The Good, the Powerful, and the Abused

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French prime minister François Fillon, visiting Damascus in a further sign that the west intends to welcome the Assad regime in its folds, has raised, according to news reports, France’s concerns over the issue of human rights in Syria; and in particular the fate of Mohannad al-Hassani, a 43-year-old lawyer who was arrested last year and charged with “weakening national morale,” the same charge he has spent all his professional life campaigning against.

In addition to Mr. al-Hassani, thousands of other dissidents are locked-up in Syria for simply exercising their rights to express an opinion. Syria, to many Syrians, is the largest prison in the world and its prisons are not different from hell after death.

While RPS is thankful to the prime minister of France for his concerns over the oppression many Syrians face and the abuse of their human rights, we also believe that gentle diplomatic pressure, detached from a real peril to Assad if he remains defiant, will have very little effect on his oppressive behavior. Violent rulers toss diplomacy like diplomats toss violence.

If Assad releases al-Hassani, he would look like caving to pressure. If he does not, he would look like exercising his authority as the absolute ruler. It is really a simple choice for any authoritarian ruler to ignore the pleas of foreign governments who historically have always supported human rights.

From Mr. Fillon’s perspective, by raising the issue of human rights with Assad, he would subdue the international outcry that only gets louder with every illegal censure and seizure of Syrians. However, after Mr. Fillon raises the issue of human rights and Assad ignores it, Syrians are back to square one. Meanwhile, Mr. Fillon looks good, Mr. Assad looks powerful, and Syrians remain in prisons.

No liberty for Syrians if no real pressure is exerted by the west beyond just the diplomatic message we appreciate but which we find hopeless.

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