Most activists freed: Some Remain in Custody

Syrian activists set to be freed
By Lina Sinjab
BBC News

The Syrian authorities are expected to release the final members of a leading human rights group who were recently rounded up.
There was no explanation for the detentions on Sunday, the eve of the International Day for Human Rights.

About 30 members of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change were detained after a meeting they held in the Syrian capital on Saturday.

Most activists were released a few hours after the arrest.

Public gatherings by the group have been banned, and Sunday's arrest appeared to be an attempt by the Syrian authorities to enforce that rule.

The detention follows a meeting by 168 human rights activists on Saturday, at which they called for gradual and peaceful democratic change in Syria.

A leading member of the group told the BBC after his release that the move was a message to weaken the Syrian opposition movement.

The prominent Syrian writer Akram Al Bunni was arrested this morning (11 Dec 2007). The intelligence officers informed his family that he would be back home in an hour, but his fate is unknown until now. Akram, himself a former political prisoner for 17 years during Hafez Assad's rule. He is the brother of prominent lawyer and rights activist Anwar Bunni who was jailed in May 2006 and was sentenced for 5 years.


those who are still arrested: Samer Nashar- Osama Ashor from Aleppo Ahmad To'ma from Derelzor Jaber al-Shofi from Swaidaa Akram al-Bunni who was "taken" today morning other names, the information is still confusing about them.
all the best

Comments (10)

ANNIE said:

You can jail people but not their ideas and their aspirations.
Same applies everywhere including Palestine.

December 12th, 2007, 7:32 am


Dr Riad Awwad said:

By Riad Awwad
“Lebanon of democracy” and “Switzerland of the Middle East”, like it is being called, has become a country in witch anarchy and destruction have settled, especially after the assassination of former prime-minister Rafik Al-Hariri and after a series of other political assassinations to witch personalities of a certain political color, different from the one of the foreign presence, have fallen victims. Once the Syrian army retreated from Lebanon, in 2005, after a 30 year presence in this country, Lebanon found itself before the imperative to eradicate the chaos created by international interferences (Syria, Iran, Israel) and the one of the great powers (USA, France).
The acting president, Emile Lahoud, ends his mandate on the 23rd of November 2007, so Damascus will lose a chief of state Lebanese by identity and Syrian by mentality and feeling. Syria cramps to the Lebanese trump according to the “to be or not to be” law, and the president of the parliament in Beirut, Nabib Berri is also a soldier faithful to Syria, just like the Hezbollah movement, considered to be an active battalion of Damascus in Lebanon, together with other currents and personalities in this country – The Baas party, Syrian Social National Party, or a series of Palestinian factions like “The Peoples Front-General Command, Fattah AL-Islam and so on witch, all, constitute fuel for the Syrian presence on Lebanese territory.
The presidential elections have been postponed three times, and seems will be postponed even further, because the parliamentary majority lead by member of the parliament Saad Hariri together with Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, wish the future chief of state to be of Lebanese extraction and orientation exclusively, a president dedicated to the Lebanese dignity and free of any exterior dependence, while the opposing forces wish the future president to be a simple soldier devoted to Syria, fact witch makes their choice orientated to the superannuated figure of general Michel Aoun, one willing to reach the high position in the state even by stepping over the bodies of the Christian community. Like Nero, he is only interested in power, after he followed Amin Gemayel as president, in 1995, and ruined the country, being then constrained by the Syrians themselves to choose the way of exile in France until the year 2005. Not even the Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir managed to play more active of a role, fearing for the unity of the Lebanese Christians, in this country fallen victim to the ambitions of local and external forces. Iran wishes for a Lebanon that can serve as a combat front with the US and Israel; Syria looks to foreclose the application of the decisions to be made by the international court which investigates the death of former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri, eventually by repeating the civil war and by enlarging the gap which separates the legitimate government from the pro Syrian-Iranian opposition. The crisis could not be solved, even after the mediation demarches made by The Arab League, France or US. The powerful political cleavage on internal matters, and the external encroachment had both a strong contribution also on this situation.
According to the Constitution, the president of Lebanon is elected with a majority of two thirds, and if none of the candidates reaches this level then he will be elected with a simple majority of votes in the first poll, which, until now, the opposition has boycotted, in the hope that they could superimpose General Michel Aoun, in the conditions of boycotting the efforts for obtaining the majority of two thirds, which means that the perspective of electing a new president remains, at the time, a long way to go.
But in Annapolis , we suppose that a Syrian – American agreement took place, and the name of the general in army Michel Suleiman could suddenly appear in the picture, no one knows for sure.
A president exclusively Lebanese: no one has managed, this far along the way, to truly define the meaning of this dream, and Lebanon – the country of cedars and peace, remains a country resembling a fragile leaf in the winds of a storm, caught between the Syrian hammer and the international anvil, making the Lebanese citizen – be him Christian or Muslim, the only victim.

December 12th, 2007, 8:03 am


Dr Riad Awwad said:

The Annapolis Conference, new proof that making peace is harder than war…

By Riad Awwad
The Middle East region is, without a doubt, one of the hottest and most sensitive regions of this planet: the cards laid out on the table are confusing, the palette of nuances and colors is proving to be very mosaic like, as the interest of the “great powers” are intertwining and boycotting each other on the majority of occasions. Further more, another element ads to the fear and wiriness and that would be the “radical extremism” found in the programs and objectives of not lesser radical countries.
President George W Bush has launched, for this fall, the invitation to an international peace conference – a peace which, from the looks of it, seams to be more difficult to achieve than a straight up war.
The charisma proven, this far, by the USA is now in the crosswinds as a result of the wary and intransigent spirit witch some currents and personalities promote in Washington. Before the events of September 11st 2001, a simple manifestation of force was enough to discourage extremism, but nowadays, the situation reached in Iraq and Afghanistan pushes for, moreover, pessimism, in an era of globalization and single-pole domination of the world, of encroachments and even more violent connections of terrorism and extremism in the most complex files of the modern world, for accomplishing the most selfish – and with no connection to civilization, peace or tolerance – objectives. And all of this under the most fundamentalist religious cover ever witnessed in history.
If we took a look at the actors invited to the Annapolis conference, we would see that each and every one is tangled in his own troubles and torments, on the internal level, that can restrain the normal development of the peace talks. Talking about peace, we must remember that one who can not make peace in his own home, has no ability of making peace amongst others.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has announced that the surface witch he will request from the Israelis represents 98% of the Gaza Strip and Cisiordania , to witch the eastern part of Israel is added, meaning an approximate of 6,209 square kilometers, with the possibility of a territorial swap or receiving a compensation in money in exchange. Mahmud Abbas has launched numbers, but has not stated if the Israelis gave there ok over them, neither if he is going to be able to over impose them to Hamas. That is not to remind of the way he will be able to impose them, in the first place, to the Israelis.
On the other hand, Syria is requesting the inclusion of the “Golan matter” on the agenda of the conference, as a condition for it to send it’s negotiators to Annapolis. It’s just like the Arabs wanting to exit through the door before even entering.
Egypt, by the way, keeps waiting, proving some excessive caution and fear for the results of the talks in USA, and Israel accuses the Arab part of raising some prequisite explosive conditions witch, once approved, could ruin the government’s coalition in Tel Aviv, even if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert doesn’t seize to assure he will do everything in his power for the conference to succeed.
Mahmud Abbas rejects the idea of a Palestinian state with provisional borders and any exchanges of population with Israel, and Israel’s problems remains as spiky as before: for the Israeli part, the Jerusalem file is forever closed, while the Palestinians consider it to be the mother of all problems and the biggest priority.
Not less sensitive and complex is the issue of the Palestinian refugees and their right to return to their homes. The radicals of each side have lots of contradictory ideas witch most certainly will not lead to any real solution. We advance here the idea that “nationalization” of the Palestinians in the countries where they are situated now with, off course, the payment of some financial compensation for both them and “he host lands”, could offer a reasonable solution to the problem. The refugee ho left Palestine in 1948 as a newborn is now 60 years old and has his own children, grandchildren or even great grandchildren. Who will return to Palestine? The grandfathered father, the children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren? The financial compensations witch we mentioned above could be offered in some kind of program for developing peace and democracy in the region. Speaking about solving a problem before reaching this regulation, means that neither one of the sides involved – Israeli or Arab – wishes in reality to reach a possible peace, like they would prefer living under the spectrum of a possible war, in a climate of religious extremism in ascension, and where some Palestinian forces are used to accomplish goals that have nothing to do with the idea of peace. In such conditions it is not exaggerated to affirm that achieving peace in the Middle East is like some ninth wonder of the world, so hard to conceive, ever harder to achieve.
This year, the chief of American diplomacy, Condoleezza Rice, has been shuttling from Israel to the national Palestinian authority without managing to clarify the details regarding the future configuration of territories which will form the Palestinian state, neither the problem of the 2% proposed as a trade coin or compensation. The situation is even more complicated if we take a look at the intense and contradictious debates between the Israeli political forces and the extreme radicalism of some, like Shahs or “Israel our home”, who refuse any concession to be made to the Palestinians. More elastic opinions can be found amongst a series of prominent politicians like Vice-minister Haim Ramon, foreign affairs minister Tzipi Livni or even the president Shimon Perez. Israel, who in 1967 needed only 3 days to occupy the entire Gaza strip, is struggling for 40 years now in the chains of the “colonial problem”, witch its self has created. On another hand, no one seems to understand or agree upon the future status of Jerusalem. In our opinion, it should receive a status similar to that of Vatican – a state in a state, in witch all confessions and religions live together. Jerusalem is, in equal terms, a sacred place for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Why shouldn’t the flags of peace be held above it , like in some open international and inter religious city, as we all are united by the singleness of God ? What stands against the fulfilling of the dream that peace should substitute radicalism, sectarianism and extremist conduct?
If, in 1948, the Arabs would have recognized the existence of Israel, the Middle East would be today more developed and more prosper then Japan. But in politics the word “if” does not exist and we bare the duty of discussing together the future of our children and our children’s children, because that witch binds us together is more powerful than that witch stands between us.
Unfortunately both the Arabs and the Israelis prefer wasting time instead of using every minute, starting right now until the conference, to assure its success and end once and for all the hatred and blood shed.

December 12th, 2007, 8:04 am


Disaffection said:

Blast kills Lebanon army general

Soldier near bomb damaged vehicles
The blast damaged buildings and vehicles over a wide area

Scene of blast
At least four people, including a Lebanese army general, have died in an explosion near the presidential palace on the outskirts of Beirut.

December 12th, 2007, 12:08 pm


offended said:

Is it true the killed general was to be the successor of M. Sulieman as army chief?

December 12th, 2007, 12:40 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Annie said:

You can jail people but not their ideas and their aspirations.


Please don’t go over-board. You don’t want to get Professor Josh’s “juices” flowing. That’s all we need, a Peace Professor critical of the Assad regime, calls for Bashar’s resignation, and then (gulp) mass demostrations. It’s too much to imagine.

December 12th, 2007, 2:01 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

From Corriere della Sera:

A bomb exploded early this morning in the suburbs of Beirut killing at least 4 and wounding dozens. Among the dead is Gen. François al-Hajj, slated to replace Gen. Michel Suleiman. The explosion occurred in the Christian quarter of Baabda in southeast Beirut, near the Presidential Place and foreign embassies.

Gen. al-Hajj had led the military operations against Fatah al-Islam at Nahr el-Bared near the port of Tyre.

December 12th, 2007, 3:25 pm


norman said:

Iraq, Syria speed oil link restart -ministerReuters Wednesday December 12 2007
(Adds quote from Zebari)
DAMASCUS, Dec 12 (Reuters) – Iraq and Syria have agreed to accelerate efforts to re-activate an oil pipeline linking the Kirkuk fields to the Mediterranean after Damascus took steps to help the U.S.-backed Iraqi government on the security front, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Wednesday.
A contract to study the pipeline was awarded to a Russian company, and the issue was a focus of talks during a visit by Zebari to the Syrian capital, the foreign minister told Reuters in Damascus.
“The Russian company is already performing surveys, but they’re going slow. We discussed this and agreed that the work needs to speed up,” Zebari said in an interview.
The pipeline, which last operated before the 2003 U.S. invasion, would expand Iraq’s limited oil export options. Syria, faced with declining oil production of its own and isolation by the West, is eager to earn hard currency from transit fees. (Reporting by Khaled Yacoub Oweis; editing by James

December 12th, 2007, 4:21 pm


Dr Riad Awwad said:

By Riad Awwad

Synthetically speaking, terrorist mentality can be considered as a characteristic name given to the period following de events on September 11th. It’s not a new phenomenon in history, as it exists for a long time now, but lacking space for manifesting itself in the free democratic societies of the modern world, short of moral benches and social premises. We find though an unprecedented development of this mentality in a series of Islamic societies, formed under the burden of some corrupted Islamic dictatorial regimes.
The conflict between the terrorist organization Al-Qaida and the rest of the world is the most vivid expression of what we call terrorist mentality. It’s not about, as we sometimes may consider, a conflict between civilizations, a fight involving this organization and the human civilization in its whole, just as we do not find ourselves in front of a “clash” between the Islamic world and civilization, Muslims themselves being victims of Al-Qaida and Bin Laden`s mentality. The growing threats upon intellectuals, cultural inclined people and all the others who have the courage of not sharing the way in which the terrorist thinking interprets Islam represents a serious threat for the democratic world, which thinks that the church and the state exist to serve society and not that society was created to serve the state and the church. The sole thing that, in these democratic and free societies, can not be contested is the right to criticize and have a different opinion. In Islamic societies though, the individual finds himself constrained totally to obeying the power and religion, self-proclaimed as absolute instruments of Divinity.
In our opinion, today’s Islam needs a “surgical intervention” through which religion should be separated from the “worldly things” because, like Abraham Lincoln said, those who deny the right of others to freedom do not deserve themselves to be free. Healthy education is one of the fundaments of the human being and a social instrument through which communication and harmony amongst people is achieved and, mainly because of this, when education and culture are infested by radical perceptions, it produces lack of major discrepancies on the level of the entire social structure. An individual carrier of such viruses will only understand culture as Jihad, violence and hatred, with all the negative impact they bring on civilization and communication with other societies. In this frame, we can state that Muslims live exclusively focusing on their own universe, incapable of dialogue not only with other human communities, but also with the “insides” of the community of which they are part of and in which they are grouped in sectarian confessions, hostile one to another and in permanent challenge.
We posed a series of questions which we find suited to reproduce:
1. Why the Arabs and the Muslims left the trajectory of progress, followed by others with no interruption ?
2. What is the defining structure of these people, what makes them different or alike, from and with others ?
3. What is their religious and cultural background and to what extent has it contributed to their progress or downfall ?
4. Is the concept of “pure salafism” the factor which gives them glory and power ?
5. Which alternative is to prefer: turning to account the inherited values or the systematic brake from them ?
6. Do the Arabs and Muslims cross a cultural crisis, or are we looking at an ideological and social crisis of communities governed by totalitarian regimes ?
7. Is the oriental Islamic world capable of conciliation with the democratic world on the level of values and mechanisms, or it remains a culture as itself and for itself , grim in the dialogue with those who do not share its beliefs ?
8. Why is the main feature of the Islamic inheritance a partisan one, warlike, one of violence ? (“the sword is a better advisor than the book”)
9. Does Jihad represent a national and religious orientation, or a political one (Hezbolah, AlQaida, Hamas) ?
10. How can the modern Arabs from Europe disseminate their ideas ? Why haven’t the secularized Muslims managed to make their voices heard , remaining dependent to the despotism of Al Kawakibi, who’s book “Totalitarism” is still popular, just like Machiavelli’s “The Principe” ?

We look to answering all of these questions in the following numbers of our publication.

We shall concentrate, briefly, on the matter of human rights in the Arab – Muslim world. We will observe that man’s natural right comes from his duty to serve God and circumscribes to the strict order of Islamic canonic right(shari`a) which organizes and dominates his life and can not be submitted to critics or interpretations. In Islam, human rights are duties imposed by dogma, which have to be protected and carried to duty by the state, the community and the individual. When the majority of Islamic states are ruled by dictatorial regimes, notions like democracy and human rights becomes instruments of propaganda and sterile slogans. Democracy is absent even on the social level of the family. The man is the absolute master, and the woman has the status of absolute slave, while the children, exposed to this drama, can easily become victims of terrorist ideologies.
On the level of the state, Islamic governors consider their countries as personal tribes, inherited from their fathers, and of which they dispose freely. They are the only ones who can decides the rights and duties and who decide the future of the tribe and society. This is the environment where the terrorist mentality germinates and grows.
We consider that in the Muslim countries governed by the principles of Islamic dogma, human rights are broken in several domains:
Religious freedom: Islam imposes to one who is born in this religion or embraces it, the impossibility of ever switching from it, leaving it; lacking to do so is punished by death;
Women’s rights, which is set at a lower level than the man by Islamic precepts: she can only marry with the approval of her tutor or father; once married her husband becomes her absolute master, and marriage can only be broken by the husband by divorce; the husband has the undisputed right to be polygam. All of these facts and many others explain why a series of states refused to sign some international agreements on women’s rights.
Rights of sexual minorities: total infringement of Islamic law, a possible marriage between two man or women is punished with death.
Jihad as an obligation of fighting against the non Muslims, Today, a strong fundamentalist current is developing in the majority of Islamic states, gaining basically the dimensions of a fixation, an obsession. European states are promoters of respect for peace, the opinion of “the other” and truth, while not few of the Islamistwhich they host just fake the European values and make a mask for themselves out of them, to little preoccupied by the respect for the countries and societies that accept them and host them, giving them social and financial security. Events that took place in Madrid and London speak for themselves.
Uncensored campaigns launched by Islamist environments after the publishing of so called caricatures of the prophet in the media are nothing more than an impulsive manifestation of this extreme mentality which we were discussing.
We dare to believe that an obscure force wishes to attract Islam in an open conflict with the western civilization and we believe that Islamic regimes have the duty of approaching the relationships with the western world more cautiously. Movements and currents in the Islamic world have the duty of recognizing electoral democracy on their territories and moreover, to impose it, in the conditions that the ballot boxes are a complete blasphemy for the radical Islamists; and the sustainers of the idea are spreading like mushrooms in the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, when an Islamic state engages in electoral competition, the role of the CEB is taken by the mosque, like it happened in Algeria or in the free Palestinian territories. A disappointing alternative, because the victory of Islamic factions in ballot boxes has nothing to do with democracy or free will, or peace. An “Islamic” democracy where the women’s right, in the name of democracy, is forbidden in the parliament, in the government , in diplomatic missions, in which the society is split in men and women, Muslims and non Muslims, in first hand and second hand men.

January 11th, 2008, 2:17 pm


Dr Riad Awwad said:

Syria, Iran: Lack of police making, and the open gates of Lebanon
By Dr : Riad Awwad

With the debut of the year 2008 and after the speeches of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced the ending of contacts with Damascus in order to reach an agreement on the situation on Lebanon, the international community could believe that Syria’s role in the matter has ended, appreciating that the Damascus regime interprets today’s international evolutions not in 2008`s language but in the one of the `70s which has become obsolete, passing in the pages of history.
The Syrian regime wished, very probably, to demonstrate to Paris that Lebanon’s situation could not be solved in Beirut, but only in Damascus who wants but a settlement based on the ruins of this poor and peaceful country. If Lebanon had been a great producer of oil, probably the world would have been a lot more interested in what is going on there and of Damascus’s behavior that wishes a copy of former president Emile Lahoud to be installed in Beirut. A wish to which the internationally agreed upon candidate, Michel Slemaine, does not come close to.
Far from wanting to have a positive role, congruent to the way the international community thinks, Damascus does nothing more than playing a negative rapture, arranged by Iran who, in it’s turn, is confronted with serious problems generated by the nuclear arms file which preoccupies the whole world through the perspective that one day it could be put in the hands of Islamic extremists.
The world crosses today an unstable period in which America, the sole international cop, seams to lack time to analyze the dictatorial regimes that obstruct the realization of Iraqi – Iraqi harmony or who dictate the dissemination on death and destruction in Israel, or sabotage any good intentions of the international community in Lebanon. This can explain France’s refusal to continue diplomatic contacts with the Iranian backed up Damascus, although Paris had proposed a basketful of rational measures for electing a consensual president, and the constitution of a national unity government, with proportional representation for all parliamentary parties, and the elaboration of a new democratic election law. The leader of the Lebanese majority stated, in Ryad that: “Syria wants a solution to the situation in line with its clients wishes, not with the needs of Lebanon”, adding that Damascus is convinced that a solution can only be reached in Syria. Syrian minister of external affairs, Walid Al-Moallem declares that the solution depends on General Michel Aoun and he, in his turn, says that the deciding factor is Hezbollah, which if expressed differently, means that the solution lies in the hands of Teheran. The pro Syrian opposition accuses the parliamentary majority of obedience to the Occident and America, forgetting though that it is itself obeying Syria and Iran. Taking sides and making favors can not be divided, it’s an act of betrayal, whatever the identity of the protector is.
This time Hezbollah will use force to impose, what ever the cost, the orders of Teheran and Damascus. In the 2006 war this faction used to bring salutations to the parliamentary majority, only to undermine its authority afterwards, only because it was ordered to do so by the Iranian and Syrian regimes, forgetting or faking to forget its terrorist character, worldwide known. Who pays more gets served first.
In the Declaration of Constitution from 1985, it was stated clearly: “We (Hezbollah) are the sons of the nation named Hezbollah who first saw the light of day in Iran as main nucleus of the world Islamic state. We are obedient to the fair ruling of the sole supreme leader, inheritor of the teachings of the eternal imam Ruhollah Khomeini”. In his turn, the former leader of Hezbollah, Sobhi Tofaili, agreed textually: “He who states that Iran has no interest in Lebanon is a liar. The decision does not lie in Beirut, but in Teheran. Ibrahim Al Amim, responsible of the leadership of Hezbollah stated recently: “We are not a part of Iran. We are Iran in Lebanon itself!” On 4 august 2006, general secretary of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah declared for an Islamic Iranian publication: “Our parties dream is to constitute one day the Islamic Lebanese Republic, the only way to secure the future and peace of this society”. About what kind of stability Nasrallah speak, we shall find out soon enough.
In no other part of the world the government can not be elected before the president. In Lebanon though, it’s a glance of external intrusions. After all the diplomatic efforts made by America, France and the Arab community , Damascus an Teheran began to fight over the inexistent ministerial chairs in Beirut. None of the sides takes in consideration that the representation in the government has to be proportional with the one in the legislative body. The pro Syrian and pro Iranian opposition wishes not less than 11 ministries, next to the 14 that should reach the majority, to which another 5 ministers would add named by the president who, in his turn, is supposed to answer to Teheran and Damascus.
Today the solution depends on the actions of the peace and democracy loving forces who have the duty of closing Lebanon’s gates in front of the forces of evil and terrorist extremism, to take to justice the killers of ex prime minister Rafik Hariri and to make harder the measures against Iran who, with its actions, threats the whole international community.

January 21st, 2008, 9:29 pm


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