January 25, 2009 Special Dispatch No. 2125

Lebanon Restricts Activity of Syrian Oppositionists

January 25, 2009
Syria, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 2125

Following the announcement of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria, the Lebanese authorities have reportedly agreed to restrict the activity of Syrian oppositionists operating in the country.

According to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, Syria has asked Lebanon to monitor and restrict the oppositionists' activity as a confidence-building measure and as part of the new era in Lebanon-Syria relations. The paper reports that, in compliance with this request, the Lebanese security apparatuses have required Syrian oppositionists to either desist from activity against the Syrian regime or leave the country. The oppositionists have been warned that if they remain in Lebanon and continue their activity, the security apparatuses may not be able to protect them from Syria's allies in Lebanon. [1]

The Lebanese daily Al-Safir reported, citing an official Lebanese source,thatLebanon has assured Syria that measures will be taken against the oppositionists - "the [same] measures used against any group attempting to harm an Arab country, as mandated by the agreements and [mutual] commitments [that exist] among the Arab states." [2]

A reflection of the oppositionists' plight is the recent decision by Syrian oppositionist Mamoun Al-Homsi, a former Syrian MP, to leave Lebanon for Washington, D.C. Al-Homsi explained that he was forced to flee Lebanon, where he had resided for two years, after discovering that the Syrian security apparatuses planned to have him assassinated. [3]

The following are excerpts from a statement published by Al-Homsi and from an article by Syrian oppositionist Jihad Saleh, who lives in Lebanon, about the situation of Syrian oppositionists in the country.

Al-Homsi: I Survived a Plot by the Syrian Forces of Darkness

In his statement, published October 13, 2008, Mamoun Al-Homsi explained: "I chose to live in Lebanon because it was an oasis of democracy surrounded by the talons of the [Syrian] dictatorship, and losing blood every day in its struggle to prevent the renewal of the [Syrian] patronage...

"The decision to stay in Lebanon was a difficult one, since, as the whole world knew, the Assad regime was [constantly] sabotaging its security and stability... [However], I saw it as my national duty to remain [there], despite the attendant dangers and worries. My spirit never flagged and I never feared the [Syrian] dictatorship - considering that I have published statements and [expressed] my opinion even while incarcerated in a [Syrian] prison, thereby exposing myself to depraved and brutal tortures methods and inhuman treatment.

"[But] a few days ago, the forces of oppression managed to find me and ambush me, with the help of a [Syrian agent] who had been planted in an anti-Syrian media outlet. Thanks to Allah the Almighty, I survived the plot, [but now] I was faced with a difficult choice - to leave [Lebanon, or to put my life in jeopardy]. I [left] not out of fear but in order to complete my noble duty towards our precious country and our beloved and tortured people.

"I thank the Lebanese people, whom I love and who deserve freedom and independence, and I am also deeply grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon, which helped me to safely depart for Washington." [4]

Syrian Oppositionist: The Syrian Evil Has Returned to Lebanon in Diplomatic Guise

In an article on the oppositionist Syrian website, Syrian journalist and human rights activist Jihad Saleh protested against the persecution of Syrian oppositionists in Lebanon, and expressed sorrow that some Lebanese are willing to serve as ambassadors of the Syrian regime. He wrote:

"With the [current] carnival of mutual [rapprochement] between the Syrian regime... and the new Lebanese government, and the preparations for the exchange of ambassadors and establishment of embassies... some Lebanese politicians have gotten ahead of themselves, and are [already] loading their guns and rifles, and aiming them at the Syrian oppositionists living in Beirut...

"The Syrian security apparatuses and some Lebanese leaders are jointly concocting a security agreement [as a basis] for exemplary relations [between the two countries]. The first [act] in this new festival of the Syrian regime is to expel from Lebanon the democratic, nonviolent Syrian [opposition], which is fighting the Ba'th culture of tyranny. [These Syrian oppositionists] were forced into exile in Lebanon, or fled there seeking refuge from the oppression and arrests [in Syria]... They hoped to find a new homeland, a safe haven where they would enjoy some freedom.

"[Unfortunately, however,] there are forces in Lebanon... which are doing a song and dance, [advocating] the Syrians' return [to Lebanon] in the guise of diplomats. In an attempt to please and gain the love of the ruling family in Damascus, they have begun to aim arrows at the Syrian opposition in Lebanon. [Pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon have been] drawing a connection between [the Syrian oppositionists] and the armed terrorists [5] - a depraved act meant to malign the Syrian oppositionists and to present their free, democratic and nonviolent activity as terrorism that will ultimately shatter the peace [between the various sectors in Lebanon]...

"This, of course, is a storm in a teacup, since the Lebanese state and people realize the true nature of the activity carried out by the Syrian intellectuals, who [merely] express their honest opinion about the policy of the Syrian regime against the [Syrian] people and homeland, and about the criminal violations of human [rights] in Syria. The [activity of the oppositionist] Syrian forces [in Lebanon] is completely open and transparent. It complies with the principles of justice and nonviolence, and is based on the right to freedom of speech and expression. [The oppositionists] break no regional, international or even Lebanese laws...

"[The Lebanese people] know that the activists of freedom and democracy in Syria supported Lebanon's aspirations to become a democratic, independent and sovereign homeland. The Damascus-Beirut Declaration [6] clearly attests to the noble Syrians' solidarity with their Lebanese brothers, and to the condemnation and opposition they expressed regarding the military presence of the [Syrian] regime in Lebanon throughout the 30 years of patronage and occupation...

"The majority of intellectuals both inside and outside Syria [believe in] the principles of democracy for Syria and independence for Lebanon.

"However, we are [now] seeing some [Lebanese citizens] supporting the Syrian security apparatuses under the pretext of diplomacy... [These Lebanese] are welcoming with open arms the Syrian evil which has arrived from Damascus in a new form. Exploiting the presence of the Syrian opposition in Lebanon, they are maligning it with absurd, biased and cowardly accusations - which is a black mark on Lebanon's history of democracy and freedom... It is painful that some [Lebanese] see themselves as ambassadors of Assad's regime in Beirut." [7]

[1] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 21, 2008.

[2] Al-Safir (Lebanon), October 17, 2008.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 17, 2008.

[4], October 13, 2008.

[5] For example, an October 15, 2008 article on the website, which is affiliated with the Syrian regime, implied a link between the Syrian oppositionists and the terrorists in Lebanon by claiming that both are supported by Saudi Arabia.

[6] The Damascus-Beirut Declaration, issued on May 12, 2006 and signed by several hundred intellectuals from Syria and Lebanon, called to rectify relations between the two countries "from the root." For more information, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 286, "Wave of Arrests of Syrian Intellectuals Following the Beirut-Damascus Declaration," July 11, 2006, Wave of Arrests of Syrian Intellectuals Following the Beirut-Damascus Declaration.

[7], October 22, 2008.

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