gives somewhat a glossy picture that is fake. let’s all hope that this will help Alex in his mission in poilishing our image to forginers and israelis.

So we are helping, right? what if we all stop writing? then we are left with the likes of Naji, maher, naim ( jawkat el-tatbeel wa tazmeer wa altakhween) and that would be not so good for Alex’ mission.

Alex, is a reasonable guy but the regime isn’t. I wish i could verify that Bashar is reaching out to those outside his corrupt circles

naim Says:

Alex, Majhool, Hammam,
I was never in the Baath Party or Mukhabarat , never paid a bribe never new any government official and do not know any of them in the US .
I just want to make it clear that there are many problems in Syria , complaining about them and blaming the Government will not solve them , many of these problems are coming from lack of accountability and from a single party System , I lived in Syria in the seventies and things were not good at that time but i never felt threaten by the regime , things did not change and they will not change by a regime worry about the safety of it’s members especially after seeing what happened in Iraq to the Baathist there ,shouting and jumping up and down against the regime will not improve the lives of the Syrian people , Hamas and Hezbollah are popular not because of their opposition to the Government but because of the social programs that they established and if you Majhool have a brain (Sorry to say that but you make me sad about your lack of foresight ) and Hammam will know that to get support from the people you have to show them that you care about them by providing what you can for them .
Alex ,
about the government providing for medical equipment, I guess you come with experiences in Canada where the government provide for the technology while i come from the US where these technologies are supplied by Charitable organisations and the communities , these donations are tax deductible which is like telling the government where to spend the money .

Alex Says:

Majhool, Mjhool, Majhool,

Life is not as simple as “pro regime” and “anti regime” … most of us are not in any of those two extremes. If you want to classify the 29 authors who contributed articles for our three topics, there is no way you can classify them as “pro regime” and “anti regime” … What is Sami Moubayed? Rime Allaf? Ayman Hakki? Ford Prefect? …

If I wanted to make the regime looks good then I would have invited some of the not-very-capable, boring opposition supporters who wrote to me hinting that they would like to be part of our discussions … The well selected “pro regime camp” (like Mazen Salhi) would have had a very easy time destroying their arguments and the regime would look amazingly impressive in comparison.

But I invited the smartest “anti regime” and the smartest neutrals that I could find.

If our hand picked group fails to be civilized in our debates, then what does that tell you about the chances of “democracy” in Syria?

So what do you want to do with those who continue to disagree with you after you tried twice to explain to them the beauty of your ideas and opinions? … call them Naive or stupid? call them Baathists? moukhabarat?

Telling Naim: “you just don’t get it” is an easy way out for you … you want to win an argument by discrediting the person opposing you … convincing yourself that the reason he still disagrees with you is perhaps because he is not smart enough?

Simply agree to disagree with Naim, … Alex will then put both opinions in the summary of this topic, then every reader can decide for himself which opinion is smart and wise.

Why not forget about the regime and the Israelis and any other dramatic secret plans, and instead keep this a place for testing our different ideas … see which ones can stand objective criticism and which ones can be popular with the different types of Syrians who are well represented here.

Is this a good enough reason to participate? or does it have to be a fight between “pro regime” and “anti regime” for you to be motivated?

Majhool Says:

Niam,

Since I am brainless. I will take Alex’s advice and will simply disagree with that you said/will say. after all, your poorly written post (look up the score) is not worth the time. I wish you best of luck. again i think you are well intentioned. So God bless you (I mean it)

Alex,

You know how I appreciate your work. so no need to explain. it’s a mental excercise (sorry naim to claim some brains, sayerna) to throw out idea. Rule-of-law is an idea that seems to have taken root in the discussion making it all worth the effort.

Hammam yousef Ŕ?Ŕ?Ŕ?ōßŔ? Ŕ?Ŕ?ō≥ŔĀ Says:

‚??Not the regime‚?? or ‚?? the regime‚?? is that the question?!

Politically speaking‚?¶ it is! Culturally speaking‚?¶ it isn‚??t!

Alex,
I didn‚??t call anybody Mukhabarat‚?¶ I said ‚??I feel it is a Mukhabarat agent talking‚?Ě linguistically, it is not the same.

Naim,
1) – You keep reminding us that you have no connection what so ever to the regime‚?¶ why is that? Some psychologist could shed a light on this!

2) – I have the feeling that you are not reading all what is being written here, at least not all what I am trying to say.

From what I see, there are two easely distinguished sides. On the first we see those who are asking for ‚??Rule of Law‚?Ě which is a general concept, I agree. And on the other we have those who are saying ‚??Don‚??t blame it all on the regime‚?Ě ‚?¶ to be continued

Alex Says:

Majhool, I will tell you a secret, right here in the comments section, so don’t tell anyone please, it is a secret! : )

I can not look at the ratings here (I can, but it is difficult)

But from the Think Tank, where I could look at the ratings with ease (it was my custom software, not a plugin like the one here)

Regime supporters voted to anti-regime authors (like Ammar, and Rime Allaf sometimes) 3 or 4 stars.

But anti-regime supporters vote to pro-regime authors (like Joshua, Patrick Seale and Gayth Armaqnazi) 1 star ! … 2 stars if they felt generous that day.

You probably noticed that Ammar was almost always getting high marks, and Joshua getting 48% type of scores.

Why is that? … can Patrick Seale’s article be that bad? … a 1-star says that the author does know how to spell him own name!

It is because “the opposition” supporters are sure they are rating crooks .. if someone “supports the regime” he is a bad person who should be punished… and they are (anti-regimists) all saints and on the side of “good” by default.

I always wanted to tell that story … it shows us (“Pro-regime camp”) as more responsible individuals who are willing to give 3-stars to an article with which we agree 60% … 3-stars)

The only annoying exception (at the THink Tank) was my score … it seems that only those who liked me voted for my articles … those who opposed my opinions probably assumed I can read their names and scores (which I could) so they never voted against me …. so I ended up with near perfect scores .. like 92% once .. which was very embarrassing… to see Patrick Seale at 50% and me at 92% … it looks like I manipulated the scores like an idiot.

Majhool Says:

Alex,

Ma tez3al, in fact Naim said something that actually worth following up on.. he said:

‚??There are many problems in Syria, complaining about them and blaming the Government will not solve them, many of these problems are coming from lack of accountability and from a single party System‚?Ě

Let me first agree with Naim that there are indeed many problems in Syria, and that many of these problems are a result of lack of accountability and the one party system.

However I will disagree with Naim on the ‚??complaining /blaming‚?Ě part.

In failure analysis, the investigator looks beyond the immediate culprit and goes deeper to find the systemic issue that results in the immediate culprit to even exist. It does not take a genius to figure out that the root cause is the very nature of the system.

The system is infested by totalitarian ideologies and lack of accountability and legitimacy (one-party-system under Baath) as well as brutality & paranoia (Mukhabarat). If I am correct I believe Naim acknowledges that, but sees no value of ‚??nagging‚?Ě and ‚??complaining‚?Ě about it and instead advocates positivity and trust in dealing with a regime that is there to stay.

This is where I disagree with both Naim and Alex. Syria‚??s problems will only get worse if the root cause remains hindering progress.

Due to the lack of free press and legitimate representation ‚??Nagging‚?Ě becomes the only vehicle for expressing discontent. It‚??s all what‚??s left and is something that we should not let go of.

‚??Nagging‚?Ě becomes counter productive only when it becomes unrealistic. You all know by now that I am not with a regime change. Violent ‚??take-overs‚?Ě similar to that the Baathist committed only sets the society backwards. We would like to help the regime to reform it self by giving them the incentive (Support) to do so.

Rule-of-law is a platform and not a goal in it‚??s self. This platform is necessary in order for all citizens to find the incentive and protection they need to maximize their efforts. No one is asking for ‚??democracy-now‚?Ě and hence the demands are very realistic. It becomes even more realistic and feasible when ‚??rule of law‚?Ě is executed in increments. It all starts with a commitment and a clear road map. The lack of such a commitment is troubling. It speaks of bad intentions on the part of the ruling elite (20+ most influential people in Syria)

Alex is always quick to agree with my demands but also quick to assure me that Bashar is well intentioned and indeed is working on it but there is much resistance for reform around him. I think most of us here having nothing against Bashar as a person. In fact he is one of the most pleasant among those in the top.

Yet again, if we were not to personally attack Bashar, and instead deal with the regime as collection of the 20+ most powerful figures in the land then we clearly see that the sum of their intentions appears to be in the ‚??bad‚?Ě direction.

Unless there is a public commitment and verifiable intentions and actuall step take in “good” direction, I will not be able to trust those 20+ figures in charge ‚??the regime‚?Ě

In the mean time, our love for Syria and Syrians does not change and we continue to help out in all ways possible.

Alex Says:

Majhool,

1) Piano Piano, chi va piano va sano e va lontano

If you are for gradual transition towards rule of law, then I am with you.

2) I understand your frustration with the regime’s lack of commitment for the “rule of law” platform. Often, the regime makes no effort to communicate its intentions, and when they do announce a direction, they probably plan to move the other way. There are benefits to that approach (making it impossible for outsiders to guess their next move) but the major disadvantage is that they don’t give us Syrians much reason to hope for good things.

I find their approach to be extreme .. they can still continue to confuse their adversaries, but they can try a bit more openness with their own people.

As for good intentions or not … again, it is not even the top 20 people in the regime .. it is the system s a whole … why the top 20 people? … why not the top 100 people? .. the top 10,000 people?

There are good and bad intentions at every level. Keep an open mind and you should be able to spot them.

Majhool Says:

ALex,

Due to tha nature of the system, 20+ people hold +/- 80% power. The entire city of Idlid (people, goverment officials, even donkeys) used to take directions and orders from 2 powerful heads of mukhabarat. so please respect my intelligence.

I did not invent this. for example and as ana analogy larg % of wealth in the US is in the hand of 5% of the pupoluation.

As for verifying intentions, the most reasonable way is to judge from indications. civic organizations are still banned. people are still arrested and sentenced on charges such as ” tagyeer kayan el dawala el eljtema3i) Aref dalila is still in prrison, por of latakia is still run as a gang operation, etc..

Either they (20+) declare their intentions or we judge from the indications that we have. enough excuses besharafak

Maher Amin Says:

Alex, I like and appreciate your idea about ‚??badal‚?Ě going to charity, but unfortunately it is not practical! I think Naim did a good job explaining why but let me dwell more on this point. It is the law of the land for every male Syrian (with certain exception) to do the military service. When we were in college in Syria we used every week to spend six hours taking very boring military classes, and on top of that spend 17 days every summer in military camp. All this so our military service becomes two years instead of two and half! Why do we have to serve a military service that is a completely different story (but please don‚??t compare Syria to Switzerland, I mean come on ‚?¶probably the only similarity between the two countries that both start with the letter S). I think calling it ‚??badal‚?Ě is very nice term, I think it should be called penalty or ticket for not obeying the low, and a ticket goes to the coffers of the government and we have no control over it. I am amazed here in Ohio to see quit few who have no problem spending an amount of money exceeds by far the badal for throwing a party or for a piece of jewelry for their wives, and then complaining that the badal is very high! In the medical field there is the syndrome of patients who don‚??t want to receive treatment because if they do they won‚??t have a reason to complain about! I know people (like the one who is ready to pay $12,000 if it goes to charity) who find all kind of excuses not to pay the badal just to have a reason to attack a government that won‚??t let them go freely to their home country!

Many expats left the country unfortunately with bad taste or bad memory and don‚??t know or don‚??t see the change that is taking place. Many competent politically-independent (and sometimes expatriates) are assuming high position in the government (for full disclosure I don‚??t belong to any political party, or have/had any government position). There are many vehicles for expats to contribute. Certainly there are deficiencies and short coming but as they say in French (I hope you know French since many of you are in Canada) ‚??on fait avec!‚?Ě. As an example the board of NOSSTIA was chaired for two years by a fellow from Montreal who did an excellent job (by the way I think he should be invited to contribute here, because he will be speaking from experience not from the margin!). Actually the new format for badal came from a presentation by a fellow expat in a public conference‚?¶.
Debating is good but contributing is even better!

Majhool Says:

This fellow Maher is not that bad after all!

I agree with Maher that in principle one needs to pay a penalty for not serving since it is the law of the land. However let me take the opportunity to remind Maher how the Law is abused every day by the elite and call on him to join our call for ‚??rule-of-law‚?Ě and the lifting of emergency laws..and since we are at it, how about if we ask of him to join us in demanding improved accountability of the government to ensure that the resources available to the government are well spent.

Having said that, few points remains unanswered and raise doubt about the real motives and intentions behind the government‚??s restrictions

1) Why is it that the government allows the expatriates in the gulf to pay a penalty of $5000 after only 5 year period while for those elsewhere have to pay $12000 and only after 12 years????!!
2) a 12 years minimum means the person probably got married with two children, got a house, and a rewarding career. It is much more difficult to dismantle everything at that stage.
3) Why not allow the expatriates a free pass in and out for a time period of 12 years and then collect the money afterwards. Or is it some sort of exile?
4) There should be some exception to the rule for ‚??national interest‚?Ě, for example those who receive a PhD degree should be exempt (by the way I would not qualify). The U.K for example goes far as to offer permanent residency for foreigners who hold MBA degrees from reputed universities. This way the likes of Farouk el Shara and many others in the government will not be able to throw their failures on the ‚??lack of resources‚?Ě in Syria.

It‚??s really the ‚??time period‚?Ě that we are against. So Maher please indulge our marginal minds with your explanation on why the government imposes the 12 year period.

Majhool Says:

Maher,

One more thing, you claimed that there are many vehicles for the expatriates to contribute.

I actually I would like to contribute!! I have a B.S in finance, and worked at Ernest & Young as a financial analysist for two years and now finishing up a Masters degree in political science. I have been out of the country for 7 years. I just got married and we are expecting a baby. We would love to go back and contribute and will be pleased to pay the penalty but how will I provide for my family while in the army I barely started my career and don‚??t have enough saving to support them for two years plus my dad exhausted most of his own savings trying to provide us with a good education; Dad also has Cancer (terminal stage) and we worry sick that something will happen to him, it saddens us to know that we would not be able to even attend his funeral!! Please provide advice to our marginal minds and suggest to us the vehicle provided by the government for someone like me to contribute.

saint Says:

Interesting comments and intriguing conversation, we went well far enough to make conclusions. Thank you Majhool for inspiring thus far and thanks Alex for providing us with good description of the system. I will present my take through this prelude which inspired by what is going on in Pakistan recently. The civil society and the civilian parties in Pakistan are saying that dictatorship in the country is the reason behind the creating religious extremism. A lot also of USA analysts agree with that. It is a phenomenon sweeping the middle east. The same actually goes for Syria, where dictatorship and fake civil government (dictatorship mean no civil government) is destroying the civil society and embolden the extremists. As expats, we should advocate the civil society as number one priority to cooperation and investment. From here the rule of law and its first step of lifting the emergency law which should put the ground for future improvement is very essential for us and the country. The message to the regime (regime system not government since there is no real government is Syria and we hope to have one) do the civil order and lift the emergency law and we will advocate expats contribution.
Back to conclusions:1- expats should organize to make their voice a political one regarding their issues and the civil society issues as they are one part can‚??t be separated.
2- Demanding the rule of law and first step to remove the emergency law is critical issue to expats cooperation, and calling from blog on all expats not to make the same mistakes by others so far and they regret their act.
The badal issue should be discussed outside this forum and I would like to suggest that government could get more contribution towards this badal if they take drop it at certain age (thirty year in Diaspora, and their sons). We want them to wise up the freedom from badal and the opening of social channels like charity and investment, coupled with recognition and allow for personal presence like having their names on the project, having their picture inside the institution not the president will go very good.

The government also could do combination for the 20 years in Diaspora, to pay part badal (e.g: $5000) and part contribution to his village or area project, and allow them to put their names on it, and their pictures. There are a lot of ideas could be flow around and would help the Syrian society which is in bad need for everything. And all exapts projects and contribution should be away from the system and its domination. The road is started already with the educational institutions all over the country and need to be continued.

naim Says:

Majhool,
Sorry about your dad , and sorry about what i said above , I was tired and wanted to tell you that people in Syria know the problems you are complaining about , they even joke about them but they want people to show them a way out of these problems and how to fix them , you and i and Alex and many others can do good for Syria and show the Syrian people ways to make things better .
If you think i can help you with your dad , you can E Mail me ,you can find my E mail if sign in.

abu kareem Says:

Saint,

I disagree, the military service and the badal are a major sticking point in this whole expat debate and needs resolution. Agree with your other points regarding the expats duty to push (Ala rassi Alex, gently!) for the promotion of civil society in Syria.

Majhool,

I hope you saw my comment from Sept 1st. It took two days to get posted (Alex’s filters excluded my comment as spam!! imagine that, reduced to spam).

Your difficult personal situation (I am sorry about your father) is a good example as to why this whole badal business is both cruel, useless and in fact encourages Syrians to stay away.

But tweaking the badal rules and creating exceptions will just create hard feelings among those who don’t qualify for one exception or another. So how about this:
1) Eliminate the two year military service altogether: it is way too long and wasteful anyway.
2) Replace it with military training at school; dispersed over time so as not to be disruptive. (9-12 weeks in total at most)
3) Expats who did not do any military training, who reside elsewhere and only want to visit Syria, would not be penalized.
4) Expats who did not do any training and who want to come back and reside in Syria will have to do undergo military training but can do it over short periods of time at their convenience so as not to disrupt their careers. Those over a certain age (say 50?) will repay in equivalent time of community service.

Such a change would accomodate everyone by making the whole process less burdensome while mandating that everyone contributes. It will also remove the incentive for ambitious young people to leave as soon as they finish school and never come back.

saint Says:

Hi Abu kareem,
You are right I was wrong, May be because I attended the military service and then immigrated 20 years ago, did not recognize the suffering of those young men who have to get visa to visit their own country.
Majhool, sorry to here about your dad, I wish him well. It is a different story for those who are restricted to visit their own country, or for those who can not even dare to visit, it is a disgrace and inhumane.
I‚??m going back to the answer the questions:
= What role could expatriates play in building a better Syria?
- Work on establishing the rule of law and as a start, government should lift the emergency law.
= Are you satisfied with the government legislations concerning them?
- NO
= Are you satisfied with the performance of the minister of Expatriates’ Affairs Dr. Buthayna Shaaban?
- NO

Zenobia Says:

I was sorry to hear Abu Kareem pipe in and say that the issue of the Badal is really so significant and a sticking point that has to be resolved. It is damn boring at this point… and has taken over the entire dialogue at times.
Perhaps it is has strong symbolic and emotional resonance, for precisely the reason that hearing Majhool’s account of his personal situation affects us.
However, the details of the subject get boring because actually I agree with Abu Kareem that this should be a non-issue. What should happen is that the entire military service requirement should in theory disappear.
Because that is not going to happen immediately, it would be great to find ways to make it more equitable and forgiving…. with allowance for certain exceptions. For example, someone like Majhool could be allowed a waiver, or an exception to delay payment to a later time when he is in better financial circumstances.
but ultimately… we should spend our time worrying about Badal. the trajectory should be that Syria needs to move to a non militarized state.. where you don’t need to have that many people serve in a standing military. Already, i think it is ridiculous. I see soldiers standing around everywhere with nothing to do. There are military camps everywhere with bored looking people going in and out.
They dot the landscape. they are doing nothing!
And if tomorrow… the big enemy .. attacked… there is no quesiton in my mind that huge numbers of syrians..who are not now in the military would voluntarily sign up… people say that all the time.

70% of the population is now under the age of 25!…ok, half are women… but still…. that is ridiclous… percentage wise….there is no way on earth…you need that many young men… serving military service.
The need for soldiers…to serve is going to disappear… if the bigger political issue get addressed…
for example… the damn peace process……
Wasnt’ that supposed to be a much better issue for expats to think about…. push the peace process through… achieve PEACE… and then…. NO NEED FOR A manadatory service to man the borders to some ridiculous degree…..

Zenobia Says:

I really think it is soo counter productive to engage in a ‘pro-regime’ verse ‘anti-regime’ debate..
I loved that revelation by Alex about the scoring on the Think-Tank, btw, it was fascinating.

And, although now it was a ways back in the comments.. I will say that I feel that Naim again in his second to last comment..was very articulate and clear in his view…which I wholeheartedly agree with…(except that I didn’t like his insult to Majhool’s brain).. that complaining and blaming the powers that be…does not change very much in Syria… and certainly doesn’t win over the people..to kicking out their government.
Winning the hearts and minds of Syrians…does indeed… have everything to do with social program, economic gain, and whether they see express benefits that will come to them if they change their system and seek other leaders. Pure and simple.
Until.. someone… has something to offer… there is no reason to risk ones life.. and challenge the system.

This equation … to my mind.. is why.. I am so in favor of expats using their efforts towards..social and economic issues.. more than just being challengers of the regime. It is people they need to reach.

Majhool came out… hard.. on the issues of Rule of Law and the Emergency Law.
Look, who here really is against this???? What I don’t understand from Majhool…is exactly why he thinks that ‘nagging’ is an effective tool to governement change!…nagging?????
I fear that with this technique as the main one.. we will be waiting a very long time.

I want to say to you, if you have a plan….if ANYONE here has a plan… a real one…..about how to end the Emergency Law…and get it repealed, I am ready to stand behind you.
I think most people here.. would be ready to stand behind you.
Aren’t there many many people in Syria.. who would be ready to stand behind you. And there are a lot of those people in prison..in syria..

So what are we to do? wait for the Rule of Law to be activated in Syria? before taking actions to improve people’s lives. ???
You have a chicken and egg problem here, for sure.

Let me digress for a moment- to use an analogy with the United States. That way it will be more palatable.
In the USA right now.. we have a serious problem with mainstream media and the way it so-called ..educates the public. There are a lot on non-news sources…supposedly providing news…and essentially distorting reality to large portions of the public.
Many people around the world…want to know..why Americans.. who in theory should be well informed and educated people coule elect such a horrendous leadership.. (and i am assuming here that we all agree that it is horrendous).
and my most forceful answer is that a huge swath of the public is just horribly ignorant. They simply don’t know any better.. and their brains have been washed with misinformation and distorted pictures of the world.
But the problem is…. if those people remain stupid.. how can they ever come to realize that they have elected corrupt and dangerous leader. And the leadership and its media military work very hard to make sure that the public remains believing their distorted reality.

So we end up with a practically no way out situation. The only hope here… is that enough brave media crashes through the garbage. And that reality … on the ground… proves what is the truth about the government.

This is AMERICA, I am talking about!!!!

so, maybe by now…. someone can tell what my analogy is to Syria.
Syria is by far, more locked up and controled than the United States… but actually… not as much as you would think.

so…what I am trying to get to… is that… Syrians…need consciousness … more than anything else.
If they had a different consciousness.. they could make choices.. and decisions.. and they… would decide if collectively they could bring down things like the Emergency Law. THEY would be able to live under a system that is based on the Rule of Law.
but right now…. there is extremely little consciousness of this.
Of course, there are segments of the population for whom that is obvious…. intellectuals, old timers, and those who have seen the world more.
but…average people…are not sitting around complaining about the Emergency Law. and i dont’ think…they sit in the dark at night… secretly thinking about it.. but afraid to tell anyone!….

They are thinking about…money, and opportunities for their kids, and social problems, and sexual purity and non-purity (unfortunately), and how they can get married and to whom, and the water problem, and the electricity problem, and how they will ever afford a house. and the million and half Iraqis in their midst that are annoying them and driving the prices sky high, and their neighbors, and car they want, the price of fuel and their cell phone bill, and how to make their business better, and sometimes they think about religion!… and how much they hate Condi Rice for making Syria look bad…

That is what they are thinking about.

So, if you have a plan…. other than helping these people achieve a better situation in regards to what they are thinking about…
To get them to think about what you think about… the lofty “Rule of Law”….
you just tell us what it is….. and I will support that.

Alex Says:

Zenobia, thank you for saving me from typing the same two comments
: )

The only point I wanted to elaborate on is the degree to which Syrians are brain washed compared to Americans … Syrians are less brainwashed

Syrians know that their state-owned media (TV, newspapers) are not neutral … they know that Al-Baath newspaper is the party’s newspaper and it can not be their reliable source of news. So they end up listening to al-Jazeera, LBC, BBC … and many internet news sites… a wonderful mix, really. They can read all the accusations from the Hariri and Saudi media (except the banned Asharq al-awsat) and they can make up their minds as to where they stand.

For example, when Hariri was assassinated, the foreign journalists who were in Damascus told me that most Syrians they spoke to believed that Syria ordered that assassination. They were upset and embarrassed at what they regime did. Now, after the circus of bribing witnesses to fabricate evidence against Syria, Syrians overwhelmingly believe that their regime did not kill Hariri … all the LBC and Future (Hariri) TV coverage did not convince them.

So Syrians are always checking a basket of other news sources.

Americans, Lebanese and Saudis are convinced they have “reliable” newspapers and TV stations … pro “M14 majority” Lebanese are stuck more and more into a dead end because they keep trusting their highly biased media … how can they not trust it … LBC and Future TV and Asharq al-awsat definitely look like (LOOK LIKE) they are professional and even neutral … they are good enough to deceive their readers and viewers.

So, with the age of satellite TV and the internet, Syrians are blessed to not have a polished state owned propaganda machine… it forces them to look everywhere else for a balanced coverage.

This, of course, applies to Syrians who WANT TO NOW … many many Syrians, as Zenobia suggested, do not really care … not because “the regime wants to keep them poor and busy earning their living” as some opposition figure once told me, but because humans are not all fanatics about politics … most people draw their circle of interest quite close to them … it encompasses their family and friends, their work environment, and their customers … nothing outside that circle is of much interest to them.

Alex Says:

As to “rule of law” … while it is not constantly on the minds of Syrians living in Syria, I agree with Majhool that it is a priority for Syrian expats who are considering going back to Syria … the same way Syrians expect the ground they walk on to be predictable solid and strong, those of use who lived in Europe and North America expect the legal system to be predictably reliable and fair.

Expats living in Saudi Arabia, are not as spoiled as the rest of us from “the west”.

Going back to your suggestions regarding the military service, as Zenobia said, AFTER a peaceful settlement to the Golan issue, we will have a probable reduction in military service (1 year?). I will add quickly (it is another discussion topic) that after peace with israel, Syria might actually maintain its large army and might increase its budget. this depends on international agreements regarding the role Syria will play in the area. If syria is supposed to be the policeman of the area, we will still have a large army. But it will be more of a professional army I’m sure.

For now, with all the noise from Israel about war with Syria and with the Iraq war next door and the American administration asking Syria to move many more troops to the Iraq border, and with all the uncertainties in Lebanon, I hope you would agree with me that it would be foolish for any Syrian leader to talk about reducing the size of the Syrian army.

The other thing to know about the Syrian army … it is not as helpless as Zenobia observed. There are very qualified units and there are good enough defensive capabilities. Having said that, the Syrian army is also a buffer … hundreds of thousands are “employed” for a couple of years in the army. You can not release them into the unemployment pool. This is part of the masked unemployment in Syria.

Naim Says:

Zenobia ,
Please do not get mad at me , I apologized to Majhool,
I would like to write something about the rule of law as i see it and what to do about it .
Good job for what you said , I agree with every thing and i am glad you understand me .
i will write tonight after work , God willing.

Hammam Yousef Ŕ?Ŕ?Ŕ?ōßŔ? Ŕ?Ŕ?ō≥ŔĀ Says:

All,

I really wonder some times that my posts are ignored or what! :) this really hurts my Ego. :D

My prayers to Majhool‚??s father, may Allah be with him and bless him with good heath.

Unfortunately, my father on the other hand, who didn‚??t manage to make it ‚??that is if he could- didn‚??t get much support, I wonder why?! Could it be that I am considered a tough guy who doesn‚??t deal with sentiments‚?¶? Yes, that‚??s it! Probably! :D

As for my last comment, the one that should be continued, well‚?¶ it won‚??t :D

I remember I have suggested two things that might relate in someway to what Zanobia, Naim and maybe others I don‚??t recall right now, with regard to NGOs and civil action.

The TV satellite channel, and the Syrian Students Fund! Any feedback?

Alex,
The Syrian army lacks very important thing, BELIFE! And I don‚??t mean in certain religion or God, take in it‚??s general meaning, and until we have this ingredient, we will be defeated regardless of the Land-Air missiles we are getting from Russia. And Why would Syria want to be the Police man in the region, do we need more hate?!

Peace with Israel‚?¶ forget about it, and I will tell you why ‚??you can consider me pessimist if you like. This area in the middle east is Muslim majority area, the culture and propaganda ‚??including the regimes‚??- has managed, to make it very hard for the peoples of the area to even consider the idea of peace with Israel, even the people of Egypt and Jordan who have already signed a peace agreement, are not with their governments on this issue in the majority! Another thing is‚?¶ Israel, as it looks, benefits more of War than it does from Peace! Yet another thing‚?¶ Syrian Regime (Assads in particular and Alawites in general) benefits more of the continuous NO WAR- NO PEACE situation, so they can have their precious ‚??Emergency Law‚?Ě situation that guarantees them to stay in Power, and keep them safe from what they already committed against the rest of Syrian society. I am sorry but someone has to say it, I personally heard ‚??if you believe me- form people in Syria, that they respect the Israeli government because they are really working for the interests of the Jewish Nation! unlike the not respected corrupt and murderous Assads Rule!

A war with Israel we will not win, and a peace with Israel ‚??as I see it- no one of the parties involved really wants!

Zenobia,
I am totally with you on the consciousness thing, I feel it is more related to the whole big issue of being a productive civilization as Arabs/ Muslims one day were, but this is a totally different scale which needs different topic/ discussion maybe. Meanwhile we have POLITICS to pass time playing with, just to try easing the pain while waiting for Godot!

Through out history, there were Scholars Heroes and Leaders who could help their people rise from the ashes to be the helpers of the Humanity, the sad fact is‚?¶ the Leaders of our times are not of that kind at all, especially in my beloved homeland. I don‚??t expect a lot from them‚?¶ ‚??from there deeds, you know them‚?Ě

Now!
1)
Expats can help build a better Syria by working collectively on raising the level of awarness and conciousness withing their fellow Syrians. This can be done through NGOs (Syrian Students Fund) , Media ( TV Satellite Channels ) and Lobbying for their Syria – whether it is peace with Israel, pressuring the regime or any other devious goal the lobbyists find tempting :D .

2)
No I am not satisfied

3)
No for Buthayna, plus I don‚??t like her :D

Konec ( the End in Czech ) :D

Alex Says:

Hammam,

You made me smile even though it is not funny at all.

I am guilty of not commenting on you earlier comment. I will tell you why

1) Students’ fund idea is great. I had nothing against it and I will include it in the conclusion/summary.

2) Expats TV … nope … too complex. I have been part of smaller efforts and it is laughable to watch everyone disagree on every small detail. These things work when there is no politics/religion/regions to divide those working (volunteering?) on the project.

For example: How secular/religious would it be? … How opposed to “the regime”?

As for your father, I did not make any public comments because I discussed it with you by email before. It is a terrible thing… but I am leaving it to a proper topic we will discuss in the future … national reconciliation in Syria. We did not exactly have an ongoing civil war, we had no Syrians killings Syrians for a long long time, but events surrounding the 1979 to 1982 bloodshed (and Hama of course) did not have proper closure and we continue to pay for their consequences in missed opportunities due to lack of trust, if not hate and need for revenge in some cases.

As for peace with Israel. You are right that some people in “the regime” do not want it, for many reasons. Some fear their politics and their role will be obsolete after recovering the GOlan, others want to wait until Israel self destructs … due to structural changes … all great empires eventually fall.

But I have to tell you that “the Assads” are not among that group. It is very well documented (pick any book by: Dennis Ross, President Clinton, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, President Carter …) … Hafez Assad spent the 90’s trying everything he could to get that peace treaty and recover the full Golan heights. Few weeks before he died (he knew he was dying) he took steroids to be able to travel to Geneva and meet with President Clinton who promised him that the trip will be worth it and that Israel is ready to give back the Golan.

Same with Bashar. He is not refusing to discuss any possibility with any American Jewish leader who tried to contact him to discuss peace prospects. Ask Dr. David Lesch who wrote “The new Lion of Damascus”, he knows.

You can criticize many things in “the Assads” but not wanting peace and not wanting to recover the Golan is not one of them. It is THE achievement they want(ed) to score in the history books.

And finally, regarding Arabs being mostly muslim and therefore not accepting peace with Israel … I agree that if Israel continues to treat the Palestinians in a savage way then the Syrian people will be just like their Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts in not taking part in any warm relations with the Jewish state. “The Assads” know it, and they always tell the Israelis that they want a serious movement along the Palestinian track if they are to sign a peace treaty on the Golan’s part.

naim Says:

People are treated the way they treat others and if the Israelites want to be treated well then they should treat the Arabs well and i say Arabs not Palestinians because they treat all Arabs as second class people , that is going to make difficult to accept them unless they change.

naim Says:

Majhool raised the question about the rule of law in Syria which implies to me corruption as i do not think that rapists , thieves , traffic violators are going free , we do not have army officers kidnapping young women and holding them as sex slaves and getting away with it , Bribery on small levels or high levels are the most likely intended problems that need to be solved , I wanted to discuss that in an article about bribery but we can discuss that here,
We can divide bribery into small level which include the policeman that want a handout in return for forgetting the ticket for a traffic violation , the government employee that will not help getting our papers done or our business without a return of cash ,
I see that these problem are from the fact that these people get small salaries from the government that makes it difficult to live without extra income , no matter what kind of morals people have they need to eat and take care of their families , these people do not accept bribes to be rich , they do that to survive .I do not believe that bribes are a major problem in the private sector and that is because the salaries are higher there.
The solution is simple , raise the monthly income for government employees to have a living wage and then make it illegal to bribe or receive bribes , have a phone number to report bribe but not act on these tips unless the are confirmed by undercover operations to find employees who are corrupt ,and people who offer bribes , people who are offering bribes should be prosecuted as in the US , Shaming people in the media will prevent others from doing the same thing , and might teach high level government employees , Offenders should be prosecuted locally by the prosecutor of the county or Muhafaza , who should be from the same county so people will not think that it a witch hunt by outsiders.
Now for the high level coruption which is accepting bribes from major companies in the shape of a kickback for receiving contracts from the government ,
Solving that should not be very difficult as it includes very large sums of money , make it illegal for a company to bribe anybody and if done the company will be blacklisted and will not be to get any contract or work in Syria ,
All bids should be closed bid contracts and should be opened by a committee which will discuss the bids , the price , the time that they could be done within . local or forign companies percentage of Syrians employed , as long as the rules are know to everybody , after the committee decides which should never be in a dark room of somebody’s basement but in the government building during office hours ,
The results should be announced in the public newspaper in all counties and should be open to challenge by the bidders to another committee that will review the challenges and decide on them ,
The result and the final approval will need to be approved by the government as a whole .
Correcting the coruption and the bribery in Syria will do a lot for people like majhool and Hammam to have faith in their government and be willing to help .
I hope that Syria can move rapidly on this problem as i see it also essential to encourage forign companies to invest in Syria and play by the rule.

Majhool Says:

ALl,

Thank you all for your nice sentiment. One clarification. I am capable to pay the “Badal” immidiatly however the problem is that “we” don’t qualify before another 5 years. which means that I am only allowed one visit/year in a pre-approved time period. ironically Dad, while sick, is the one that takes that long trip back and forth to see me!!

Zenobia,

I agree with you when you said:
“I am so in favor of expats using their efforts towards..social and economic issues.. more than just being challengers of the regime. It is people they need to reach”

But please answer the following: How the hell am I supposed to start a social program if I am only allowed to go there onece a year??

Nagging, is metaphore, it’s about focusing the nagging into 1, or 2 issues..basically the most bang for the buck. instead of demanding to fix all problems at once which is not realistic. imagine of the whole country rallied behind one or two focused issues. I pick rule-of-law and corruption in the ports of latakia and tartous and the customes department.(billions are involved as income taxes are collected ahead of time and based on the import reciepts )

Having said all that, I am not advocating waiting. i would quit my six figures paying job and go back to syria if i quaify for badal. many of my friends would do the same if they believe that syria’s judicial system is effective. it gives a sense of security that is pricless.

to that end, and to comment on what Naim said regarding rule of law. rule of law is not about corruption. Rule-of-law, means that you can resort to the court if you are in dispute with someone and be gurenteed a fair trial. it means that you cannot be detained without a warrant. that you have rights and are intitled for lawyer. it means if you have a business you can get your rights through the judicial system. currently you cannot. judges are bribed. they are not fair and subject to pressure from the authority.

If a general’s son recks your car, the military police would not even bother show up an will ask those hurt to simply forget about it. “allah be3awdak” etc…

rule-of-law, will automaticllay produce faith and confidance in the country that is severly missing. it will give people incentive not to nudge to illigal pressure. it will create more mid-size businesses, it willl creat accountability, and reduce negativity…etc..

do you still think rule-of-law is a not that important of an issue?

Hammam Yousef Ŕ?Ŕ?Ŕ?ōßŔ? Ŕ?Ŕ?ō≥ŔĀ Says:

‚??‚?¶And last, actually‚?¶ I am from Homs, and I would have had my father proud of me, but unfortunately he DISAPPEARED, in the early 80s thanks to your beloved regime, he was not sentenced to 12 or Life in Gail, he died UNDER TORTURE! Most probably, his disappearance marks 27 years now!‚?Ě

The previous paragraph- part of a comment on Majhool’s post- is what I had in mind when I said that my father ‚??didn‚??t get much support‚?Ě Here are two links if anyone likes to know something about him English and Arabic. I don‚??t feel we should discuss his story in particular, he is one of many who were not involved in violence, but were Islamic Activists, which was enough reason at that time to disappear.

And BTW Alex, am sorry but can‚??t recall we have discussed my father issue before, at least, I don‚??t have any emails in this regard! Or is it maybe my Spam filter!! :D

Enough personal stuff. :)

Alex,
I know Assads want to have Golan back as an ACHIVEMENT, I say they should have it back as a DUTY, considering they are the ones who gave it away, and considering the High military expenses ‚??at least this is what they claim- that Syrians had to support on the expense of the quality of there lives. I say ‚??also- it was hoax, just a way how to keep people quite and submissive, and not objecting all the corruption and lying.

I don‚??t see any difference between the current US administration, and the Syrian regime, if you analyze both systems‚?? logic, you get the same mentality, same excuses and same deceiving the public methods. Both are almost identical, but they have conflict interests at the moment. I can say/ explain more on this if you like.

Since no one really knows what happened behind Geneva doors, and excuse me if I don‚??t trust Clinton‚??s memoirs, I say, Assad the father wanted to secure his sun‚??s inheritance of power in Syria, not the Golan back as you are suggesting.

Bashar, indeed, is willing to discuss any possibility of peace with Jewish-Americas, but he wants to guarantee the ‚??family-Regime‚?Ě survival/ gains at the same time, this is the deal. It means ‚??in my point of view- looking away from what his regime is doing eternally, and give him a green light maybe in Lebanon, and defiantly, stop supporting the Opposition‚?¶ I wouldn‚??t want that to happen, not because I love the US interference, but because I am afraid for all the Activists in Syria.

Israel is not only a ‚??Palestinian‚?Ě Issue, Palestine was part of ‚??Muslim Land‚?Ě whether we like this definition or not, when you try to solve it on this basis, then you may reach a result.

Maybe I am giving a rigid/ dogmatic picture of my self, but this is not my intention, I am simply trying to be as open and forward as I can. what I am saying is not necessarily my point of view, but it is defiantly the view of large percent of the Arab/ Muslim Nation/s

Majhool Says:

Hammam,

What happened to your dad is so sad. It’s high time for this file to be closed. The gov should abs give people information about their loved ones

Maher Amin, from Ohio Says:

Majhoul, with a degree in political science it is going to be very difficult to support your family in Syria, even seriously I doubt it if you can in Canada. However, Ernest and Young is pretty active in Syria (most if not all of their consultants in Syria are Lebanese, I am sure they prefer Syrian if they can find any). Anyway, contributing doesn‚??t mean moving back to Syria. Contributing starts by moving from behind your mask and check for instance what NOSSTIA can offer (the past chairman was in your backyard in Montreal). Last year there was at Oratoire St Joseph in Montreal an exhibition for artistic nativity sets from around the world. I was astonished that with the large Syrian community in Montreal there was only a minuscule set from Syria (a country where Christianity was born)!!! This is just a small example about a contribution to better represent Syria abroad‚?¶
You must be happy to have a chance to visit Syria once a year. There used to be time if you didn‚??t serve in the army you cannot visit Syria period. And no one complained about it! Finally for your information in case of emergency (e.g., death in the family) you can obtain very rapidly an exceptional permit to visit (in addition to the one per calendar year).

Majhool Says:

Maher,

I should be very happy? really? no one complained? OK next thing you might say is that i should be happy that i am alive!! or happy that the Assads don’t bomb civlilans anymore, katter khayrak, I am happy where I am now. I will stick to my 6 figure sallary here in the states. I will check with NOSSTIA and will help “remotely”. and will wait for another 8 years before i can qualify for badal. I will raise my kid(s) here and they will become americans. I will have a house and a loan that i will have to pay off. is that how we can maximimize our efforts?

I will be polite and will disagree with you. thank you but no thank you.

As for the mask, once you guarentee me freedom of speach i will. I will have a kid that i need to support, I don’t see how I can do that from prison.

Majhool Says:

Maher,

One more thing, I will make sure to tell my dad that we will manage to get a permit to go to syria once he is dead. m aybe few days late for the furenal. but hey better late than never. As for now, let the sick old man take the long trip to see his family.

I should be happy. thanks to you, and those like you.

Majhool

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Majhoo,
I suggeted the topic of “National Reconciliation” to deal with this issue, my father and all the others. and Thank you.

All,
I wonder how can the last developments between Syria and Israel serve peace or encourage it, but it was not a surprise for me!

about Buthayna,
check this link :)
http://www.thisissyria.net/2007/09/12/forum/03.html

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