Bashar Assad And The Syrian Regime

I still remember what it felt like to be thirteen. Going to school every day, nothing on my mind but getting good grades and catching up with the latest Pokemon episode. Life was as carefree as it could be. Thirteen also happens to be my favorite number, not because I was born on the thirteenth, but because many people find the number to be an omen. Do I believe in all those things though? Absolutely not, but thirteen is a number that makes me happy.

However, that rule does not apply today.
I’m always saddened when I hear about youngsters passing away. It’s always sad when you know someone approximately your age going through an ordeal such as cancer. You pray for them and hope that the doctors (or whichever mystical power you believe in, I shall call it God) and God help that person out. And you’re always filled with joy when you hear the cancer has gone into remission.
For a young thirteen year old by the name of Hamza Khatib, the number thirteen was the last candle he would blow out on his birthday cake. Why so? Because he fell victim to a brutal tyrant known as Bashar Assad, the head of the Syrian regime in its current form.

Hamza Khatib was used as target practice. The bullets were not used to kill Hamza but to torture him. Imagine anyone being shot repeatedly in the arms and legs just because someone felt like it – now imagine that “anyone” be a frightened thirteen year old whose only fault was expressing, in the only way that he knows, his opinion in a country where that luxury is not given.
Hamza Khatib was castrated and his hands, feet, and abdomen were severely beaten. Overall, men in power who don’t care about him being so young and innocent subjected this teenager, for a period of well over a month, to most signs of abuse and torture imaginable.

This is how Hamza was returned to his parents.

Alas, we should know better. Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, once proclaimed: “Lebanon and Syria… one people in two countries.” We all know the phrase. It was written, after all, on every wall around the barracks the Syrian army and security apparatus occupied in Lebanon for over thirty years. So, since we are “one people in two countries,” it is our right, as Lebanese, to demand the regime in Syria to fall. We’re only going by the teachings of the “great” Hafez Assad, after all.
I don’t want to bring up being Lebanese in every talk about Syria, but we Lebanese were subjected to what Hamza Khatib has been through but to a far worse degree and for a much longer period of time. How many of our men and women are handicapped today because of things the Syrian regime did to them? How many media outlets were intimidated, censored, or closed (anyone remember what happened to MTV in 2002)?  How many of our fine men and women are still missing today and how many martyrs have we buried because “brotherly” Syria stated that Lebanese security was tied to Syrian security?

We, Lebanese have suffered from Syrian hypocrisy even when it comes to our land. Bashar Assad (and his father before him) made it their job to point out how our South was occupied by Israel, day and night. They made it their duty as well to arm Hezbollah and work on making it as strong as it is today, giving it an allure of grandeur that Hezbollah does not, honestly, possess. And yet, look at their land. They have an area that is about 17% the size of Lebanon occupied by the Israeli army for over forty years now and yet they don’t even dare talk about its liberation. Why is it that they are only feisty and defendant of this “glorious” thing called Arabism when it comes to our South and yet when it comes to their land, they’re ever so silent?

Israel occupied South Lebanon until 2000, yet a much worse form of tyranny occupied the rest of Lebanon. From handpicking the presidential candidates, to extending presidential mandates, to rigging elections, censoring media outlets, playing politicians off one and another (Hariri vs. Lahoud) and controlling the security apparatus, Syria dominated nearly every aspect of Lebanon as if it was its own personal fiefdom and all in the name of “brotherly” security. What is sad is that Syria still has its proxies in Lebanon today to fight its battles outside its borders. These proxies pay regular tributes to Damascus for protection of their own parliament seats and sect, all in the guise of “brotherly” relations and fighting Israel, all the while thanking Syria for its “presence in Lebanon”. They constantly threaten that instability in Syria would be no good for Lebanon. Even worse these proxies recently spat in the face of the Syrian protestors by supporting the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while declaring that Syria is merely facing a Western backed conspiracy and that Lebanese must stand by this power hungry tyrant. But how different can those people be from the regime and person they support? After all, Assad brutally killed every Lebanese that stood in his path for the thirty years of Syrian occupation, without caring – even remotely – about human life. That makes him a war criminal.

The Syrian people are going through some of the similar events we went through for thirty years such as tanks shelling their towns and villages, and innocent civilians disappearing because they were crying out for liberty. They are making the same calls we made in 2005, calls for independence and freedom, and no to rigged elections and brutal security services. The Syrian people need to revolt, for the innocent souls of the likes of Hamza Khatib and the hundreds of other martyrs that have fallen victim for this tyrant since the protests started on March 15th.

Assad put forth the strategy of a minorities coalition, whispering in the ears of Lebanese and Syrian Christians alike that such an alliance is needed to safe guard minority rights against Islamic fundamentalists. His actions, however, proved otherwise. Look at what happened in the 1990s, Maronites were robbed of their political perogatives, with their major parties banned and political leaders jailed and tortured.The Syrian people need to speak now because now is the time for action and they will not get a better chance.

“The Syrian regime is dealing like the old-fashion Soviet regime, imposing the reign of terror.  When we talk about fighting for democracy, fighting for freedom, it isn’t only words.  We know the smell of blood, we know the smell of dynamite, we know what “gun” means and what “threaten” means.  They can only kill you…. And we know that sometime we’ll be assassinated.”   -Gibran Tueni

So for children like Hamza, their families, and the future of the Syrian people, the time to get Bashar Assad, his tyranny, and his regime to fall is now… after all, I was once thirteen too.

The following is a YouTube video of the brutality Hamza Al Khatib has been through. It is very graphic. So only watch it if you can take in brutal imagery of human torture.

Thanks to Ali Seifeddine and Boulos for their input.

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Stillborn Nation?

You’re Lebanese. You wake up every day and, wherever you are, your mind revolves around the same thing: what’s happening in your country. If things are going well, you worry they’d go bad. If they’re bad, you worry they go even worse. We always worry. We always try to imagine we can get things to change. We try to make things change. We have tried. We felt we succeeded at one point. And then everything came crumbling apart.

Life in Lebanon is like a chess game. Those who stick it out till the end mentally are those who triumph. I’d like to think this is not the end. I’d like to think that everything all the thousands of martyrs died for is not going down the drain. I’d like to think the people we looked up to did not lose their lives for a country that was always stillborn.

I mean, who are we kidding? Have we ever been truly a nation? We, Christians, ruled for a while. We did not rule fairly. So the civil war erupted. You can believe the cause of the civil war to be whatever you like. But what is definitely sure is that conflict is rooted in injustice. People who feel they are equal do not need to revolt. Then began the Sunni rule of the country. And soon enough, other people “felt” they were subject to injustice, issuing a cascade of events leading to what’s happening today. Have we ever been truly united? Ever since I can remember, I’ve never heard of my country other than being a division of camps. You remember those movies about rival summer camps across the river competing for a certain prize? that’s how things have always been. That’s how things will always be.

I’d like to imagine that a radical change in the “operating system” of this nation is enough to kick it into high-gear. But then we can’t even agree on what type of alternate nation we want.

I know many people who feel sad today. They feel sad because they see their country crumbling and they can’t do anything about it. I am one of those people. You put up a face through the mess. But deep down, you don’t remotely feel well. You feel as if your vote has been taken away. You feel as if all your work in the past five years is suddenly worthless. And because of what? because a certain group felt “as subject to injustice”?

You – we – are now the Opposition again. I believe we always were the Opposition. We excel at being the Opposition. There is nothing we do better than being the Opposition that inspires people’s need to change, instilling in them the will to fight for their country, for their rights, for their every being.

And honestly, even though the previous opposition called itself that way, I believe it did not even deserve the title. An opposition is basically in power when it was the power to crumble a government, which it did.  An opposition does not use the street in an abusive manner via a fully conscious decision, which they did. An opposition does not cry wolf every time it thinks something might possibly happen if a certain scenario were to unfold, possibly damaging its status – and with crying wolf we mean making everyone freak out. An opposition does not really get to choose who runs what in the country. But they did. An opposition should not get a choice in who takes on certain legislative positions, but they were given a choice and their choice was acted upon because, as I’ve said many times before, March 14 felt that certain rights of certain parties need to be respected – like deciding who gets to represent them.

So for all matters and purposes, Hezbollah and Co were not an opposition. They were as much in power as the March 14 movement was. Following Newton’s third law of motion, they were the action and March 14 were the reaction. March 14 couldn’t act because anything they did meant an implicit threat using an arsenal of weapons that’s all too frightening – even for a military power, such as our neighboring state. Hezbollah and Co were not oppressed. They were actually enjoying a stay in power since the early 1990s, even calling for a demonstration on March 8, 2005, to thank Syria for its work in the country – a work that left at least a major sect of the country, Maronites, in ruins after years of political persecution. Hezbollah and Co even lost a general election, even after being shown as frontrunners in many polls.  This means the majority of the Lebanese people didn’t want them to rule. And that was not respected as well.

So for those who are pissed, let me say this… I understand you. And I feel you. But don’t be. We, as people and movement, will be triumphant. Because at the end of the day, what is right and correct will be triumphant. And we are the only ones who, in time, can bring out this country from its everlasting stillbirth.

Indictment

For months now, we, Lebanese, have been hearing about a possible indictment being issued in an international tribunal, made especially to bring justice to the murderers of previous Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

As the date drew nearer, the political scene in Lebanon grew tenser. Some parties (we all know who they are) started to cry foul – saying the indictment is false without it being released yet. And at the moment of writing this, there was nothing mentioned about the possible contents of this indictment except pure speculation.

Wouldn’t it be wiser if these parties just waited for the indictment to be issued to take an official stance and do what they’re doing now, which is basically crumbling down the foundations of Lebanon by collapsing the government and threatening strife?

Wouldn’t it just be too ironic if the indictment came out and it actually did not accuse these specific parties of the murder of Rafic Hariri? This is a possibility. I doubt the Special Tribunal wouldn’t take the constant rambling about these “false witnesses”, which was the apparent cause of what’s happening today, seriously. This Tribunal is ran by professionals who, unlike many Lebanese judges, actually know what they’re doing. If they have reason to believe these witnesses were indeed lying, it’s very probable that they annulled their testimonies. But being the professionals that they are, they didn’t divulge it to the public.

All I know is, ruining the country for a “what-if” scenario is not healthy. And it’s always the case. This specific party has been basically shoving its ideas down our throats, without even any room for negotiations. Why? because they are well-armed. We cannot become a fully functional society, built on equality, unless the people of this society do not fear each other. When I need to be careful with what I post online about specific countries and about this specific group, you know you’re not in a healthy place. It might be that they are affected by the country that fuels them through military and ideological means… but this is Lebanon, the free-est country in the region, where I shouldn’t be afraid to say what I really feel.

Let me finish by saying this… if someone’s really innocent, they don’t need to fear an indictment.