“National Initiative for Change” Program of Syrian Opposition: the liberal wing

The following is a press release from the liberal wing of the Syrian Opposition. It is notable because it does not include anyone that I know who belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic currents of the opposition or speaks for it. Many of the animators of the movement are academics in the US – Najib Ghadbian, a political science professor, and his wife, Mouhja Kahf, a talented poet, both teach at the University of Arkansas.Ammar Kahf, probably a brother,  is a grad student at UCLA.

Radwan Ziyadeh is now visiting at George Washington University and was at USIP. Ammar Abdulhamid was visiting at Brookings’ Saban Center. Khawla Yousef, another signer and activist, is his wife.

Ausama Monajed is the head of public relations at the Movement for Justice and Development in London , which has been in the news recently for getting 6 million dollars from the US.

Osama Kadi is co-founder and president of Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies SCPSS – a non-profit organization registered in Washington DC.

Their strategy is to ask the Syrian Army to turn against the president, as was the case in Egypt. This is an unlikely scenario because the Syrian Army has remained loyal to the President. The opposition has been claiming that soldiers have been shooting other soldiers for refusing to shoot on protesters. This is not convincing and seems to be the product of wishful thinking. Of course, if the revolution grows in size and force, the Sunni military officers will come under increasing social pressure to resign or defect.

The political reform plan is admirable.

Press Release

National Initiative for Change

Syrian Opposition Demand The Army to Protect Civilians and Facilitate a Transitional Period
Damascus, 29 April 2011

Background

Last Friday, 84 different cities and towns in Syria witnessed massive protests, 400 have been killed since the Syrian revolution started on March 15, with hundreds missing and thousands that have been detained. This popular uprising will lead eventually to the overthrow of the regime. It is imperative that we put an end to the arguments of Syrian exception. Our ultimate dream, as loyal

Syrian nationals, is first to witness our country become one of the best nations in the world. Given that we are witnessing profound “revolutionary”  changes not seen in the Arab region since the 1950’s and that we do not want a single drop of blood to be shed by any Syrian, we aspire to learn from other experiences and apply it to our case starting from experiments of transitions to democracies in Western Europe in the 1970’s, Latin American in the 1980’s, Eastern Europe in the 1990’s and what the Arab world is experiencing today as a result of successful popular revolts overthrowing regimes that had been in power for three decades or more.

Situation Now

Syria today only faces two options; either the ruling regime leads itself in a peaceful transition towards democracy –and we are very doubtful to the desire or will of the regime to do so- or it will go through a process of popular protests that will evolve into a massive and grassroots revolution that will breakdown the regime and carry Syria through a period of transition after a wave of violence and instability. Therefore Syria is at a crossroads; the best option is for the leadership of the regime is to lead a transition to democracy that would safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war.

Moving Ahead Syria can accomplish this goal by many means. Political reform should start with re-writing the constitution in a modern democratic fashion that guarantees basic rights to its citizens and emphasizes a system of checks and balances between branches of government. This means a complete separation of the three branches of government: judiciary, executive and legislative. This would also include a radical reform of the judicial system or institutions that have been overcome with corruption and loss of trust by the citizens. This includes the lifting of the state of emergency and all extrajudicial special, martial and field courts -especially the State Security Court-, the release of all political prisoners, the legislation of a modern law governing political parties that would ensure the participation of all Syrians with no exceptions, the reform of media laws and regulations in order to guarantee freedom of the press, the legislation of a new election law, and the forming of a national committee for truth and reconciliation to investigate Syrians who have disappeared and to compensate political prisoners. Above all comes the granting of all political rights to Kurds, the removal of all forms of systemic discrimination practices against them and the prioritizing of eastern provinces in development and infrastructure projects.

The safe transition period in Syria must be based on a firm conviction that the Syrian population completely lost faith in the executive authority, on top of it is the president, his deputies, the prime minister, and the parliament or the People’s Council that has no role in the decision making process and its members are elected with no minimum standards of credibility, transparency and integrity in addition to the election law that regulates the political process rendering it no role in the transition process.

Therefore, the only institution that has the capability to lead the transition period would be the military, and especially the current Minister of Defense General Ali Habib and the Chief of Staff General Dawud Rajha. Both individuals represent a background that Syrians can positively relate with that enables them to take a key pivotal role during the transition process by leading negotiations with civilian representatives from the leadership of the opposition or other respected individuals to form an interim government. By entering the negotiation phase that should take us on a specified timeline to accomplish the democratic transition by first drafting an interim constitution for the country that should be ratified by a national referendum. The transition government will be responsible to monitor the elections and safeguard the successful accomplishment of the transition period beginning with certifying a new constitution drafted by professional constitutional and reform specialists.

Afterwards, the interim government shall issue a new election and political party law to regulate the election process for the president and members of the parliament which is monitored by an independent national committee based on judicial as well as domestic and international observers with an open door policy welcoming the formation of political parties that will participate in the elections.

If the Syrian President does not wish to be recorded in history as a leader of this transition period, there is no alternative left for Syrians except to move forward along the same path as did the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans before them.

Signatories inside Syria:

150 politicians, civil society activists and human rights defenders (names are not published for personal safety reasons but will be provided to media).

Signatories outside Syria:

Yahya Mahmoud, Amer Mahdi, Najib Ghadbian, Saleh Moubarak, Ausama Monajed, Obaida Faris, Mohammed Askaf, Ammar Abdulhamid, Mohammed Zuhair Khateeb, Khawla Yousef, Abdulrahman Alhaaj, Douha Nashef, Mahmoud Alsayed Doughaim, Mouhja Kahf, Feras Kassas, Ammar Kahf, Aref Jabo, Mohyeddin Kassar, Abdulbaset Saida, Mazen Hashem, Hassan Jamali, Osama Kadi, Radwan Ziyadeh

Coordinators inside Syria:

Adnan Mahamid: +963 945 988958

Ayman Al-Aswad: +963 988 760302

Coordinators outside Syria:

Radwan Ziadeh: radwan.ziadeh@gmail.com

Ausama Monajed: ausama.monajed@gmail.com

Najib Ghadbian: ghadbian@uark.edu

Comments (29)


1. Mawal95 said:

That initiative for change says: “The safe transition period in Syria must be based on a firm conviction that the Syrian population completely lost faith in the executive authority….”

Such a “firm conviction” is a firm delusion. The low turnout at today’s Friday demonstrations is sufficient proof that it is delusionary.

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April 29th, 2011, 11:45 am

 

2. jad said:

“Program of Syrian Opposition”
Where is the program in this program of all those ‘intellectuals’
Good luck programing the program to program Syrians through this amazing program.
Where can we sign this super smart program?

Is this superficial opposition program what Syria and Syrians deserve?! What a waste of lives.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:02 pm

 

3. Mina said:

They’ve learned to write since last week. But the names of Ammar Abdulhamid and Ayman al-Aswad (on whom see: http://www.youtube.com/user/addounia#p/u/18/r15U2Ke9L1s which show the different TV news on which he claimed to be a witness of the events he describes by phone, while he is in Beirut…)

The hidden 150 names participate in the same dynamics of fabrication. Basically for today, we knew the media could write their article since yesterday: if people turned out in the streets, they would say “you see these courageous people are fed up, they certainly represent more than half the population of the country” and if they didn’t turn out to the streets, we would read “oh, you see, the regime is so crual, people are scared to take to the street”.

I suggest we apply the same methods in the next demonstrations in the West. Will it work without the little help of some media outlets?

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April 29th, 2011, 12:09 pm

 

4. AIG said:

Looks like a very eventful Friday:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2011/04/syria-protests-video.html

Anybody has information about what is really going on in Hama?

Jad,

What are you mumbling about? How about the regime let people freely discuss things? Why are you complaining about the opposition when it is the regime that does not let them organize? Why don’t you give us an example of what the opposition plan should be? You say you are not a regime supporter, but it seems you will not let go of it until you think the opposition is perfect in some sense you do not even care to explain.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:10 pm

 

5. majedkhaldoon said:

Five people ,all from Bashar family,has been mentioned by US as indited for criminal activities.
United nation human right condemed bashar.
United nation voted to send investigating to Syria.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:12 pm

 

6. FreedomLover said:

To Mr Mawal! What do you mean by “low turnout”? Can’t you for a minutes switch off Damascus propaganda TV and see for yourself what is going on! Yes, millions are not yet on the streets, thanks to the clubs, AK47′s, T-72 tanks and armoured personnel carriers. Wake up and smell the coffee. You have mass rallies in all ALL Syrian cities & villages. BBC, CNN, FRANCE 24, aljazeera, all are lying and you are the only one telling the truth! Come on.
Change is good. Change is good, for everyone. You and me will benefit from democracy.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:16 pm

 

7. jad said:

When a coward Israeli like someone with the name of Another Israeli Guy tell us the Syrians about what to say, what to believe what to mumble about, what to support what to condemn I think that I have the right to tell him/her to shut it up and mind your own racist entity.
Get lost!

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April 29th, 2011, 12:21 pm

 

8. why-discuss said:

“Therefore Syria is at a crossroads; the best option is for the leadership of the regime is to lead a transition to democracy that would safeguard the nation from falling into a period of violence, chaos and civil war.”

Who are the leadership of the regime?? Have they ever being given a chance?
Now the Moslem Brotherhood, whose role in the opposition have been minimized by the organizers of the ‘peaceful’ demonstrations, is showing their dark color.

It is obvious that the opposition has totally failed to bring in more people. They failed to get a condemnation from the UN, now with the MB openly in action we expect cruder and more provocative actions to get the media and the public attention.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:28 pm

 

9. AIG said:

Jad,

A coward is a person who sees his own countrymen get slaughtered and all he can say is why don’t these murdered people have a better plan to show me?

Sounds like someone you know?

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April 29th, 2011, 12:33 pm

 

10. jad said:

Sounds like someone you know?
Sure, it’s your mother!

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April 29th, 2011, 12:33 pm

 

11. why-discuss said:

Majedelkhaldoon

“United nation voted to send investigating to Syria”
About what ? Be specific please.
It seems that the opposition is trying to mount the international community against Syria about another subject than the uprising: the nuclear plant! Sounds like a strange strategy to me.

“The International Atomic Energy Agency is setting the stage for potential U.N. Security Council action against Syria as the organization prepares a report assessing that a Syrian target bombed by Israeli warplanes was likely a secretly built nuclear reactor meant to produce plutonium, diplomats say.”

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April 29th, 2011, 12:37 pm

 

12. Solitarius said:

Has the turn out today been better in quality and numbers? It seems like some new cities joined (Like Hama) while previous hot spots abstained (Like Douma and Harasta)..

I’m really not comfortable with the slogans however..

These guys jumped from nothing to toppling the regime. no intermediate stage whatsoever that calls for any laws to be changed or for elections. In fact even the Emergency Law was never really on the list of demands. It was removed because the regime thought it was. Nobody really had any demands in these protests.

The thing is, both the regime and the protesters (to lump them all together and give them a unifying theme which is probably simplistic) are behaving exactly like they should if each of their stories are to be believed.
For example, if the regime’s story is to be believed that there is a foreign plot to destabilize Syria by riding on legitimate demands and by mobilizing the Islamists of Syria, then the regime has the right to reinforce security, to prohibit demonstrations for the good of public safety and the coherence of the nationa, and to search and arrest as they see fit and as any nation in the world in its right mind would have done in the face of such an attack.
On the same token, if the protesters’ story is the one to hold true, which is that the majority of the killing is done by regime thugs targetting innocent peaceful demonstrators and bombarding civilian populations and that most or all of the killed soldiers and security forces are either killed by the moukhabarat or executed for not obeying orders, then they are also doing exactly what they should be doing which is demanding the complete removal of the regime since such a regime could not be trusted and the lack of trust leaves no room for reform and demands complete removal of the regime.

It still seems to me however that even if the “opposition’s” story is true, they cannot claim to have lost trust completely in the government as the president has shown strong signs of wanting to cooperate. He announced all the killed citizens to be maryters which is a big thing. It effectively means that he sympathizes with their demands and would be willing to change (or perhaps later prosecute) the security officers responsible for their death. (You cant expect him in the middle of a crisis to start attacking his security people).. not to mention the reforms and him sitting for long hours with different representatives from the different towns and neighborhoods that saw demonstrations.

So here we have two stories.. both with their weaknesses and strength, and with both parties taking their most extreme stance possible giving the position that they hold. One is doing a complete old school crack down with a shock and awe campaign and one is being extremely rigid and also possibly violent.

Both sides can’t be true at the same time! Is this a case when the truth lies somewhere in the middle? Or is one side mostly on the right side and one is on the fault side? I feel like whatever it is right now.. survival extinct might be running the show because both might view this as an existential matter.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:42 pm

 

13. Aldendeshe said:

Tell them and the backers to shove it. We are sticking with Bashar Assad and then Hafez Assad II. There aint a kaka-doo anyone can do about it because 80% of notable Sunni Moslems of Syria, almost all notable families, are with Bashar Assad and not in need of Colonial servant gypsies families to rules them.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:46 pm

 

14. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

This proposition is bad. Why should a Syrian Sunni trust this army, which is, as we speak, sieging Dar’a, shelling Dar’ans?

But this initiative is great, because it talks about the day after.
Now is the right time to gather Syrian intellectuals, in order to draft a new constitution for Syria.

Let the Syrians argue about the prospects of the future, rather than being occupied by the demons of the past.
.

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April 29th, 2011, 12:50 pm

 

15. vlad-the-syrian said:

a good comment on syrian tv

http://www.youtube.com/user/sooriabaladna#p/a/u/1/mn8Xrw3wtzI

rafik nasralla is lebenase

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April 29th, 2011, 2:00 pm

 

16. vlad-the-syrian said:

to Jad about AIG :

he really thinks that we should thank him

beside being coward he is arrogant and racist … like many other israelian guys (A= another , I=israelian , G=guy , if you hadent understood)

i still wonder why dr Landis is keeping him here

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April 29th, 2011, 2:07 pm

 

17. SuzukiOfTokyo said:

It is too naive for Syrians to believe that if you hold a “free” general election, a good person will be elected. You should be alarmed by the possibility that the new leader may be more hostile to you or more corrupt than Bashar.

If they do a free election at this timing, all the economic reform programmes will be halted. This means that a range of emergency price control measures that Bashar has taken only recently will not be applied. It will be weak and poor people who will suffer the most.

In my opinion, people in Daraa, Homs and Baniyas must be first calmed down by using massive military force within the next few days at most for the sake of all the other people in Syria.

Dictatorship is much better than chaos for a country whose economy has not taken off yet. This concept is called developmental dictatorship. Indonesia is often quoted as a good example. In 1970s European countries used to attack so-called human rights records of this country and demanded sanctions. But Japan always provided economic aid to Indonesia in their defense.

Successful Asian countries used to be or still are dictatorship. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and so on. In the 21st century, those European guys want to do business with them. No Europeans dare to say that sanctions should be imposed on these Asian countries.

Once the economy takes off, you will get political plurality in due course. You should remember that economic development is No. 1 and political freedom is No. 2.

As for the free election, we, Japan, held one 2 years ago and achieved a regime change. But later on, the core members of the new ruling party, Democratic Party of Japan or DPJ, have been revealed to belong to a clandestine extreme-left terrorist group, called “Japan Revolutionary Communist League (Revolutionary Marxist faction)” (http://www.jrcl.org/).

This problem is on agenda in the Diet and has been being recorded in official registry.
http://goo.gl/5FV6r
(one of the minutes of parliamentary debate. Sorry the language is in Japanese, just to show the proof that my writing here is based on facts.)

After the free election, Mr Naoto Kan, clandestine extreme-left activist, has been made a prime minister. After the free election, Mr Yukio Edano, a lawyer for this clandestine terrorist group, has been made the Chief Cabinet Sectary. There are more similar guys in the cabinet.

Still worse, an ideology of these guys favours dictatorship!! From the day 1 (one), they abolished the system to keep official records of all the ministerial meetings. So no one can verify who said what, when and how they reached the conclusion in Japanese politics. This is really, really scary. Dictatorship will be born from the free world. What an irony.

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April 29th, 2011, 2:41 pm

 

18. Mawal95 said:

Syrian State TV this past week has been full of funerals for security personnel, and confessions by wild hooligan killers. I suggest it put off ordinary decent citizens from protesting today, and that’s why the numbers were lower (or no larger) than last Friday.

In the few online videos of protests today that I saw, the crowds were unafraid: they looked confident that they weren’t going to be harmed. From that nugget of observation, I don’t think that fear of violence was the main thing that put most people off from joining them. It was those TV stories.

I fullly agree with SOLITARIUS, #11 above, when he says the Oppostion’s message “jumped from nothing to toppling the regime. no intermediate stage whatsoever that calls for any laws to be changed or for elections…. Nobody really had any demands in these protests [other than regime change].” It looks crystal clear to me now that we’re not going to be having an Egypt-style regime change, nor any regime change. If you can agree with me that toppling the regime cannot be done, it follows that the so-called “liberal wing of the Syrian Opposition” should tear up the declaration they made above, and start talking about the kind of legislation they’d want this regime to enact. From the pure politics and popularity point of view, it’s still strictly necessary for the regime to deliver more freedoms. Most ordinary decent citizens still want reform, a fact everybody everywhere knows.

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April 29th, 2011, 2:56 pm

 

19. From Tartous said:

Amir,

First i would like to say re you statement that “no sunni should trust the syrian army” lol the majority of the syrian army is of sunni muslim decent, your comments are obviously an old tactic of divide and conquer, old game that the engish used and israelis have used and keep using against the arab populations. I’m so glad to hear that hamas and the PLO have come to agreement as this surely is making israeli government angry. 2 all this talk of protestors and force used against them and killings and darraaaa, if i can give you guys some advise as a syrian living in syria we ae all behind the army and whoever fears his own army is not syrian and should be questioned re his/her loyalty and agenda within syria full stop. So if we know that army personal are dying and they are as i attended a funeral today in dreikish tartous for a fallen soldier in Darraa, then we must agree that peopl are shooting at soldiers. In any country a person or persons who shoot and kill and continiue to kill their own army soldiers would be should no mercy, so why is everyone trying to find excuses for these protestors in darra or elswhere?. Simple they asked for reforms they got them in any country you allow the government to act on its promises before passing specific judgement. i’m over it we are all over it tomorrow i am going to fishing in tartous hahah love syria al assad, and to you would be dreamers of a new syria that goes against iran and against resistance movements cause thats what this is all about the west or certain countries trying to bend syria’s arm to change course…over our dead bodies. Josh please stop getting worked up with this sectarian talk you guys over do it we don’t care for this talk in syria we are not lebanese……

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April 30th, 2011, 12:13 pm

 

20. MOHAMMED KANJ said:

news just in from a very close relative in daara. they have been smuggling weapons into daara from the jordanian border using tunnels linking from the mosques in jordan to the mosques in daara. 50% of the population of daara are against this practice because they know it will lead to their downfall. everyone in daara and the houran province has been forced or threatened to wear the hijab and full length clothing as of 2weeks ago. This has turned into an armed mutiny against the syrian government. Shame on the sheiks and imams in the mosque. They have been bought and exchanged the true islamic belief and religion in place of money. What happened to the real democracy that the people of daara were calling for? The syrian revolution has been taken over by islamists and muslim brotherhood. What a shame and disgrace. The syrian army should do to Daara what the lebanese army done to Nahr El Bard. Let the womens and decent families flee to jordan or outside of Daara and than the syrian army can properly flush out those islamic terrorists.

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April 30th, 2011, 10:52 pm

 

21. MRPHSMITH said:

So basically, these “leaders” of the “liberal wing” are all US based academics that just happen to be affiliated with schools and think tanks that have consistently support US imperial policies and US imperial intervention in a variety of countries in the past. Who appointed them leaders of the “Syrian opposition” (even the “liberal” wing of it) and who decided that these demands even represent the desires of that opposition insofar as it exists. And just as in Libya, the “liberal” opposition basically proposes that Syria adopt a carbon copy of the US system, including “separation of powers.” It would be interesting if some of these opposition “leaders” would actually propose something that deals in detail with the unique situation in Syria, rather than broad and shallow pronouncements about democracy. The idea that an army should be trusted to ensure a transition to democracy, without the pressure of a truly broad based and popular protest movement representing all areas of the country (As is the case in Egypt) is naive at best.

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April 30th, 2011, 11:36 pm

 
 

23. Sophia said:

Mina,

Thanks for posting the link to Al-Jadaliya article. I finally got some time to read it. It is an eye opener. Very smart analysis.

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May 1st, 2011, 12:30 pm

 

24. Why is the West so Sluggish on Syria? « Khudi.pk said:

[...] through some of these obstacles last week with Ausama Monajed, the energetic spokesman of the National Initiative for Change, which is a coalition of Internet-based Syrian activists in and outside the country. The first [...]

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May 12th, 2011, 6:04 am

 

25. Syria Comment » Archives » Divisions within the Syrian Opposition on Eve of Turkey Meeting said:

[...] They advocate that “Washington should begin an active dialogue with the members of the National Initiative for Change.” The principle authors of this program are Radwan Ziadeh, Ausama Monajed, Ammar Abdalhamid, [...]

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May 26th, 2011, 6:26 pm

 

26. Murat said:

Peeling away the Sunni military, while possible, is an improbably root to success. A better one is to bankrupt the country through on-going economic paralysis. This will hit the elite classes where they will feel it – their pocketbook. Once their financial security is threatened, they will quickly get rid of Bashar. This course will be protracted and therefore very bloody but, if implemented relentlessly, will succeed. As in all matters, follow the money…

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May 27th, 2011, 3:25 am

 

27. جعفر الصادق said:

مخططاتكم مكشوفة ولن تنطلي على الشعب السوري العظيم أنتم ومرتزقتكم التي وجدت من بلادها أداة تتسول بها من أمريكا ومن انضوى تحت لوائها ستذهبون الى الجحيم والى مزبلة التاريخ أيها المعارصة السورية أنتم مجموعة من المعارصين وليس المعارضين والعرصة لغويا هو من يقتات على جسد محارمه وأنتم تقتاتون على جسد وطنكم

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May 28th, 2011, 7:05 am

 

28. john petrowsky said:

The regime in Syria is a terrible and murderous group of individuals who will carry out any crime in order to keep power and wealth. The ruling family has confiscated over the years forty percent of the nation’s wealth. This is why the nation is so poor; unhampered, the country would be prosperous. I pray for a time when the nation will by the grace of God have peace, freedom, and a decent quality of life for everyone.

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August 3rd, 2011, 6:23 pm

 

29. Making Sense of the Syrian Crisis – Situation Reports | Syrian Emergency Task Force........................ "The Justice Will Be Served!" said:

[...] fledgling opposition movement calling itself the “National Initiative for Change” published a statement from Nicosia, Cyprus, appealing to Syrian Minister of Defense Ali Habib [...]

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August 8th, 2011, 12:53 pm

 

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