Monday, April 30, 2007

In honour of a few brave men

The following is a post that has recently appeared on Fares's blog, and on Rime's Mosaic. Abu Kareem has also posted it with the Arabic translation attached.

In support of those brave men, whose spirits will never be anything but free, I post it on this blog, with great humility and immense admiration for their courage..

From the Prisoners of Conscience in Damascus Central Prison Al AdraApril 29th, 2007

We are prisoners of conscience and opinion in Damascus Central Prison, lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, writer Michel Kilo, Dr. Kamal Labwani, activists Mahmoud Issa, and Faek Al Mir, and Professor Aref Dalila who could not be reached as he spends his sixth year in solitary confinement.

After the sentencing of lawyer Anwar Al Bunni on 24 April 2007, we would like to say thank you and greet our families, friends, and all the people, groups, committees, organizations, associations, parties and political assemblies of Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians in Syria and the Arab world. We thank and greet the official representatives, countries, media and websites that support us by protesting our trials and arrests, and denying the accusations against our colleague Anwar Al Bunni.

We would like to send our heartfelt greetings and thanks to all of you and hope that your noble and brave attitude will not stop only with denying these accusations and supporting our cause.

Our case as prisoners of conscience is part of the continuing crisis of basic freedoms and human rights in Syria that began with the Emergency Law 44 years ago. This crisis reached its height in the 1980s and again today by an increase in tyranny, arrests and the suppression of fundamental freedoms.

Tens of thousands of Syrians have paid a horrible price, some with their lives, others with the loss of years and youth from inhumane prison conditions and cruel torture. Still more have suffered by being forced to escape the tyranny or enter into voluntary exile, another difficult experience. Other Syrians stayed, throwing salt on their wounds and binding their tongues to save themselves pain. Those that couldn’t live with their tongues tied faced a future in prison, homeless and alone. For the few people that climbed to the top of the tyranny and darkened Syrian society, they have contributed to the corruption, theft and poverty that have strangled the necks of the people.

The denial of fundamental human rights in Syria is the main case that we work for and your support for prisoners of conscience is part of this fight. Fighting for the release of these prisoners is a duty, not only to decrease their suffering and their families’ pain, but also to encourage others by knowing they are not alone. We must give society hope, making sure its doors and streets are not closed. With the power of hope it is possible to fight the crisis of freedom and human rights in Syria in a peaceful way.

Terrorism is the enemy of mankind and civilization itself. It flourishes in societies that lack freedom and close doors to peaceful expression, leaving violence as a way of expressing oneself. Inside these societies suffering from poverty, where they find no well being on earth they will turn to the heavens and the answers that it may provide them. The lack of basic freedoms and human rights coupled with poverty are two faces of the same coin in the Third World. Syria is at the forefront of totalitarian countries, ruled from an isolated point of view with its citizens either idle passengers or doomed to be labeled traitors.

The lack of freedom, means of expression, political participation and accountability leads to the growth of corruption, despotism, looting of public funds, rampant poverty and the collapse of moral values. The real fight against terrorism must not only be about combating extremist ideas. These ideas have existed throughout history, though they will always remain on the periphery, isolated and shunned, unless they find fertile soil to take root and grow. If they are allowed to develop in the soil of society, they will spread like toxic plants, poisoning communities and innocent people.

Addressing the root causes of terrorism requires opening up pathways to free expression and the peaceful exchange of ideas. By giving people unfettered freedom we can blunt the sword of injustice, oppression and domination to grant full political participation, a hand in future decision-making, accountability, the preservation of equality and a life of dignity. This would make the world a safer place and improve international security.

Syrians have paid a high price for their rights and freedom and we hope to be the last group forced to pay this price to help the great Syrian people. To do this we need more than your solidarity and denunciations. We need constant and tireless efforts to compel Syrian authorities to respect human rights, international law and the treaties and agreements it has signed which demand freedom of expression and opinion. The release of political prisoners is a necessary first step, including the abolition of the State Emergency Law and other such laws like Decree 49 signed in 1980 or the Hasakah Accountability Decree of 1962. Syria must abolish the State Security Court, compensate those that have suffered, create an independent judiciary, end torture and hold perpetrators responsible.

They must stop political arrests and ensure the freedom of the press, allowing political participation and the formation of parties, organizations and civil society.They must stop the looting of public funds and policies of impoverishment and domination. However, these steps are just the beginning necessary to put Syria on the path to security and move towards development, progress and the protection of national unity that now suffers from division and tension. These rifts and divisions are now impossible to conceal, despite the dancing and celebrations and empty rhetoric about a healthy society that in reality is sick and suffering. As prisoners of conscience and opinion we are apprehensive about the future of our homeland, our children and our very decision to shape Syria’s future. However, we will not be deterred by threats, intimidation, and the repression of long years of imprisonment that we face to save our country and ourselves

Adra Prison. 28-4-2007

Below is the Arabic text from ME Transparent:

من معتقلي الرأي في سجن دمشق المركزي
إننا معتقلو الرأي والضمير في سجن دمشق المركزي /عدرا/، المحامي أنور البني والكاتب ميشيل كيلو والدكتور كمال اللبواني والناشطين محمود عيسى وفائق المير والبروفسور عارف دليلة الذي لم نتمكن من الاتصال به والذي يمضي سنته السادسة في زنزانة منفردة، وبعد الحكم الذي صدر على المحامي أنور البني بتاريخ 24-4-2007، فإننا نود أن نتوجه بالشكر والتحية لعائلاتنا وأهلنا وأصدقائنا وجميع الأشخاص والمجموعات والهيئات والمنظمات والجمعيات والأحزاب والتجمعات السياسية في سوريا من عرب وأكراد وآثوريين وفي البلاد العربية في مختلف أنحاء العالم والممثلين الرسميين والاعتباريين والدول ووسائل الإعلام ومواقع الانترنت وكل الذين تضاموا معنا واحتجوا على اعتقالنا ومحاكمتنا ونددوا واستنكروا الحكم الصادر بحق زميلنا المحامي أنور البني الناشط في مجال حقوق الانسان.

نتوجه بالشكر والتحية لكل فرد منكم من كل قلوبنا ونتمنى أن لا يقف هذا الموقف النبيل والشجاع عند حدود اللحظة والمناسبة والتضامن والاستنكار فقط.

إن قضيتنا كمعتقلي رأي وضمير في سوريا هي جزء واستمرار لأزمة الحريات العامة وحقوق الانسان في سوريا بدأت مع إعلان فرض حالة الطوارئ منذ أربع وأربعين عاما قاسية وشهدت ذروة حادة في الثمانينيات وهاهي تشهد ذروة حادة أخرى بزيادة وتصاعد القمع والاعتقال ومصادرة الحريات

لقد دفع عشرات الألوف من السوريين ثمنا غاليا طوال تلك الفترة فمنهم من قضى نحبه ودفع كل حياته ومنهم من دفع سنوات طويلة من

زهرة عمره وريعان شبابه في ظروف لا إنسانية في السجون والمعتقلات وعانى التعذيب الوحشي ومنهم من هرب من البطش والقمع إلى من الغربة مختارا النفي الطوعي وتجربة قسرية ومعاناة بشكل مختلف وبقية السوريين فرض عليهم الانكفاء إلى ذواتهم ووضع الملح على الجرح والمعاناة والعض على الألسنة هربا من البطش. ومن لم يستطع احتمال زمن القهر الطويل فانفلت عقال لسانه أو عقله كان مصيره السجن أو التنكيل أو التشريد، والقلة القليلة تسلقت قمة القهر والقمع والتسلط التي خيمت على المجتمع السوري فعاثت فسادا ونهبا وإفقارا وتسلطا على رقاب البلاد والعباد.

هذه هي القضية الأساسية التي ينبغي دائم العمل من أجلها. وتضامنكم مع المعتقلين هو جزء من هذا الفعل والعمل لإطلاق سراحهم هو خطوة واجبة ليس فقط من أجل تخفيف معاناة المعتقل وعائلته بل هو ضروري لتشجيع الآخرين وإحساسهم بأنهم ليسوا وحدهم في هذه المعركة ولأجل إعطاء أمل للمجتمع بأن الأبواب ليست مغلقة نهائيا والطريق ليست مسدودة نهائيا وأن هناك قوة أمل حقيقي أن تصل أزمة الحريات وحقوق الانسان في سوريا إلى حل سلمي آمن.

إن الإرهاب عدو البشرية والإنسانية والحضارة الأول، يلقى الدعم والأرض الخصبة في التجمعات التي تعاني أزمة حريات وتغلق أبواب وطرق التعبير السلمي مما يفتح الأبواب لطريق التعبير العنفية والتجمعات التي تعاني من فقر شديد حيث لا يجد الانسان ما يملكه أبدا في الأرض فيسعى تحت تأثير الأفكار المتطرفة الخاطئة إلى ملكيته في السماء وما يوعدون.

إن انعدام الحريات العامة وانتهاك حقوق الإنسان والفقر الشديد وجهان لعملة واحدة في بلدان العالم الثالث وسوريا في مقدمة هذه الدول خاصة وأنها من الدول الشمولية التي تحكمها وجهة النظر الواحدة والرأي الواحد والآخرون مارقون وخونة.فغياب الحريات ووسائل التعبير والمشاركة السياسية والرتابة والمحاسبة يؤدي على نمو الفساد والإفساد والتسلط والإفقار ونهب الأموال العامة ويستشري الفقر وتنهار القيم الأخلاقية والإنسانية.

إن محاربة الإرهاب الحقيقية لا يجب أن يكون هدفها فقط محاربة الأفكار المتطرفة فهذه على أهميتها فإنها موجودة عبر التاريخ ولكنها معزولة ومنبوذة وليست ذات تأثير إذا لم تجد التربة الخصبة لزراعة أفكارها بل يجب أن يتوجه إلى تجفيف هذه التربة التي تتلقى هذه البذور لتحويلها إلى نباتات سامة تجتاح مساحات أوسع فأوسع من المجتمعات وتنقلب على أفكار إجرامية تطال الأبرياء والمجتمع ككل. إن معالجة أسباب الإرهاب يتطلب فتح أبواب وطرق التعبير السلمية وتبادل الآراء وإعطاء الشعوب حريتها المسلوبة منها ورفع سيف الظلم والقهر والتسلط عنها ومنحها حق المشاركة السياسية الكاملة برسم مستقبلها وصنع القرار وصنع القرار والقرابة والمحاسبة وحفظ حقها بالمساواة والعيش الكريم. وهذه مسؤولية دولية عامة لأن الأمن أصبح في العالم أمنا واحدا.

إن الشعب السوري دفع أثمان غالية للحصول على حقوقه وحرياته ونأمل أن نكون نحن آخر دفعة من هذا الثمن الغالي والكبير الذي يستحق الشعب السوري بعده أن يسترد حقوقه وحريته.إننا نحتاج إلى أكثر من تضامنكم واستنكاركم. إننا نحتاج إلى عملكم المستمر والدؤوب لإلزام السلطات السورية باحترام حقوق الانسان والقوانين والاتفاقيات الدولية التي التزمت بها وتطبيقها فعلا وإطلاق حرية التعبير والرأي والعمل السياسي ولعل إطلاق سراح المعتقلين السياسيين هو الخطوة الأولى الضرورية لذلك.بالإضافة إلى إلغاء حالة الطوارئ والقوانين الاستثنائية وعلى رأسها المرسوم 49 لعام 1980 ومرسوم الإحصاء الاستثنائي في محافظة الحسكة عام 1962 والمحاكم الاستثنائية وفي مقدمتها محكمة أمن الدولة والمحاكم الميدانية وإلغاء أحكامها والتعويض على المتضررين منه وإعطاء القضاء استقلاله الكامل ووقف ومنع التعذيب ومحاسبة مرتكبيه وإلغاء الاعتقال السياسي وإطلاق حرية الصحافة والإعلام والسماح بالمشاركة السياسية وتشكيل الأحزاب والمنظمات وجمعيات المجتمع المدني خارج الوصاية الرسمية ووقف نهب المال العام وسياسة الإفقار والتسلط والهيمنة.

إن هذه الخطوات تشكل فقط البداية الضرورية لوضع سوريا على سكة الأمان وبالاتجاه الصحيح للتطور والتقدم وتحمي الوحدة الوطنية التي تعاني من الشروخ والانقسامات والأزمات والاحتقانات التي تعصف بها ولم يعد ممكنا إخفائها بالأهازيج والمهرجانات والدبكات والتصاريح الجوفاء الفارغة حول صحة المجتمع الذي يعاني أمراض عدة شديدة .

إننا كمعتقلي رأي وضمير خائفون على مستقبل الوطن الذي نتمسك به وعلى مستقبل أطفالنا ومن حقنا المشاركة بصنع هذا المستقبل ولولا إبداء رأينا ولن نأل جهدا من أجل تحقيق مستقبل أفضل لهذا الوطن ولن يرهقنا التهديد والوعيد والقمع والقهر لا سنوات السجن الطويلة عن الاستمرار بما آمنا به وندرنا نفسنا له

سجن عدرا 28-4-2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another Day at the Office??...

God, what a day this has been!...

It was an ominous start.. I am on-call today, and I was planning to get to the Department, as usual, just before 9am.. At 07:45, my colleague who was on-call Saturday rang me.. He said that he was contacted by the Nurse in-charge about a road traffic crash (RTC) involving three seriously injured people.. As he was planning to head off to London very soon, he wondered if I could start my on-call a bit earlier (we change over at 9am every morning)... Needless to say, I assured him that he can get on his way, and that I will be in the Department within ten minutes..

So I set off bit earlier than I had intended, and got to the Department (breaking every land-speed record known to man!..) before the casualties started arriving, which allowed me time to organise the team and prepare for the reception of the three injured people..

The three casualties came in quick sequence.. All three were quickly assessed, initial resuscitation started, various scans and x-rays done, and a number of emergency life-saving procedures performed.. Within an hour or so, one man was already in Theatre, undergoing surgery to have his pelvis fixed by the Orthopaedic Surgeons. Another was being cared for by the Neurosurgeons and the Intesivists on the Intensive Care Unit, and the third was eventually admitted for observation, after having a couple of minor fractures reset, and several facial lacerations sutured.. It took us two-and-a-half-hours to sort them all out and hand them over to the various specialist teams..

By that time, the Waiting Room was like Central Station.. standing room only!.. It seemed that the whole of Lancashire decided to pay us a visit today.. Suddenly, the week-old cough, the two-month-old back pain, and the ankle sprain that happened three days ago, cannot wait any longer... I guess there isn't much to watch on the telly, so people come to the Emergency Department for entertainment!..

On top of that, yesterday the weather was nice in Lancashire, and we had the promise of more nice weather today, even if not much of that promise did materialize... The morning was grim and dark, but it did brighten up in the afternoon.. and believe me, nice weather does not suit the Brits.. they are genetically designed to have their moronic tendencies displayed, at the slightest hint of sunshine or blue skies.. kids on their bicycles, youths on rugby fields, adults on motorbikes or in fancy cars, hapless DIYers, yobs with too much alcohol on-board, and middle-aged men (but refusing to admit it!..) doing mad things they have not done in thirty years.. the result of this explosive mixture? Accidents.. and more accidents.. not to mention the countless cases of asthma, insect bites, allergy attacks, as well as the 'usual' quota of 'ordinary' illnesses...

The Air Ambulance landed on our Helipad seven times today.. our average is four Air Ambulance transfers a month!!.. Our Prehospital Emergency Trauma Team (lovingly known as PETT) was called out four times.. our average is twice a month (we only tend to go out to RTCs with entrapment.. otherwise, it is better to get the casualty to us).. These are new and unprecedented records, smashing the previous records (for which, incidentally, I was the proud holder!!..) by a long way!.. Well, they don't call me DisasterMaster for nothing!..

Amidst the carnage, there were some touching stories of simple courage, human vulnerability, and pure stupidity!... the five-year-old who fell in the canal, trying to save his dog!.. (I am pleased to report that both child and dog have recovered from the ordeal!..).. the mother who was trying to impress her child with her bicycle-riding skills, but forgotten how steep the the road outside her house was.. (the result: a minor fracture to the foot, and a badly-bruised pride!..).. then the idiot who, after a few pints of lager, wanted to prove to his mates that the fart is flammable!.. (He farted while holding a cigarette lighter close to his bum.. His fart ignited, sending a blast of flames towards a pile of dry leaves they had collected, setting it ablaze.. three of the youths sustained burns to their hands when they tried to put the burning leaves out!.. The human flame-thrower suffered superficial, but very painful, burns to his nether regions... but he has proven his point!..)..

So, after all, this was just another day at the office...
I'd better get some rest.. I am totally whacked, and I have a full day tomorrow... and what's more, today is not over yet.. the night is still young...

(Picture: 'Pandemonium' by Halcyon83, Source:

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Life is too short

(I started this post back in February.. I never got the chance to complete it then.. Mostly because I felt it was just a bit of rambling that concerns no-one.. I still think it is no more than that... and I am not quite sure why I am publishing it!...

Nevertheless, I am grateful to Abu Fares for prompting me, with his post, to finish it.. This is an updated version of the original post, as some of the original contents would have been irrelevant now..)

In February, my wife went to Damascus for a short visit.. Ever since we came to the UK, my wife has spent the Summer holidays in Damascus.. Every year, without fail, she would 'abandon' me for two months.. She often says that it is written in her marriage contract that she is entitled to two months a year, away from me.. and some of our English friends actually believed her!!.. In recent years, as the children are now at University, she has been going to Damascus twice a year.. She still goes in the summer, albeit for a shorter period, but now she also goes in February for three weeks or so... so she still gets her 'contractual' two-month break!..

Anyway, let's not digress too much...

We have been living in the UK for twenty-two years.. You would have thought that after twenty-two years of this ritual, I would have got used to her periodic absence.. The fact of the matter is.. I miss her now more than I used to miss her ten.. fifteen.. or twenty years ago..

I find it quite intriguing that, even after all those years, I still yearn for her company as much as I did twenty-six years ago.. (well.. more like 'thirty years ago' if you count the years of 'underground secret struggle'!.)..

It is often said that we never appreciate what we have until we lose it, but I do not subscribe to that notion.. I would like to think that I always show my wife how much I appreciate her (although, I am sure, there are time when she would disagree!..).. Then again, I guess I am one of those lucky people.. I married my childhood sweetheart, and she was, and still is, everything I ever dreamed of or wished for in a woman.. a wife, a friend and a companion, an advisor and a confidante.. and a lover...

I am a lousy sleeper at the best of times.. most of my posts, for example, are done at the early hours of the morning.. When she is away, I sleep even less.. I toss and turn in bed, waking up several times during the night, sensing her absence and longing for her presence..

During the day, I find myself ringing home from work.. in the full knowledge that there is no-one to answer.. I just feel that I need to reach out for her..

So, I admit it.. quite unashamedly.. I did miss my lovely wife when she was away, even though I have been very busy at work.. even though she was only away for three weeks.. (ONLY three weeks?.. Why, then, did it feel like three years??..)

But why do I miss her now more than ever?.. Simple, really.. the more time we spend together, the more reliant on each other we become.. She is my soul-mate, not just my wife..

A wise old man once told me that life is too damn short.. the clever ones amongst us make the most of the times we can spend with the people we care about most.. Take it from this not-so-wise, and not-so-old man: life is too damn short.. spend it accumulating beautiful memories.. don't waste it with useless arguments.. fill it with love and happiness, not with anger and frustration..

(Picture: 'Endless Love' by Alfred Gockel)