Skip to comments.After Pelosiís Syria Visit, Dissidents Cower
Posted on 05/21/2007 9:56:27 PM PDT by Arec Barrwin
After Pelosis Syria Visit, Dissidents Cower by Katherine Zoepf Published: May 15, 2007
Nancy Pelosi and Bashar al-Assad.
DAMASCUS, SYRIAHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosis visit to Syria last month, and the related question of whether or not the U.S. should formally re-engage this Baathist republic, remains as controversial a topic on the streets of Damascus as it was in the days afterwards among Beltway bloggers. And, perverse as it may seem to some American liberals, it is the Syrians who are most sympathetic to their progressive values who have been most critical of Ms. Pelosis attempts to begin a dialogue with Syrias government.
Many Syrian dissidents and pro-democracy activists have privately expressed dismay at Ms. Pelosis message of friendship to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They say that Ms. Pelosis visit, no matter how well-intentioned, has effectively pulled the rug out from under them, critically damaging their efforts to create momentum for reform from within.
Pelosis visit made the regime feel that Americans were divided on how to deal with Syria, said a Damascus-based womens-rights activist who, like five other activists interviewed for this article, asked that his name be withheld because he feared punishment. This sends a message to the regime that the pressure is off, that it can do what it likes.
It has certainly seemed that way in the weeks since Ms. Pelosis departure, during which time the government has imprisoned Kurdish opposition figures while maintaining travel and work bans on political activists.
In the eastern Syrian town of Raqqa, hundreds of people were arrested for protesting rigged parliamentary elections. And over the last month, the Syrian courts have embarked on a veritable spree of sentencing, handing down harsh prison sentences to some of Syrias most prominent pro-democracy activists.
Last week, the physician and dissident Kamal Labwani was sentenced to 12 years in prison for having met with American officials during a 2005 trip to Washington. This past weekend, the activists Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa were sentenced to three years each for having signed the so-called Damascus Declaration, a document petitioning Syrias government to normalize relations with neighboring Lebanon.
The few Syrian activists who are not presently behind bars say they have all but ceased working.
Most of us are just sitting and waiting, said the womens-rights activist. Its too dangerous to try any political activities right now. The regime is making a point, and theres no telling when the current crackdown will end.
Even Syrians outside the inner circle of activists seem shaken by the conviction, shortly after Ms. Pelosis return to Washington, of Syrias best-known human-rights lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni. Mr. al-Bunni was convicted of spreading information that could weaken national morale and joining an international organization without proper authorization, for which he was given a five-year prison sentence.
Mr. al-Bunni is a slight, nervous-looking man, a tireless polymath who, aside from his work defending scores of political prisoners, has helped to found a center offering training in human rights, and has drafted a new constitution for Syria. Last year, he invited a handful of foreign reporters to his home to show them his proposed new constitution, and waved his hands excitedly as he outlined his ideas about what a democratic transition in Syria might look like, how potential power-sharing arguments among Syrias many ethnic and religious groups could be anticipated and solved.
But Syrias would-be Thomas Jefferson is in the infamous Adra prison now, and he is known to have been tortured.
Pelosis visit was well-meant, but its been bad for everyone, and especially devastating for some of our closest friends in Syria, an American researcher on Syria said. The Syrian regime wants to be invited back to the diplomatic table, but at the same time it wants to make the point that none of the concessions that it may make with regard to regional security are connected to the Bush administrations democracy agenda.
In an interview last week, Mr. al-Bunnis brother, Akram, said that he was saddened by Anwars sentencing. But even as he offered an explanation of why Syrian dissidents were upset by Ms. Pelosis visit, he said that he and his brother hoped at least that such international contacts could prove to have a positive effect in the long run.
So much of Syrias opposition was against Pelosis visit, against the E.U.s talks with the regime, Mr. al-Bunni explained. They believe that these offers of friendship strengthen the regime and increase its totalitarian tendencies, and theyre angry.
But perhaps, if the West continues to talk to the regime, our government will wish to improve its image on its own, he continued. People who favor this approach point to Turkey. This is a much slower process, but weve seen that it can work. The regime would like the world to believe that it doesnt care about what the world thinks, but we know thats not true. It will take time, but Syria can be encouraged to cooperate. Now that Ive seen what happened in Iraq, I fear this is the only way.
An earlier version of this story included an assertion that Ayman Abdel Nour is in exile. Mr. Abdel Nour is presently in Syria.
I’m still holding my breath for this waste of oxygen to be charged with treason.
If a Democrat gets elected in 2008, just imagine the collective relief of dictators like Assad, since “constructive engagement” or some other euphemism for “appeasement” will be in vogue.
If a Marxist Dem gets in, it all will not matter much. We will be going down the tubes so fast, we won’t notice.
MOCKING HER IN SONG ON YOUTUBE — “BURQA GIRL” — http://youtube.com/watch?v=iumR_WB3HO0
A dingbat out of her realm and a dictator taking advantage.
The Democrats have never met a brutal dictator they didn’t like. That’s not a coincidence.
The Democrats can no longer suck up to Communist Russia and the Chinese don’t care for old white women kissing their asses, and the Democrats in Congress aren’t brave enough yet to pull this stunt with North Korea and Cuba, so Nancy decides to bend over for Syria.
Natan Sharansky, a dissident and refusenik who spent 9 years in the Soviet gulag, has said how important it was for the Soviet dissidents to know that there was support for their cause in the West.
President Bush will address a conference on democracy and security in Prague next month, which Sharansky is co-hosting together with Václav Havel and José María Aznar, where he hopes to give dissidents around the globe a forum to be heard.
Here’s more information about the conference: http://cdod.blogspot.com/2007/05/dissidents-human-rights-and-security.html
Nancy Pelosi is an idiot.
But.....I am pretty sick and tired of all these Arab and Iranian “reformers” whining about how something America did or didn’t do is the reason why they are unsuccessful at reforming anything. If 100,000 Syrians stormed Assad’s tinpot dictatorship palace, Syria would be a democracy tomorrow. It is not our job to set their countries right.
how sickening. it’s deja vu all over again. first it was hanoi jane and war mongering communist scu&bags. now it’s the “brilliant” ms. pelosi and another totalitarian wammabe.
the more brilliant they say they are, the more stupid they prove themselves to be. (bunch of democrat scu&bags)
‘The Democrats have never met a brutal dictator they didnt like. Thats not a coincidence.’
This is the treasonous act of a naive, incompetent, and meddling old granny.
“Now, now Assad, play nice.”
Pelosi’s visit has doomed any chance of victory in Iraq.
With the Democrats obstructing US combat operations, Syria now knows it is immune from attack, and will increase its efforts to regain Lebanon.
This is a disaster.
I hope the next US President has the sense to continue the war on terror, and attack Syria.
Beside being a Traitor.
All the more reason to use any legit means at our disposal to make sure that there is never again another 'Rat president in our lifetimes!
As surprising as night following day. And this is from a very left-leaning publication!
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