Monday, June 27, 2011

Oh Syria, My Syria: Former President's Son Waxes Lyrical About a Syria That Never Was

Nureddin al-Atassi, president and chief 
ideologue of the Baath Party 1966-70
When you read in Mohammad Ali Atassi's op-ed in the NY Times today the following sentiments about his father, Nureddin al-Atassi, keep in mind that he was president (after a series of coups that solidified the Baath Party's iron-fist rule) when Syrian troops repeatedly targeted Israel from the Golan Heights, helping to precipitate the 1967 war; that he was president when Syria intervened to exploit the PLO's insurrection in Jordan during Black September 1970 and declared that, "We want a policy of scorched earth for Palestine." That during his time Syria was under Emergency Law from which it has never emerged.

Keep in mind also how predictable it is that, first and foremost, the son blames 40 years of dictatorial rule on, “…a concerted international effort to keep a dictatorial regime in power in the name of regional stability — preserving the security of Israel and maintaining a cold peace on the Golan Heights, like the snow that covers Mount Hermon.

“I remember my father, Nureddin al-Atassi, who himself had been president of Syria before he was imprisoned in 1970 as a result of Gen. Hafez al-Assad’s coup against his comrades in the Baath Party. I was 3 years old then, and it took me a while to understand that prison was not only for criminals, but also for prisoners of conscience. My father would spend 22 years in a small cell in Al Mazza prison, without any charge or trial. We counted the days by the rhythm of our visits to him: one hour every two weeks. At the end of a struggle with cancer, for which he had been denied medical treatment, he was finally released. He died in Paris in December 1992, a week after arriving there on a stretcher.”
“The next time I visit my father’s grave, I will tell him that freedom is reviving again in Syria. I will reassure him that the Syrian people have finally succeeded in breaking this big bottle of cologne, that the scent of freedom has finally been dispersed, that it cannot be drowned by the smell of blood.”
"...the Syria that has been out of sight for the 40 years of the Assads’ rule, a country and its aspirations placed on a shelf and forgotten for decades in the name of stability. ...Now this other Syria is appearing before our eyes to remind us that it cannot be forever set aside, that its people did not spend the decades of the Assads’ rule asleep, and that they aspire, like all people, to live with freedom and dignity."

Not to take away from the excitement and expectation created by the mass protests, but when the son decries the loss of freedom and dignity brought on by the Assad regime, do you wonder if the nostalgia he evokes has any basis in reality? Was there ever such a SyriaAnd isn't it terribly important for us not to be blinded by the very same ignorance that predicted such promise for the Egyptian Spring that is quickly turning into winter?

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