For the first time, we see signs that Assad is scared that the uprising in Iran may spill over to Syria.
Washington – June 17, 2009 (Farid Ghadry) – Assad just decided to free Walid al-Bunni, a physician, who was imprisoned illegally in 2007 for merely talking to a prison inmate; this happened when he was in prison between 2001 and 2006, also illegally as a prominent member of the Damascus Spring. The accusation was that in discussing politics with his inmate, he “weakened the national sentiment”.
The rare acquittal was a surprise to many Syrian observers. In Syria, if you are illegally in prison and discuss politics, you are imprisoned again. This must be the ultimate definition of tyranny.
Some, however, attributed this acquittal directly to the events in Iran. The intent is to unclench the fists of the Syrian opposition as it watches TV and learns from the new cyber war being waged by many Iranian activists and street protestors against a ruthless government; not too dissimilar from the one occupying Damascus today.
If there is one issue that scares Assad to death, it is an uprising by the Syrian people. With his minority Alawite sect ruling Syria with such cruelty and despotism, any street demonstration will turn into a sectarian one very quickly. And since the majority of the Syrian army is Sunni, it won’t be long before Assad is surrounded in Damascus by millions of Syrians demanding change. A Syrian inside the country told me today that the Iranian pictures on TV help us “find the courage” to also spill into the streets of Damascus and Aleppo. Assad knows it and al-Bunni owes his freedom to the Iranian people.
Another point brought forth by my Syrian friend delved into the policy of Obama towards Assad. To my utter surprise, he said that Obama’s approach helps us find our compass. Asked how, he said: “For the first time, we realize that we have to rely on ourselves to free our country”. By not talking about dissidents, Obama is in fact empowering the Syrian activists to realize that they are alone in this battle and alone they must act. Whether Obama has designed his foreign policy by intent or accident, from what this Syrian activist told me, extending a hand to Assad should render Assad more fearful and anxious because it empowers the Syrian opposition to realize that this is their battle and theirs alone.
The only country in the Middle East that is ruled by a minority today is Syria. Next to Syria was Iraq, but the Iraqi people today, thanks to the US, have the freedom to choose a government ruled by the majority Shiia in the country. This has become too obvious to the Syrian people that no matter what Assad does or how much his iron fist can be unclenched, Syrians are asking themselves: Why is Syria the only country in the Middle East where the majority does not decide its fate? A very potent question that I believe will eventually drive all of our tormentors to the galley at 4am in the morning having been indicted by honorable Syrian courts following the rule of law.
We, at RPS, salute the people of Iran. If many were disillusioned that real positive change was possible under Khomeini, our hope is that as many today realize their mistake and are using these elections to express their desire for a true democracy and transparency.