Majhool | Student United States
August 25th, 2007

Re: ‘Syrian expatriates

What role could expatriates play in building a better Syria?

Syria??s expatriate communities are incredibly diverse. If we exclude from the discussion seasonal Syrian workers in Lebanon, and 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, etc. immigrants in South America, the Syrian expatriates could be divided into two broad groups based upon their Geo-cultural region of residence: The Gulf States expatriates (G-expats), and the ??west? (America & Europe) expatriates.

Although many of their needs are identical, expatriates of the two groups undergo different experiences and challenges, hence creating additional special sets of needs for each group.

??Work? is what expatriates do best. It is the reason why they are expatriates in the first place. Expatriates by virtue of their nature and experience are experienced workers, open-minded, hard working, and ambitious. These qualities are exactly what ??Syria: the country and the nation? needs. Sound Logic suggests: The interests of Syria will be better served when expatriates are free to help build a better ??Syria?.

Positive contribution can also be divided into two groups: contributions abroad, and contribution in Syria. With respect to their contribution abroad: Luckily, expatriates are free and active in promoting Syrian culture abroad. Their success, good work ethics and high culture are the best cross-cultural public relation effort one can muster for the sake Syria. What is lacking is the absence of any serious organized political lobbying effort that advances Syria??s interests. In the defense of expatriates many argue that the many restrictions imposed by the government on the expatriates as well as the lack of legitimacy and accountability of the? government? circumvents any desire by the expatriates to advance the elite??s interests. I hope this will change in the future and I call for the government to expand its legitimacy and enhance its accountability to ensure the cooperation of all segments of the society.

On the other hand, expatriate contribution in ??Syria? is very difficult and sometimes restricted. Punitive legislations prevent many from going back to Syria. 100% lifting of restrictions is the minimum required by the government to help expatriates fulfill their desire of going back one day and helping out.

Are you satisfied with the government legislations concerning them?

Government legislation governs the extent to which expatriates can contribute to Syria. The government??s takes the position that ??expatriatism? is some sort of luxury that expatriates needs to be taxed on. Living abroad away from friends and family in foreign land is one huge tax that the expatriates already pay. Instead of inventing way to milk dollars out of their pockets and impose 12 years time periods before one can be exempt from serving the army, a change of attitude is required. So am I satisfied? The simple and sad answer is NO and not even close.

Are you satisfied with the performance of the minister of Expatriates’ Affairs Dr. Buthayna Shaaban?

Personally I admire Buthayna Shaaban. She is modern, smart, educated, and strong woman. However, Mrs Shaaban seems to focus much of her energy, and writings, in the defense of national and Arab struggle against all the evils in this world. The fact that she is die-hard ideologue of the Ba??ath party is counter productive. Syrians expatriates tend to be pragmatists and adhere to a different set of politics. They want to see reform in the homeland going hand in hand with the ??struggle?. This particular ministerial position requires someone who can understand the expatriate??s needs and actually sympathies with them, one that can bridge the gap between the current punitive mindset of the government, and the 100% support and flexibility required to engage the expatriates for the betterment of the nation. Shaaban is the wrong person to lead such an effort.

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45 Responses to the Article

naim Says:

Majhool,
I do not know about this taxation from Syria , I went to Syria in 2003 , nobody asked me about taxes , I paid for my military service out of obligation as i was close to the 50 years cutoff for military service , I felt that i should pay out of gratitude for my medical degree that i paid no tuition to obtain

lara Says:

Well, i belive that Majhoul meant the by taxation the burden/restrictions imposed by the governement on the expats and not the military exemption fee. right Majhool?

Alex Says:

Majhool,

This is a very constructive article. I disagree with a few parts, but I appreciated the way you expressed your grievances in a very reasonable way.

I wish I could say the same about the way you answered Dr. Arwashan.

Majhool Says:

Lara,

you are right, i don’t know how Naem thought otherwise.

Alex,

As always thank you for this wonderful forum.As for Mr.Arwashan, if he had respected the intellegence of his readers then i would have responded in a different way. but he did not..

where do you disagree on what i said in my article?

Hammam Yousef Says:

Majhool,
Nicely put, good work.

I have one incident I experienced my self.

After paying a fee of 3250 Czech Koruna (about $150) to the Syrian Consulate here in Prague, to get a new passport for another 6 years (since I have served military already,) to my surprise I discovered it was only for 2 years!! And when asked why? The answer I got was: ?. It is good ya zalameh? at least it is smaller in size than the old one!!

What I have to go through each time I extend the pass validity (twice) is not necessary at all, but was it a message?!

Go figure!

I have to admit that the council is a very educated helping and easy going young man, and he, or the consulate employees should not be accountable for the Intelligence Apparatuses decisions, I mean? to be real, what can they do? Nothing!

The truth is? I was not sure I will get a pass at all, considering what I am openly discussing/ writing on the web and here is an example

My advice to Syrian regime representatives is: represent Syrian people, not the regime! And if you can??t do that, at least? don??t create problems for your selves that only will increase the amount of frustration and determination to expose/ magnify the mistakes of the regime and its policies? makes sense? 😉

As for Alex,
Many thanks for his efforts, really. BUT!

I feel he is mainly trying to take the role of the intermediate, the connection between the parties, regime on one side, and the ??Others.?

This makes sense if Alex can deliver some times what the ??others? want/ need, but I think in the end he will end up lifting the pressure off the regime only.

Of course all what we want is the ??3ineb? not the ??Natoor!? but what if the Natoor doesn??t want us to have access to 3ineb, which is rightfully ours to share?!

We (the Syrian People) want some 3ineb

? we want 3inbe

? we want 3inbe

? we want 3inbe

:)

Zenobia Says:

“What is lacking is the absence of any serious organized political lobbying effort that advances Syria??s interests.”

I wanted to highlight this comment by Majool. I am always wondering how American expats have absolutely no organized effort at countering the stream of anti Syrian legislation being pushed through congress. I think Ajjan writes about it periodically, generally describing all the rabid congresspeople and lobbyist on the other side who promote things like the Syrian Accountability Act and such.
But where are the Syria defenders? Are there any? I never heard about there presense in Washington when these things take place.

I believe that American expats could do a much better job if they got organized at developing a counter lobbying organization. Obviously, it is not going to go head to head with AIPAC and win these fights in the near future, but maybe we should start now…so that at somepoint…. american syrian expats can actually make a political difference. I think that now, people feel apathetic because they know that they have little power and influence against the aggressive anti Syria lobby, as it is generated out of the pro Israeli lobby, but developing and opposition voice is a noble cause that could make a difference in the future.

Alex Says:

Excellent point Zenobia … if you added it to the other part you wrote under my article, this could have been a nice post from you … but it is the hot August hell in Syria and I will not give you too much trouble this time : )

As for the Syria lobby in America … I’ll list three points (since you like my lists!)

1) Not only do they have to go against AIPAC, but they have to go against the most aggressive anti-syria lobbies the past few years … the Lebanese and Saudi lobbies. Most of the anti-Syria ideas are coming from our wonderful Arab brothers.

2) There is Imad Moustapha and the friends he made. the leader of the Syrian Jews in NJ is an active pro-Syria lobbyist for example. There are other American Jews who are interested in helping Israel sign a peace deal with Syria based on the full return of the Golan heights. But again, Prince Bandar and Ziad Abdelnour (Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Middle East Forum, and US committee for a free Lebanon) have unprecedented access to VP Cheney and the other neocons.

3) Sadly, many Syrian expats are more interested in scoring an insult to the Syrian regime at some forum or blog, instead of looking at the big picture in the Middle East today. They are not going to take any action in support of Syria because they feel that they might be also helping the regime somehow. My approach is to do anything that can help Syria … regardless if it helps the regime or not.

The regime is not going anywhere .. it is not worse than most of the other alternatives in neighboring countries and not worse than most of the Syrian opposition options either… so what do we do? … wait. For what? I don’t know.

Majhool Says:

Alex,

That was very nieve . nothing is for free. expats are willing to lobby only if the regime would give something in return. so bala na2. lol

Since I brought up the subject, I would love to see such lobby, nevertheless the regime have to nudge to the extent that the expat start feeling that it indeed speaks of their interests. for now most don’t unless your polls states otherwise…

Alex Says:

Alright .. so following your logic, I should have been less naive … perhaps shut down creativesyria and mideastimage and instead join you in demanding a payment in advance

Majhool Says:

Alex,

it’s not black and white, it’s actually called Risk/Benifit analysis.

Alex Says:

but … didn’t you criticize my post for not being romantic enough?

You wanted me to say that all Syrian expats want to go back to Syria regardless of economic considerations!

Hammam Yousef Says:

Alex,

??Sadly, many Syrian expats are more interested in scoring an insult to the Syrian regime at some forum or blog, instead of looking at the big picture in the Middle East today. They are not going to take any action in support of Syria because they feel that they might be also helping the regime somehow. My approach is to do anything that can help Syria ? regardless if it helps the regime or not.?

Hmmm?.

The fact is, it IS going to help the regime and not Syrian people. And scoring insults is nothing compared to the mayhem that this regime caused to Syrians, physical psychological mental and developmental.

Your approach is noble, but it doesn??t make the regime as so. Driven people like Buthaina -as you described her- are only helping the status quo keep going on, and please tell me? isn??t it the regime it self the one responsible for what WE expats are asked to defend by lobbying against Lebanese and Saudis, forget about Hariri assassination or any other not proved matter, but do remember why the Lebanese hated the Syrians in the first place, or better even?why SYRIANS hate the regime, and please don??t mention the 97.63 percent, we all know the truth.

When the regime takes a 14 years old minor upon arrival to his country, instead of his father on account of MB??s and keeps him locked a way till he is 17, then sentence him to DEATH but considering his age the verdict becomes ONLY 6 years in prison!!! For (what ever God) sake… how can you trust a regime like this, not to say defend it.

The first thing to help people is to lift the oppression off there backs if you can, other wise? don??t help their oppressor become more stronger, I think.

Yazan Badran Says:

??Sadly, many Syrian expats are more interested in scoring an insult to the Syrian regime at some forum or blog, instead of looking at the big picture in the Middle East today. They are not going to take any action in support of Syria because they feel that they might be also helping the regime somehow.”

Alex, that is one big, outrageous and miserable generalization.

You remind me of what Sasa was saying here… only in a more preposterous way!
http://zozo2k3.blogspot.com/2007/07/syrian-army-men-rip.html

Alex Says:

Hammam, the fact is it IS going to help the Syrian regime AND Syria and the Syrian people.

The best way to defeat and enemy is to turn it into a friend… it takes a lot of wisdom and effort and patience … but it is the only thing that works.

Yazan Badran Says:

Alex,

??Sadly, many Syrian expats are more interested in scoring an insult to the Syrian regime at some forum or blog, instead of looking at the big picture in the Middle East today. They are not going to take any action in support of Syria because they feel that they might be also helping the regime somehow.”

That is an outrageous, sad and pathetic generalization. I am sorry u left me in awe with this one…

you remind me so much of what Sasa was saying here, and you probably agree anyway…
http://zozo2k3.blogspot.com/2007/07/syrian-army-men-rip.html

Alex Says:

Yazan … I know, but I can convince you that my conclusion (and sasa’s similar conclusion) are very logical.

But it takes too much energy, we will need to get into statistics and psychology among other things … but for now, I need to go to sleep.

One day I’ll call you and we can discuss it in about 30 minutes.

Zenobia Says:

Alex ,
I think the examples of why there is so much reluctance to rally in defense of Syria in the making of american foreign policy towards Syria are very true. I hadn’t really considered how much Saudi and Lebanon are of course in the mix…in the States as well.
I agree with you… despite the critique from others… that whether defending Syria in Washington is in some respect helping the regime is really irrelevent in the big picture.
I think this is a reason some people don’t participate, but I don’t think they are really correct in their logic. As you have said many times, this regime is going nowhere. And meanwhile, the assault on any change of peace processes with Israel, and economic sanctions…and all that… does actually hurt the people of syria. I think the relative.. free pass for the regime is a minor cost compared to benefit of stopping attacks on the country as a whole. Even the imagery and message about syria.. that gets promoted with such kind of legislation..is destructive to Syria as a whole. I don’t see distinctions being made by average americans (they are not good at them, after all) between the regime and the people of Syria. Stupid americans then….believe that the people must be sinister and malicious as well.

But finally, I would question the assumption in the first place (made by some of those who responded to your comment) that MOST or all Syrian expatriots in america are really so apathetic and non politcal because they don’t want to inadvertantly support the Syrian regime. Yes.. this may be true of a large percentage of bloggers and internet junkies… all lot of whom have a big axe to grind and huge resentment… and strong political views. But the precise …non vocal average Syrian in the States who isn’t on the internet…. I believe…is not thinking about the regime that much. the ones i talk to…simply aren’t political because they suffer from the same malaise… that paralyze large parts of the american public… we simply feel pessimistic and like there is no reason to take any action because it makes no difference!
Moreover, Syrians are highly suspicious of the political process…and I think many have the mentality of “the system is rigged” … the ‘Jews’ in American have all the power… and there is no use in trying to combat that. …
I personally don’t agree with this mentality at all….and that’s why I think that an opposition voice…and Syrian defender voice..needs to come in to being…..
Overall..i think most Syrian americans… share the sentiment of their counterparts in Syria…. they don’t like their system; they don’t like the government; they don’t like the corruption, but they support their horrible government and their president as an individual.. because they see no preferrerable alternative and because they have a deep pride and protective feeling about defending their country’s reputation and interests against all the assaults coming from the West and other Arab states. Mentally, they put these ‘romantic’ feelings.. above their criticisms of the regime. … for better and worse.

abu kareem Says:

Majhool,

Your points about Shaaban are right on. I have yet to see her use her intellectual prowess to write something about what she is actually supposed to be doing instead of her often lgoically flawed defense of the regime.

Regarding lobbying by Syrian expats: Alex, it is not apathy it is fear, pure and simple! I attended last year’s meeting of the Syrian American Congress in Chicago. The attendance was pitiful (about 50 individuals) and the reason is that people fear their government. I don’t know who is behind this organization but the stated intention was to work with the government for change. The roster of invited speakers was balanced between pro-government and opposition members. And by the way, Imad Moustapha and Buthaina Shaaban were both invited and neither showed up.

So much for support of the expatriate community.

Majhool Says:

Alex & Zenobia,
Since the regime is ??not going anywhere?
1. This means that ??regime change? via the American invasion is not going to happen. Which is great! Moving on:
2. Since the possibility of an American occupation is minimal, what kind of political support for Syria should the expats lobby for in Washington?
3. Political support for the regime? Similar to Egypt today or to that given to Assad in the 90s? Let me remind you that the stagnation and the brutality in the 90s were horrific!! I don??t see a benefit trickling to that average Syrian from such situation.
4. The only worthy cause I see given the regime??s attitude is to lobby for peace. That??s it.
5. at this point, we can maximize the expats potential by allowing them to participate in the building of Syria itself through lifting of all restrictions imposed on them.

Abu Kareem,
I totally agree with you. I encountered a similar situation with the Syrian Club (Al nadi Souri), which is a product of the Syrian embassy in Washington. I learned that many are hesitant to show up or even give their information to those in charge of the is club. expats are hesitant to attend functions where anything they say could find it??s way to the mukhabarat. It??s fear, indeed. Besides why the hell do you guys think am I calling my self ??Majhool?
Mr Alex wants us to be able to socialize with the embassy people, lobby for them, give them money, and not even utter a word of what we really think/feel. He completely ignores that if we do that (talk) we are going straight to a ??pleasant? investigation room next time we go visit. 7ell 3anni. lol

Alex Says:

Ya Majhool … please don’t turn my words into an easy target by distorting them and making them extreme and unreasonable.
“Mr Alex” wants you to have nothing to do with the embassy or the Syrian club or the Arab American congress….

You think I attend any of these events here in Montreal? .. last one was two years ago (reception for Dr. Shabaan at the Syrian consul’s house).

You can pick and choose what you want to do to support Syria … you can limit it to lobbying for US support for peace negotiations if you like. Write letters to your congressman … leave comments on media sites.

I never suggested telling the regime that all is good … but all I hoped for is some balance… just like your article here, it was perfect.

But If you ALWAYS tell the regime that they are ALWAYS THE WORST leaders in the history of not only Syria but the whole middle east, then you are not doing anything useful to benefit anyone. Just be balanced in your criticism and try to find a good word here or there to say about the regime … a carrot and a stick approach.

Abu Kareem, that conference failed for many reasons. Blame “the regime”, “the opposition” and regular Syrians for it… it was a bad idea from the start.

Majhool Says:

Alex!!
I am all for the ??a carrot and a stick approach?.It??s my middle name!!
I call my version of this approach ??conditional support? and sometimes selective support. By the way and since you declared your self pro-conditional support I am yet to hear about your conditions?
I supported many of the regime??s initiatives, for example allowing private banks and universities to open. But on the other hand, unlike you, I am totally against the status quo when it comes to the regime??s instance on the 40 year-old emergency laws!!
I assure you that once I can objectively verify that the regime is well intentioned when it comes to restoring rule of the law and civic life in the land I will be the first to support the regime in a substantial way.
With the regard to expats, imposing 12 years before once get an exemption from serving the army could not come from good intention.
Dialog requires good intentions by the regime. This my friend is lacking.
Let me declare my intentions to avoid any doubts
I believe marginalized segments in the Syrian society are entitled to SHARE power with the regime. This however should not be done at the expense of the regime and the communities that currently support it. I am advocating genuine sharing.
I am all for a transition period (plus or minus 10 years) to do so. In the meantime, I am willing to accept clear steps in that direction. I would like to see the law governing all aspect of Syrian life. At least and at a minimum we should adhere to the current constitution and law. Basically a platform that we can all work within.
Is that objective enough guys?

Alex Says:

yes and no : )

Actually the “demands” are objective, but there is still a problem … the “conditional” part… saying “you do A first, I will follow it with B”

This reminds me of all the other conditional “objective” positions in th Middle East

1) The Israeli who do not want to talk to Syria before it cuts its relations with Iran, Hamas, and HA.

2) France that won’t talk to Syria until Syria accepts and facilitates the election of a Lebanese president to France’s liking (and to Saudi Arabia’s and the U.S.’s liking)

3) Syria not getting anywhere close to meaningful political reforms until there is peace with Israel and the Americans and their Arab allies clearly stop interfering in Syria (and Lebanon)

4) Israel not talking to hard line Palestinians until they turn into easy-going peaceful angels.

5) The Lebanese “majority” not wanting to start discussing a national unity government until the Lebanese “opposition” passes the majority’s candidate for president first.

The chicken and egg dilemma … no matter how close two sides might seem to be, if both will stick to their unique preferred sequence of give and take … then there will be no give and take.

But, again, I have no issue with your goals and attitude in general.

Naim Nazha MD Says:

Majhool,
JFK said in his inauguration ( Ask not what your country can do for you , ask what you can do for your country ) Syrians should be like the Jewish Americans , care more about Syria and the Syrian people than who is in charge , it looks that everybody wants to be in charge before they would help , we all should remember that when the US imposes sanction against Syria and ban books and computers from being shipped to Syria siting national security they are punishing the Syrian people , the problem for Syria is that Syria is an orphan in the US and that is because the Syrians in the US do not want or do not know how to help Syria , we should change the first part for the sake of the Syrian people and the second part can be changed from people with organization skills who will be willing to spend time organising the Syrian American lobby .
Majhool .
I want to tell you why i owe a lot to Syria then i am going to tell what i want from being from Syria and i will mention some of the good things that i encountered and some of the bad ones .
I was born In Hims from a family from Hama , my father never changed our civil registration out of pride even though we never lived in Hama , I grew up in T3 which is a pumping station for the Iraqi oil through Syria , I went to public schools until i went to Damascus university to study Medicine , My tuition was about 20 Dollars a year
I graduated with no debts , I always wanted to come to the US to continue my studies and with help of my uncle i was able to do that .
Yes i owe a lot to Syria and will never forget that and will do whatever i can to advance the lives of my fellow Syrians .
some of the good things that i faced was an incidence when i needed some papers from the Damascus university to get privileges in a hospital , the Syria embassy in DC obtained the documentation that i needed without even calling them as the hospital called them and obtained the papers , one bad encounter was when they took my son’s American Batteries at the Airport in the name of security .
For the people who complain about paying instead of serving in the military, I am surprised , especially the Doctors like the Syrian BRIT who graduated one year after me and went to Damascus university and i am sure he paid no significant tuition , in the US to be a Doctor they spend and finish school with more than 200,000 Dollars in debt , i wounder if anybody thinks that 10,000 Dollars instead of a military service is too much to pay , I do not think so.
About What i want from Syria , I do not want to be in any power position as i do think it matters , what is important is to make Syria better no mater who is in charge , the important thing is for the Car that is Syria and carrying the Syrian people to reach it’s destination safely , yes we should help the driver and give direction but we should not try to snatch the wheels as that will drive the car off the road.
Now i hope that everybody is sleeping so i do not get bombarded with attacks.

Majhool Says:

Naim,
Not everyone is a lucky doctor who got away with cheap schooling from Syrian university. Plus, you probably deserved it and your dad paid his dues and taxes to the country. anyways, will answer in more details later.

Majhool Says:

Double attack from pro-dictators?!!

The conditions monsieur Alex are imposed on the regime and not on Syria=Syrians. I do help in every way possible and you among all people know how my family care not only for Syrias but also for arab communities every where. That was a cheap shot. You your self said you are against unconditional support of the regime I guess it was rather an appeasing statement more than a genuine one.

Habibi, I want dialogue but dialogue needs a MINIMUM acceptable platform. I call it rule of law. I find it unpleasant that every time I call for rule of law you cite an endless list of regional issues that has nothing to do with the well being of the Syrians. The topic is about the Syrians expats and not about your beloved salafi and pro-Iranian groups.

Naem.

JFK quote is totally out of context. And yes I agree we should try to imitate Jewish Americans but please remember that Israel is democracy. Which makes a huge difference. As for you denying powers for large segments of the Syrian society making sound that ??we? are selfish. My friend that is far from true. I believe sharing power reduced extremism and add balance to the society. Not everyone is a power freak like your friends in the regime you know!

Alex your friend, declares that sanctions are not effective and Syria is winning! besides the regime rhetoric is all for boycotting American merchandise so that is a no issue.

And if you care about Syrians, aren??t prisoners of conscious Syrians? Should not we lobby to help them out of prison? What if the regime was causing more misery to the Syrian people than anyone else? Should we still lobby for it? I care for the idea of the lobbying, and remember that I was the one who brought it up, I would like to see the regime instituting the minimum required for a positive dialogue that would help both the regime and the Syrians in general.

As for your cheap tuition. Let me remind you that not everyone was lucky enough to be a doctor. Your deserved it..you should know that Syrian graduates nowadays are paid less that counterparts in Jordan and Lebanon due to the worsening of education standards in Syria.
Plus ya habibi ya rohi its not about the money (although not every body makes as much money as doctors do), it??s about the 12 years. Why should we wait 12 years? To grow distant from the homeland and permanently set our careers abroad making it hard to come back. Unlike you many want to actually go back to really help the country, and let me tell you that serving that over inflated army is hyst a waist of talents for many. Plus careers nowadays don??t wait for anyone. Simple math would help you out figure that if a Syrian was to study aboard (say an MS degree) with 2 years of experience. He would be rubbing 30 with no savings and maybe just started a family!! Studing abroad should be something that the government need to reward it, not make harder for those who want to go back.
And if you are so generous, I suggest you start a fund to support Syrian students pay their 10, 000 to help them go back to Syria. And maybe lobby to make the time period shorter, let??s say 5 years. Then you would really be helping.

I pride my self for being reasonable, If I was not, I would have been asking for democracy now, etc.. but even the rule of law, Estaktartou 3alayna.. ( iza akramata al kareem malaktaho wa iza akrakmata el la2eem tammaraada)

Hammam Yousef Says:

Majhool… WOW! :O

Calm down man! although I understand what are you talking about, but I don’t think calling each other names will help!

Alex,
I don’t see how the Syrian Regime can really represent Syria/ Syrian people, and I don’t think we need to discuss this issue.

And frankly, the exchange of “Rule of Law” for “Stay in Power Assads” seems a very generous compromise/ gift to the regime, hell I??m even not sure if I can take it! You might say that the regime is resilient to pressure/ change, and it will survive despite our efforts anger and frustration, and I say yes, it might, this is why we need lobbying ??against? the regime and ??for? Syria. The sickening confusion happens when you regard the ??regime? as ??Syria!? This is totally anaccepted.

I mean? what are we really asking for here? Rule of Law is too much?!! Release Prisoners of consciousness is too much?!! Stop Robbing Syrian people is too much?!! No more Death under Torture is too much?!!

Naim,
You have to wake up man, all what you have mentioned as ??blessings? and ??offerings? form the system in syria is not!

It is our ??Right? to get cheap tuition according the ??Social? nature of the state that was imposed upon us by the Baath government! So no thanks needed, they were only doing what they should, besides? on the other hand? I hope you remember people waiting in line for a box of tissues for three hours, Or? you buy it smuggled by the regime members who deliberately worked on extorting every penny from the poor Syrians? Highly Un-Nationalistic characteristics, don’t you think?!

I used to think like you? look at all the roads, factories and dams, look at the electricity water and bridges, low international debt?. BUT! Is it not the duty of any government to serve it??s people, especially that Syria has quit enough resources to make it a rich country?! I remember in 80s the dollar was about 4 syrian pounds, and much less before that? how come now it is 50 and we are proud to keep it on this level?!!

No my friend, the regime proved to be opposite all what it promised.

And you got to study medicine because the door was opened? not for you really? but for all those ??parachutists? who got extra 40 marks added to their score in BAKALORIA, you never know? One of them might even become a PRESIDENT!!

Adios

Majhool Says:

Hammam,

Don’t worry, we joke arround al the time. we call it role playing.

naim Says:

Majhool, Hammam ,
I think i mentioned the lobby to advance Syria’s interest ( We as Syrians should unite in an organization with two branches one branch is a political action committee with a goal to advance Syria??s interest in our new countries , donation to this branch is not Tax deductible )
There was nothing to do with luck , I was studying while others were playing , I did not anybody in Government and still do not know or care to know anybody in the Syrian government ,
When you lobby for Syria you are lobing for Syria not the regime .
we keep talking about what we want Syria to do for us , Free education to college , free health care which can be improved , we do not want to serve in the military ,we do not want to pay real state , income or sale taxes we want the streets to be safe and clean ,
Can you tell me how you two expect Syria to pay for all these services.
Majhool , About the degrees than Syrians get from Syrian Universities , I want to tell you a secret I passed all my tests in the US by reviewing my medical books from Syria and Civil Engineer brother passed his , he is a professional engineer now , what matter is that Syrian University degrees are recognised in the United States .
Majhool , you are a student still , but i hoping for a day that you bring pride to your family as i expect you will and be proud of your achievements.
Hammam , the social programs that were implemented in Syria were misguided like the other programs in half the world during the cold war , Syria is moving slowly but surely toward market economy, which will open opportunities to the Syrian people .
About having the Dollar for fifty Syrian pounds , I believe that is intentional as a stable conversion will encourage investments and that conversion will make Syrian products Cheaper abroad , China is doing that too and the US is complaining about the artificial low value of the Chinese currency.
By the way Majhool . what are you studying , If you are from Homs , i think you are studying engineering , are you.?

Majhool Says:

Naim,

I am not from Homs, I am from Idlib and I am studying political science in MIT, and since my parents are proud anyways my goal is make a real difference.

but I have to say you are not getting any of my points or you simply don’t want to.having said that, It’s clear that you are well intentioned so God bless you.

I think all of us here have been going in circles and saying the same things over and over. Alex, Naim, & Mazen, believe that the regime is best for syria. and the rest of us don’t and demand a resonable plattform for us and the regime to work together. Alex & Co. cannot even seem to agree on the obvious ( reducing the time period before one can pay the badal to help the minds start their careers in syria instead of the US for example) becasue that would consititue some sort of moral defeat to their policy of defending the regime no matter what.

I had hoped that this forum will help bridge the gap. I think the pro-rule of law camp here already came with compromizing mindset, but if we cannot even have Alex whom i admire and respect nudge, how can we make those in the regime nudge. that is impossible my freinds.

Hence, I am calling it a quit, and will retire from writing in this forum.

Majhool

Majhool Says:

Just in,

?ذ?رت ا???ظ?ة ا?س?ر?ة ?ح??? ا?إ?س??ا? ف? ب?ا? ت??ت س?ر?ا???ز ?سخة ??? أ? ?ح??ة أ?? ا?د??ة ح??ت ع?? ??ف? أح?د ?ر?ة (44 عا?ا) ? ??سف ?اج?ة (54 عا?ا) با?إعدا? بت??ة ا?ت?ائ?? إ?? ج?اعة ا?أخ?ا? ا??س????, ?خففت ا?ح?? إ?? ا?أشغا? ا?شا?ة 12 عا?ا.

??ا?ت ا???ظ?ة ف? ب?ا??ا إ? ا??ح??ة أصدرت أ?ضا ح???? با?أشغا? ا?شا?ة ?ست س??ات ع?? أح?د س????ا? ??ص?ر ا???ا?? (21 عا?ا) ? ?صطف? ??ر ا?د?? ع?اد ا?د?? (25 عا?ا) بت??ة ” ا?ا?تساب ?ج?ع?ة ت?دف ?تغ??ر ??ا? ا?د??ة ا?ا?تصاد? ? ا?اجت?اع?

Now I quit.

Naim Nazha MD Says:

Majhool , do not quit , PLEASE.

Hammam Yousef Says:

Naim,

??we keep talking about what we want Syria to do for us , Free education to college , free health care which can be improved , we do not want to serve in the military ,we do not want to pay real state , income or sale taxes we want the streets to be safe and clean ,
Can you tell me how you two expect Syria to pay for all these services.?

1- I don??t remember I asked for what you??ve mentioned although I welcome it! Maybe you should read again what camp ??Rule of Law? is asking for.
2- I think if the regime stops robbing the country, we will have enugh money to be better than ??desert kingdoms? like in UAE, or any other GCC countries. Last estimations for the ??Assad Family? fourtune was 40 billion dollars, I believe it is more, and we are not talking about the OTHER families.
3- PLUS, in a country which is ruled by LAW, I will be happy to pay my taxes and do all my duties towards my society/ country, because I would know that MY COUNTRY IS THE BEST PLACE FOR ME, and will not think how can I avoid paying taxes because it is not fare, or because in the end I am only paying and getting nothing.

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 propably, his dissapearnce marks 27 years now!

Is that real enough for you?!

Can we have ??Rule of Law? now please.

Majhool,

I bet you can??t quit, you won??t leave the battle field behind, would you?! :)

Hammam Yousef Says:

Another 12 years, and yet another devastated families!

I don??t want ??Rule of Law? for ??Assads in Power? exchange any more. I quit too.

Have a nice life Under Assads.

Hay? Majhool? wait for me!

saint Says:

Alex, could you move my comments on Naji Arwashan to this one here please. I posted there by mistake.

Naim Says:

Saint said; I moved it for you by pasting.

saint Says:
August 29th, 2007 at 7:16 am
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? 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.

Zenobia Says:

Majhool,

no need to quit…. this is the way such dialogues go. just have to keep struggling through to some concensus or merely the achievement of listening to each other.

I feel like you mischaracterized the ‘Alex’ group. I don’t see how this can be described as being in support of the current syrian regime’s rule…or the status quo…or even vaguely being of the view that the current gov’t system is best for Syria. Nobody said that…or has ever said that. In fact, NOBODY on this forum… believes such a thing.
this is a straw man…… which you are tearing down.

I think the correct characterization….is that a certain number of people are more focused on expending their energy on verbalizing and lauching criticques against the syrian regime. That is where their energy and focus goes. Whereas, I think Alex and myself and Naim and many others… take this activity and viewpoint for granted. We see no need to expend effort in this way.. and find it even counter productive to making other progress towards finding ways to improve the situation in Syria DESPITE the status quo in governement or the continuation of this regime. As i said earlier, we believe that this regime is going nowhere..anytime soon… so what do we do in the mean time…is the question…

The focus in this forum currently was a question about what can expatriate do for Syria. (and yes, there was also room for praise or critique of the gov’t entities supposedly concerned with this…Buthaina and all that).. So, I believe, that the quesion is not…about how the regime puts so many obstacles that nothing good can happen….or their representative do a horrible job… and therefore, expatriates have nothing to do… should NOT do anything in fact, and there is no room for any contributions and progress. I think this is an easy answer… a giving up… and short sighted.

I agree with one of the last long statements by Naim… in which he suggests, to my mind, that there should be an expectation and an effort…. for expatriates to attempt for find ways to organize and become effective lobbyists for their country. There are political goals, particularly in America…to try to achieve. And their are social goals… that can be pursued.
Personally, i believe that is is definitely feasible for expatriates to work and organize and contribute to the well being of Syria and Syrians…without explicitly or necessarily supporting the gov’t of Syria. I think this is possible.
It seems that the other ‘camp’ as you called it.. thinks this is impossible. So we disagree here. I think there is no disagreement on whether people want to support the regime. Nobody does!…the disagreement comes in terms of what we each believe is activity that benefits syria… with maybe some inadvertant benefit to the regime (letting them off the hook…or taking pressure off of them). and whether one thinks this inadvertant benefit is worth… the benefit to the people that we are aiming for…
Or.. whether one feels that no actions and activities should be taken at all that have any benefit… explicit or inadvertant… no matter how it occures…
I think this is the disagreement and difference in the standpoints.

I am of the opinion… that Syrians will be shooting themselves in the foot to sit by… waiting for the regime to fall before they take actions… internally, exerternally… politicallly or civically and socially….to improve the country and the lives of their countryman.

And the kinds of actions I am thinking of… are the sort that we have discussed above…and in the original posts…
Politically, expatriates can both criticize the current government.. and at the SAME TIME… they can lobby to stop legislation in the United States or Europe that punishes the syrian people economically.

YES, i totallly agree… that a political action of great importance is to LOBBY FOR PEACE! why is this not possible?… expats are a great voice to speak up….for negotiations to take place… in the peace process and for attaining the goal of the return of the Golan. ..
There is no reason…that they cannot lobby to stop punitive measures being taken against Syria…and at the same time….lobby against the imprisonment of their countryman inside Syria… and for progress towards land for peace negotiations.
I see these as perfectly compatible political lobbying goals.

In terms of civic and social activities. Again i will agree with Naim.. that there is no reason that expatriates cannot begin by forming associations outside Syria to start to address the civic and professional needs inside Syria. This is the way to bringing resources in to the home country. And I don’t believe there is anything illegal about it.
In fact, I think it is a completely sneaky and brilliant way to start building professional and social institutions…outside the country… formed by Syrian citizens… that may become a foundation for future institutions that are needed inside Syria when the time comes….
This is the way…for certain.

And finally, the garbage metaphor.
I wholeheartedly agree. The people need to start picking up their own garbage. Metaphoricallly, and literally.
They can’t wait for the damn … president…who isn’t going to do…
They can’t wait for leaders… who aren’t there!… Who will become the leaders….are those who are willing to start picking up the garbage..whether it is their job or not….
If this doesn’t happen, then it won’t matter when the regime falls…. the people will be the same… the people will still being throwing garbage on the ground…and being irresponsible for their fellow citizens and for themselves, and for their environment.

My experience here has shown me that many if not most people have little sense of civic responsibility for anything!…
So… maybe the road towards this.. change…which i believe is necessary if there is any hope of sustaining some other less authoritarian kind of government in the future, is to begin with the expatriate communities, who have tremendous resources and experiences in other societies… to bring their positive example… forward… and give it back to Syria.
The expats have the opportunity to form some groups, societies, and finally institutions… that can provide living examples of civic responsibility.. They have the possibility of teaching this.. and potentially… forming experiencial projects for people INSIDE Syria to learn how to run such civic projects and organizations…
This is what I tried to suggest on Abu Kareem’s post… was necessary for changing mentality.

And through this process….I think lies the only roadmap towards other kinds of self government that we would ALL hope is in Syria’s future.

Naim Says:

Well said Zenobia.

Majhool Says:

All,

Few clarifications,

Zenobia, I am not sure if you and Alex are on the same page. Let me cite few quotes made by my dear friend Alex (i am not being sarcastic):

??I am with the status quo for now ? yes. Because unlike you I think for now the regime is right in spending most of its energy on regional conflicts?

??When the NY times reporter only wants to interview opposition figures, and when those figures take advantage of this one sided coverage , then what do you expect the regime to do? ? tolerate it for a few years, then eventually warn Michel Kilo and Anwar Bunii not to twist the truth .. then when it does not work ? put them in jail.?

??If you love ??democracy? ? accept the regime today! .. because it is genuinely popular .. not 97% of course, but maybe 60% or 70%? that??s much more popular than Olmert, Bush, Chirac, and Blair few months ago!?

My position is simple,

Except for few idealists, you will not be able to convince the majority of expats, and the silent opposition (which is the real opposition not Kilo.. not Anwar, ..like Alex want his reader to believe) to work with the regime for the lack of incentive or for the fear that taking the pressure of the regime will prolong the misery of the Syrian people. They may be wrong but that is a fact that we need to accept. That??s why and in order to help the country and maximize our efforts, I advocated that we indeed need to work closely with the regime. But in order for that to work, we would want to strike some sort of deal with the regime, basically an acceptable platform for all of us to work within, and this platform is ??rule of law? achieved by the lifting (even graduate of emergency laws .. I would even go far as to accept a mere public commitment by the president to the effect.
It will also require a lift of all restriction on the expatriates to go back and help from within.

Anything short of that will not be as effective as we all would want it to be, and it will mean that only the idealists will continue to help Syria in every manner possible but it will still fall short of the great potential we have.

I will continue to be one of those idealists.

Hammam,

By the way thank you for citing Buthayna’s comments. they are indeed outrageous to say the least.

saint Says:

Majhool, agree, you are right on the money. Stopping the blame game and getting to business is something this community not good at. Blaming the populace instead of the leaders is what left for the regime in Syria. I think expats were attacked and shrugged by the regime and now both look like playing the time game, to see who blink first. The regime knows that they have no rights in all these laws and decrees affecting the expats and on the other hand the regime is desperate and time is not on his side. In reality, the regime incentives and laws are the parameter of expats cooperation. If there was a smart system in Syria, they would have revised their policies continuously.

Dear Zanobia, I full heartedly in agreement with you on being active and not wait for the regime fall or change. I hate to dwell on what you said, but I would like to clear a point significant to me. I lived in Syria for good part of my life and I noticed the lack for leadership on the part of civil behavior since the start of the Baathist rule. The Baathists can talk days about imperialism and nationalism but can not perform one civil act. When dictator Hafez assumed power, the civil manners went down hill. The people after long period of assimilation lost even their own traditional dear values. Those streets and old allies in old Damascus used to be clean with the Jasmine scent. Not now, the destructions are on all levels, physical and human souls levels. In my last year visit, I witnessed the members of parliament parking their cars on the side walk and force people to leave the side walk and walk on the street risking their lives, no one can say a word. My hope that the garbage metaphor will really reach the people minds in that country to wake their conscious up to subverts images of the leader and the officials as above responsibility and accountability. I think you realized in your last visit how they play people with the large pictures and continual bombardment with the president pictures and images in the streets, TV, offices, shops. People can not imagine that this president (young?, western educated?, doctor?, son of the great leader?…….) can do such task or that he should lead by example. He played them well that he convinced them that he is not a Dictator, and if he is, they will go out shouting long live dictator.
Yes, until the president takes the lead and be the example to his officials and to his people that he picks trash and litters, my be his own garbage, things will not change.

Alex Says:

MAjhool,

Zenobia and I share the same opinion (more or less). The difference is that I express it in point-form and she writes in a smooth manner.

That’s all : )
As for my quotes, as usual with you … wither quoting me out of context or distorting my statements.

1) I am for the status quo now … for another year. bel3arabi elfasee7 or با?عرب? ا?فص?ح until this US administration leaves. You really do not understand or want to understand or want to accept the gravity of some of the possible shocks coming to the middle East… excuse me if I prefer to wait a year or so…. this has nothing to do with the last 37 years Syria waited until the Golan is liberated …etc.

Economic reforms can go ahead at the good pace of the past year or two. But political reforms are not for now.

2) The opposition made mistakes … and Western reporters who did not give the regime a chance to defend its self against the totally one sided, often exaggerated accusations of the opposition leaders (and the Saudi and Lebanese media) also made a mistake… anything unbalanced and one-sided (even if you think it is on the side of “good”) leads to problems.

You don’t have to like the other side … it exists and it has its many sympathizers and semi supporters… you can not totally ignore it.

Imagine ignoring your girlfriend after an argument : )

So that’s all I was saying in the post from which you quoted my one paragraph to make me sound extreme.

3) I said that the regime has about %60 popularity, as many western reporters agree… I think Zenobia will tell you that this is not far fetched given the apparently genuine support (or acceptance of the status quo for now) of a majority the younger Syrians everywhere (and the Minorities and those outside the largest cities …)

I think you are mixing between my comments which are usually “defending the regime” with my actual position … I am really in the center, not with you and not with the regime, but when I argue with you I will take the other side’s positions … the reasonable ones only of course.

I would like to see everyone in the center … that’s all. You are not too far by the way .. I am not criticizing your real positions too much, I criticize your persistent perceptions of my positions : )

Alex Says:

Long live Zenobia !

Alex Says:

Saint,

Regarding the garbage example:

1) Bashar does a few good things. He appears on a regular basis with his wife at events organized for the mentally handicapped. His wife started, and continues to actively manage, the Special Olympics for them in Syria. You see both of them hugging and laughing with people who in the Middle East many people are ashamed of.

There is also the Cancer center for children (Basma) …

2) One of the reasons for the garbage you see on the streets is that just before the official garbage collectors pick up the garbage in the morning, some of the poorer people go through the same garbage by spreading it on the street (out of its containers) … trying to find anything they can use.

They leave it all over the street.

But having said that … I hope the president can do what you suggested … pick up the garbage himself and have that photo on Tishreen’s front page.

saint Says:

Alex, I think Bashar usually listen to you, and I hope he will. Then I??ll the first to publish this photo, :-), I hope?
Because in actuality, it is hard to change the direction of a train being on that track for 40 years, if this can happen without changing cars and track, I??ll give the leader a round of applause.
But in the meanwhile, excuse me; I do not prefer to ride with you now, but sure I respect your position.
And who said that there is no clean streets there?
http://www.flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=514501228&size=o

Zenobia Says:

I would be very very happy…if Bashar decides to have his picture taken…picking up some garbage. Terrific! i am all for it.

but are we really going to wait for this man to do this… before anyone else wants to pick up the garbage? it is ridiculous.

i will repeat that I don’t know what the true percentage of support the regime has verses Bashar himself… it would be great to know.
What i surmise is that the man individually.. has a fairly high percentage of ‘popularity’. But I am not sure about the accuracy of the word… it definitely doesn’t fit when discussing how people feel about the government as a whole. I dont’ think the REGIME is POPULAR.
Rather… the population is rallying the wagons….as they say in the old West…. people are willing to stick with what they have and are not interested in taking big risks on the non existent alternatives.
But as for Bashar,… i think a lot of young people particularly have been successfully charmed into having a lot of hope about him..as an individual who will change the system and make new things happen. And these same people are used to the glacially slow change process… so i guess seven years doesn’t bother them….

Recently, i was in a village near the Qalat al -Husn, and while speaking to a young woman who in earnest was telling me how much she adored president Assad and thinks he is really doing a good job…and he is going to bring even more positive changes…. I found myself genuinely wishing that her outlook was correct.
I told her…. my reasons for having great skeptisism, which had nothing to do with a personal criticism of this president as a person. In fact, I am very willing to acknowledge his affability and his success as a personality. But I explained how much I doubted that such a system can be altered…
and finally, i told her.. and a few of her also companions who agreed with her but with less conviction… that I truly hope that this man doesn’t let them down.
I want him to pick up the garbage, i really do.

Meanwhile, garbage…covers Syria. And i dont mean just in the streets of Damascus. No, i was over a large portion of the countryside, walking , buses, train, car. Let me tell you….it is everywhere!…
The garbage is in the desert. The garbage is on the side of the highway… and on the roads. The garbage is definitely in the parks and in the tiny ‘forests’… and it is all over the beach in Tartous and literally covering the island of Arwad. It is in the streams and swimming holes of the mountain areas. It is even outside all the holy buildings and shrines and religious sites on the mountain tops. And around the crusader castles. Well… and the cities go without saying.
Ok, the garbage is disgusting….and nobody seems to have any thought whatsoever… about their responsibility for doing something about it.

This is what i am talking about. Nobody even notices or comments on it! they just take it for granted. To me, seeing that made a deep impression. I took it as a symbol of a serious lack of concern and of a civic understanding. Even the holy sites are surrounded by garbage.
It is really the perfect metaphor and expression of serious deficits that need to be addressed.

i am already thinking about how to start the pick up the garbage project……

Lebanese Mojo Says:

Salam to all,
First of all I would like to say that I think it’s good that Syrians have online venues for discussion and the airing of grievances since they don’t have such venues off line (at least not within Syria).

Secondly, as a Lebanese, I should like to point out that despite the ongoing Lebanese-Syrian vendetta, as far as I’m concerned there is no feud with the Syrian people, to whom we are bound by ties of language, blood, and history.

The problem is with the Syrian regime, which is desperate to regain control of Lebanon and which, in its craving to do so, is prepared to do practically, however criminal or barbaric.

First and foremost, however, the regime is a problem for the Syrian people. Besides the heinous crimes it has committed and continues to commit, it has strangled the economy, culture, and civil society, imposing backwardness on Syria for political reasons.

This is especially tragic because Syria is a beautiful country, rich in heritage. While I hate President Bush, I often quote him on what he once said in a speech regarding Syria: “….an ancient land and a crossroads of commerce and learning, whose regime has caused it to stagnate indefinitely.”

Anyone who thinks change is possible under this regime is naive. Bashar must go, as must his henchmen. That way both Syria and Lebanon will benefit. The only problem is that if Bashar is overthrown, his place might be taken by Radical Islamists such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Beyond that, the worst thing the Syrian opposition could do is to follow the Iraqi example and cooperate tih the Americans in allowing a foreign invasion. The results of such an invasion would be catastrophic for all concerned.

Therefore, the road to freedom remains long and hard.

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