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July 1, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 3076

Palestinian Journalist: The Syrian People Needs Freedom Flotillas More than the Palestinian People Does

July 1, 2010
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 3076

In an article posted on the liberal website Aafaq, Palestinian journalist Zainab Rashid wrote that the Syrian propaganda apparatus had sought to use the Gaza flotilla to divert attention from what is happening in Syria, and that the Syrian people needs freedom flotillas more than the Palestinian people does, because of its oppression at the hands of the Assad family, and because the economic and human rights situation in Syria is worse than in Gaza.

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

"When People Hear that Syrians Participated in the So-Called 'Freedom Flotilla,' They Get the Impression that the Syrians Have Overcome All of Their Domestic and Foreign Problems"

"When people hear that Syrians participated in the so-called 'Freedom Flotilla' [to Gaza], they get the impression that the Syrians have overcome all of their domestic and foreign problems, and that they have nothing left to do but to participate in mitigating the problems of others, and in ending the siege on them.

"When people hear that the Syrian ambassador to Jordan accompanied the Syrians who were 'expressing solidarity' [with Gaza] to the Jordan-Syria border, and that Israel freed them [following the flotilla events], it is only natural to think that the Syrian state takes a very special interest in its citizens, their security, and their wellbeing, anywhere they may need its assistance.

"When people hear that the Syrian foreign and information ministers were in continuous contact with the Syrian flotilla participants following their release, they are almost convinced that the Syrian government holds its citizens in very high esteem.

"But when matters reach their climax, and the Syrian president meets with the Syrian flotilla participants in his palace, to hear all the details of the violence and torture they suffered during their detention in Israel after Israel took over the flotilla ships and brought them to the Ashdod port... then everyone, not only some, envy the Syrian citizens for the treatment they are accorded by the president of the[ir] country.

"I and everyone else know that the Syrian officials' treatment of the Syrian flotilla participants, and Syria's official propaganda stance vis-à-vis the flotilla, are only an attempt to ride the rising Turkish wave of [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan – but I am convinced that the regime... hopes that showing special interest in the Syrian [flotilla] participants will divert [public] attention from the situation in Syria, from the complete deterioration in all areas, and from statements and the groaning of the freedom fighters imprisoned in the various, and numerous, bastilles [of the Syrian regime], both aboveground and underground."

"Until the Hamas Takeover, Gaza's Economic & Educational Situation, and Its Living Conditions and Freedoms, Were Much Better than in Syria"

"Until the Hamas takeover, Gaza's economic and educational situation, and its living conditions and freedoms, were much better than those in Syria under the rule of the Assad family and its oppressive security apparatuses – which have set Syria back decades, and made its honorable people one of the poorest in the region and in the world. They have strangled the freedoms, and 'taken captive' any who raised their voices to ask for [even] a minimum [of freedoms].

"I insist upon using the term 'captives' for any Syrian citizen, male or female, in the dungeons of the Assad regime, because the hope that reconciliation would follow the great dictator's death and his son's succession is lost. The current regime is 'hostile' towards the entire Syrian people, after exploiting every opportunity for an historic reconciliation that this noble people gave it. The Syrians in the dungeons are the captives of an element that is hostile to the people, to the homeland, and to all things humane, moral, and beautiful.

"Gaza has no mud schoolrooms, like those in many Syrian provinces. Gaza does not have 60 students in a single classroom. Even after Gaza was besieged, food is not scarce as it is in Syria, where many food products do not reach the markets except for those smuggled in across the Syria-Lebanon border. Gaza's Internet services are vastly superior to the pitiful Internet [services] in Syria. Gaza and the West Bank have no lists of hundreds of banned websites. Until Hamas came to power, Gaza's water and electricity situation was much better than that in Syria. The average [Gaza] Strip income is higher than Syria's. The tens of thousands of [government] employees who became unemployed after the Hamas coup still receive a regular salary. So who needs freedom flotillas more? The [Gaza] Strip residents, or the Syrian people?

"Prior to Hamas' Gaza takeover, various media outlets there expressed various and even contradictory opinions, and carried out their work with a reasonable measure of freedom. At that time, the media's criticism of the [Palestinian] Authority went uncensored. Satellite television channels, radio stations, magazines, and newspapers represented all of the various factions, including the independents.

"In Syria, at the same time, 'Ali Al-'Abdallah[2] stood trial for an article he wrote from an Assad regime prison – where he was being held for expressing his opinions. So who needs the freedom flotillas more? The captive Syrian people, or the Gaza residents, who would never have known the oppression they suffer today if not for Hamas, which is supported by the Syrian and Iranian regimes?

"The Gaza residents were never massacred in prison like [prisoners were] in [2008 at] Sidnaya Prison[3] and [in 1980] at Tadmor – or [in 1982] in the city of Hama. Their prime minister and interior minister were not assassinated, like Mahmoud Al-Zu'abi [in 2008] and Ghazi Kana'an.[4] Gaza has no nefarious emergency laws like those that have been in force in Syria for 40 years. So who is more deserving of freedom flotillas, so that the world will notice the oppression, repression, and coercion under which they suffer?

"The Syrian people, led by a group of its own free sons and daughters, is today determined to throw off the dictatorship of the Assad [family], in order to build its homeland and the future of its sons, and to join the modern world – now that this gang has depleted the homeland's resources and castrated and trampled its citizens.

"Freedom flotillas sailing for the Syrian coast is the very least that the Syrian people needs – so that world's attention, and conscience, will be focused on [the people's] terrible suffering it is enduring under the oppressive lash of the Assad [regime]. Can anyone take the initiative? Or is no one interested...?"

Endnotes:

[1] www.aafaq.org, June 22, 2010.

[2] A signatory of the Damascus Declaration who served his term in prison, but was imprisoned again while awaiting trial on charges of damaging Syrian-Iranian relations with an article he wrote while incarcerated. www.thisissyria.net, June 18, 2010.

[3] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Report No. 466, "Mass Killings and Human Rights Violations in Syria," September 28, 2008, Mass Killings and Human Rights Violations in Syria.

[4] Ghazi Kana'an served as Syria's interior minister. In October 2005, it was reported that he committed suicide in his office; however, rumors circulated that the regime had ordered him to kill himself following suspicions that he had been involved in the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.

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