Majhool | Student United States
July 11th, 2007

Re: ‘If you had the choice what would you change in Syria?

We Syrians are often exposed to the meaningless blaming rhetoric by the Syrian leadership that the Syrian society bears the main responsibility for the lack of reform or its slow pace forward. In other words, we are supposed to blame the victims. The Syrian government and political leadership neither govern nor lead effectively. They cover up their failure to move forwards with the country by blaming the current and past failures on their citizens whom they claim to have a dull way of thinking.

Life experience tells me that the success of any organized effort is a function of effective leadership. The role of the leadership in government is to set the goals for the country that have sufficient public commitment, facilitate (energize) the performance of the public and private sectors to reach these goals, and offer sufficient feedback and motivation. These leadership tasks can take the form of reform laws that are committable and enforceable, and contain adequate incentives.

The other widely circulated myth is that Syrians are excessively cautious and lack initiative This is not true. Over the years, Syrians have simply become more pragmatic in the way they run their day-to-day business in order to ensure their survival Unless the leaders of the country encourage creativity in schools, initiative at workplace and public life, and legal accountability, the Syrians will remain rightfully skeptical. Without accountability, boldness often meant increased risk of imprisonment, impoverishment, and favoritism.

Reform is the gradual societal change towards specific goals. To reform, we have to define two sets of assumption that would be grounded in favored ideologies. The first set of assumptions is ā??the goalsā? and the second set of assumptions is ā??the limitationsā? imposed on the freedom and performance of operator of change. No matter the ideology, (socialist, religious, or utopian) we can safely assume that the well being of the Syrian individual is a reasonable goal that we can agree on. Despite its vagueness, we can also probably agree that ā??well beingā? is comprised of a good standard of living, access to money, goods, and resources, freedom, happiness, and good health. Once we put specific numbers to these variables we are left to define the limitations (or barriers) between the operators of change (the people and the government) and the goal of the reform effort.

The main limitation to reform that I see is the limitation of will, i.e. the lack of it. The reason for this lack of will is that the well being of the regular lad walking the street of Aleppo will infringe on the well being of the ruling class. It will infringe on their standard of living, on their access to money, goods, and resources, and on their freedom to plunder Syria . Once the well being of the ruling elite ceases to become a limitation, we can definitely aspire for a system where a power is shared and legitimacy is asserted through representation. That would be a great alternative to emotional and often manipulated ā??pulse of the streetā?. If such a system exists reform will come easier than cake.

Keeping realistic, power sharing is not something that the Syrian government is willing to do at this moment. And assuming that violent change is not an option, the reform agenda has to accommodate the ruling elite if a sustainable positive change of the lives of Syrians is allowable.

Syria ā??s recent relative openness in the economy and education was driven by the survival instinct of the ruling elite basically ā??doing the right things for the wrong reasonsā?. Even that modest change shows that they can impose positive change and that the public can ride the wave. With the way Syria is heading today (minimal reforms) big expatriate money could eventually find its way to the Syrian economy and generate much needed jobs; it will be a long painful process before the average person can see the benefits.

As for majority of expatriates who unfortunately are not millionaires, the question brewing in the minds of many is how they could possibly influence positive change from afar. The only productive way in my mind is to help someone from the inside have a better life, one could possibly help pay for a relative through school or giveaway money for a worthy charitable cause. This could be made easier if the Minister Buthaynah Shaaban is replaced by someone who does not hold that much hatred for the expatriate community made up mostly by the families of once middle class of the 60s, 70s, and 80s that escaped systemic impoverishments and suffocation. People left Syria because Syria did not offer them the opportunities they sought and to ask of them to wait 12 years and pay $ 8000 to be exempt from serving the army is highway robbery and disguised exile.

Syria ā??s productive class has always worked in silence with incredible flexibility. I donā??t see any other way around it; Syrians will have to rely on change dictated by the regimeā??s own survival and use it when possible to enhance their lives. Also, nagging is also a powerful tool that the Syrians have to master.. They should keep asking for more.

So far the government neither talked the talk nor walked the walk when it comes to well intentioned genuine reform agenda(s). The talk of reform and the lack of it is merely propaganda. Having said that, I am very optimistic that the Syrians have the capacity to find goodness and hoop in the worst of situations, until then I am not going to waist a second waiting or hoping for ā??well-intentionedā? ā??make-senseā? reform.

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12 Responses to the Article

abu kareem Says:


Very well said -as usual. We need to hear more of your ideas; how about a Majhool blog?

Majhool Says:

Abu Kareem,

Thanks!! It seems that we tend to agree on most things most of the time. As to your suggestion for me to start a blog; I do have one that you actually used to read but itā??s under a different name. I only use Majhool when I am critical of the government. I guess that tells you how suffocated Syrians are.

Wassim Says:

Interesting article, you touch on a lot of key issues and highlight many of the ills which Syria suffers from, however I fail to see what “nagging” as you call it can accomplish. Also, you mention that the wellbeing of the Syrian individual is a reasonable goal, yet you fail to define what that wellbeing is? Is it only considered for the short or long term? Do you have a materialist well being in mind (life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness?) or do you want to re-educate most of your country along Western liberal and secular models that were only applicable in the countries they came from? One simply can’t discount the ethnic and religious values that people live by and discounting these as ‘backwards’ and ‘obstacles’ in ambitious democratisation and modernisation initiatives is only asking for trouble. That is not so much in what you said, but the conclusions I arrived at while trying to follow your chain of thought led me here. That there is a crisis of legitimacy in Syria is not in doubt but applying a tourniquet on a person with a head injury, while correct in one context, proves fatal in the existing one without realising that closing the blood supply temporarily to the head can have worse consequences.

Also, and this is not just for your article, I find there is an almost overwhelming tendency here to blame the lack of development and problems within the country to internal factors and few have touched upon the external factors which have had just as much influence. Closing off each of these areas and viewing them as mutually exclusive will give us only a partial view of what the problem is and also the solution.

Yazan Says:

As always, A very interesting read. A Majhool blog eh? I think that could be a good addition to the blogsphere, u most definitely know how to spark a debate… especially that we havent read anything for so long from Ma3loom.

Majhool Says:

I truly believe that the solution lies in the accommodation of the ideas and aspirations articulated by Yazan, Abu Kareem, Wassim, and Alex.

When a ā??breathing spaceā? is allowed (government) then a vibrant civil society (Yazan) will eventually produce leadership (Alex) that will lead to the creation of a number of entities or schools of thoughts that would push forward different national identities and aspirations that their creators (Abu Karim & Wassim) deem best for the country. Itā??s the accommodation of these different ideals that would lead to a balanced Syrian identity (a Hybrid of the Yazans and the Wassims) as well as the transfer or sharing of responsibly from the government to the civil society (Alex).

Whatā??s problematic with Wassimā??s point of view is that he reduces liberty, pursuits of happiness etc as merely a western product that is only appropriate for a western consumer. I disagree with this notion. Those who share such an ideology have to articulate viable alternatives capable of competing with other ideologies within the framework of a FREE civil society and let the people decide FREELY for themselves.

Wassim, I do agree with you on one thing, external forces do influence reform. However the logical way to address that is to strengthen and reform our society in order to enhance its immunity against negative external influence. We will always have enemies that would want to exploit us. Focusing on external threat and abandoning the internal is the worst thing we can ever do.

In writing my assay and being the pragmatist that I am , I tried to demonstrate that counting on this government to do the things we aspire to is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. And that we need to find ways within the limitations imposed upon us to move forward with the society into a state when real reform can actually start.

Alex Says:


I salute your decision of “until then I am not going to waist a second waiting”

Charity is the best way to show every corrupt and selfish person how bad he is … I hope Syrians would start more non-political, non-religious charity organization. I will start thinking of an initiative. I hope to come up with something interesting.

And I hope you will be able to see that the valid obstacle to change that you can clearly identify, in only one of many major obstacles.

Majhool Says:


I have some good news! Your hopes have been realized already. I do strongly believe that the obstacles and challenges facing reform are many and entrenched. (You should have hoped for a million dollar, hehe)

I disagree with you (I think) in differentiating between objective obstacles (poverty, ignorance, foreign intervention, etc.) and imposed and artificial obstacles (Lack of freedoms, representations, judicial system, etc…

I agree with you for the need of an effective charity organization. I suggest a new topic that speaks for the role of expatriates in reform to help answer the following questions

1) Who is the Syrian expatriate?
2) Does Syria (the people) need its expatriates help and contribution? Is yes in what form and shape?ā?
3) Is the Syrian Government at odds with its expatriate subjects? Does not constitute a threat?
4) What can Syrian Expatriates do for their countries? And is it made difficult by the Syrian Government

I am tired from hoping and waiting, Syrian Communities have to start articulating their expectations to clearly define who is putting sticks in the wheels.

Alex Says:

I don’t want the million dollars. I am happy with getting my wish above fulfilled in such a prompt manner! : )

I like your discussion topic suggestion. Why not.

I am working on an internal page for all of you who already participated (27 so far I think) to be able to propose new discussion topics and vote on those proposed topics. The topic that receives the highest vote gets selected for next month.

That’s what I did with the Think Tank from day1. They proposed topics and they voted for their favorites.

Majhool Says:

Lak Te2berni Ya Alex sho democratic!!

lirun Says:


i have a question – can you please tell me what you think of this – is it likely to be real or not..


Majhool Says:

No idea! like most Syrians I have more knowledge of recent weddings and divorces than what goes on behind closed doors Damascus.

I doubt it though since that would be considered by the Israelis as an act of war!!

lirun Says:

yeah but a rumour in itself cannot be an act of war.. one phase actually happened – clearly – being the last war.. the question is whether more installments are yet to come.. if this true we may face more war..

i dread that thought..

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