April 1, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 690

Syria Arrests Journalist for Condemning the Ba'ath Party

April 1, 2004
Turkey, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 690

On March 23, 2004, Syrian journalist Muhammad Ghanem, of the city of Al-Raqa in northern Syria, was arrested by Syrian military security forces after publishing an article condemning the Ba'ath party. [1] News of the arrest of Ghanem, who is the editor of the Syria Mirror website, was posted on the site by his son, Mahleb Muhammad Ghanem. Mahleb also asked that all readers send letters of solidarity demanding his father's release to:

Ghanem's article followed the rioting by Kurdish residents of Syria in the Al-Hasaka region in early March 2004. The riots were harshly suppressed by Syrian security forces, with dozens of protestors killed.

According to Ghanem, the forceful repression that is the policy of the veteran Ba'athists was carried out with the help of Northeast Syrian tribesmen who collaborate with the Ba'ath party.

Ghanem is an independent opposition journalist who speaks out against the ruling party as well as against opposition parties, whether Islamist, nationalist, or leftist. His articles are posted on the Internet and also appear in Arab papers such as the UAE-published Al-Khaleej and Al-Bayan.

The following are excerpts from the article: [2]

'I am the Ba'ath, and Death to its Enemies; Arab, Arab, Arab'

"They are massacring the Kurds… I do not know why, when I, as a Syrian Arab citizen — which is nothing to be proud of — look at our Kurdish brothers being massacred in the Al-Hasaka, Al-Raqa, and Aleppo districts, those districts conventionally and historically known as 'Al-Jazira,' I remember all [I know] of the chauvinism of the Bedouin Arabs of the fascist Ba'ath [Party], and the danger they pose to Syrian national unity.

"As a free and independent citizen, I called on President Bashar Al-Assad not to fall into the trap set by the disciples of [Michel] Aflaq. [3] I wrote hundreds of articles, [both] serious and mocking, on the crystallization and the revelation of a new situation in Arab Ba'ath language and methods — methods that had been forbidden in the days of the late president Hafez Al-Assad. I named these methods after Michel 'Aflaq and Tikrit. [4]

"After the 'Aflaqi and Tikriti murderers were permitted to return to Syria, some fascist thinkers in the Ba'ath [Party] began to talk of the 'thought of 'Aflaq,' whose writing [is on the level] of schoolboy essays — and anyone who wants evidence of this has before him 'Aflaq's book 'In the Path of the Ba'ath.'

"Apparently the blood of the Iraqis was not enough for [the Bedouin Arabs], and they came to drink, to intoxication, the blood of the Syrians, beginning with the Kurds. I don't know why I remembered a line from the chauvinist fascist song of the Ba'ath … which covers the walls of the party offices and the government departments: "I am the Ba'ath, and death to its enemies. Arab, Arab, Arab."

"Indeed, the Arab Ba'ath is Arab, [and it acts] in accordance with its nature and according to its banners, and it is no wonder that its enemies are dead. (Today, the Bedouin Arabs are slaughtering the Kurds, and tomorrow, Allah knows.) Is it any surprise [to discover] that the party with such a motto, and hundreds more polluted chauvinistic fascist mottoes, carries out massacres like the Bedouin Arabs slaughter [sheep] for sacrifice? The Bedouin Arabs are the worst among men in unbelief and hypocrisy. [5]

"The above Ba'ath song goes on to say, 'Death to all those who are not Arab.' These words are not only a challenge to human and humanist law. This party, the 'death to' party, is not satisfied with challenging the U.N. Charter and the Human Rights Convention, but also [places itself] above all the written laws of the human race, and against all the human customs from the creation of the world until our time. The chauvinist hyper-Arab Ba'ath Party, of the shepherds and the rabble, sets itself above the divine laws, [and] challenges the Holy Qur'an…

"The murderers of the Ba'ath, [who] steal the bread from the people's [mouths]; the plunderers of freedom, who have transformed the homeland into a paddock and a farm for themselves and for their families, are collaborating with the Bedouin Arabs who came to Syria not long ago — between 75 and 200 years — and those who arrived the earliest came during the days of the Ottoman regime. They came to rob the land and the people, and to collaborate with all the fascist tyrants, and primarily with the chauvinist former Nasserites who have become Ba'athists.

"Ask the residents of Iraq, the sons of the Republican Guard members, Saddam's intelligence, the sons of those who massacred, robbed, and raped the Iraqis, the Shi'ites, the Sunni Kurds, the Turkmen of both sides [Shi'ite and Sunni], the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Armenians, the Sabians, the Yazidis, and the rest of the ethnic and religious components of the Iraqi people.

"In this way, 'Aflaq's successors in Syria managed to entangle the country and the homeland, but they aspired to entangle President [Bashar Al-Assad] himself in shedding the blood of the Kurds, as they succeeded in the past to entangle Assad Sr. in the tragedy of Hamat. [6]

"By Allah, had the matter been in the hands of the [Syrian] patriots, and those who are zealously loyal [to the homeland], there would be not a single drop of clean blood in Syria. But the 'Aflaq fascists accepted [into Syria] the Bedouin tribes of Saddam Hussein's regime…

'Ba'athists, You are Leading Syria to the Abyss, to a Bloodbath'

"Blood begets blood…

"Ba'athists, you are leading Syria to the abyss, to a bloodbath that no Syrian wants… Ba'athists, [know] that Syria is not an endowment that belongs to the desert Arabs who come from the peninsula of oil, those who take and do not give… The Ba'ath Party raises the motto 'Arab Oil For The Arabs,' and all Ba'athists complete [the phrase] with the following formula: 'And the Kurds deserve nothing.'

"There are some hotheads [now] at the end of their days, worn-out old men, who have nothing but the hatred upon which they were raised. They are trying to interfere with the sight of the eye doctor [Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad] himself, and provide him with false cards. They push him to agree to their murderous security solutions, and in effect aspire to entangle the president in massacres carried out against the Kurds.

"The theory of the fascist hyper-Arabs, according to which the Kurds came from outside, is a dirty lie. It is the desert Arabs [themselves] who came from outside. The Kurds, as Syrian citizens, have the right to study their language and manage their own internal matters — rituals, holidays, customs, and traditions. They are the most veteran residents of Syria, [having been there] at least since the days of the Ayoubi dynasty. [7] The repression of any ethnic group or minority gives it — by law and by custom — the right to ask for protection from another body. The ones who are murdering [a group or a minority] and attacking its land will not check what this other body is.

"The messages of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law transform all Syrians into one family. This chauvinist hyper-Arab voice is grating, because it is a voice against the development of history, and it does not see [how] things [are] changing.

"The fascist Ba'athist attack on our Kurdish brethren, human beings like us who are loyal to Syria, is the beginning of the collapse of the entire homeland. The aggression and conspiracy by the Bedouin Arab tribes against our Kurdish brethren, their killing, their shedding of their blood, the plundering of their money, the burning of their homes and their property in Ras Al-'Ayn, 'Amouda, Qamishli, Al-Hasaka, 'Afarin, Aleppo, Damascus, and everywhere the Kurds can be found are operations that must be condemned and the authorities must prosecute the perpetrators, Saddam's sons of evil, [and] the disciples of 'Aflaq and those who cover for them.

"The ridiculous interviews by Syrian television of 'security elements' do not help. [Proper] patriotic activity [will bring about] the opening of a dialogue between the Kurdish people — by means of its national and political forces and the Syrian presidency, while ignoring the interference of fascism and the Old Guard, which is dominated to the point of obsession by the concept of 'death to the enemies.' The death in question is an open invitation to kill the other who thinks differently, behaves differently, and belongs to a different group.

"We must choose whether to tell the truth or to lead the homeland into hell. The policy of Arabization and expulsion in Syria's Al-Jazira [region] is explicitly a policy of chauvinist terrorism, a policy that commits its crimes the same way that Israel does by Judaizing [its territories] and by expelling the Palestinians. Arabization is the other face of Judaization. It is Zionist racism in Arab dress."

"Allah, I have spoken [the truth] and I have not been silent about the sin.
"Allah, I have given warning.
"Allah, I am clean [of the sin I have fought against].
"The desert Arabs of the Ba'ath are massacring our Kurdish brethren — Allah, You are witness!"

[1] Akhbar Al-Sharq (Syria), March 24, 2004.

[2], March 17, 2004.

[3] Michel 'Aflaq (1910-1989) founded and led the Syrian Ba'ath Party during the 1940s.

[4] Birthplace of former Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.

[5] Qur'an 9:97.

[6] According to the Muslim Brotherhood, 25,000 Muslim Brotherhood activists and supporters were killed by the Syrian regime in Hamat in 1982.

[7] The Sunni dynasty that ruled from northern Syria to Egypt during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its most prominent member was Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi (Saladin), who defeated the Crusaders.

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