web counter Media Lies: Interesting news out of Syria

Thursday, December 30, 2004

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Interesting news out of Syria

Greg over at Belgravia Dispatch notes some very interesting news out of Syria. It seems the democratic stirrings in neighboring Iraq have infiltrated across the border.
The Iraqi election next month may be evoking skepticism in much of the world, but here in northeastern Syria, home to concentrations of several ethnic minorities, it is evoking a kind of earnest hope.

"I believe democracy in Iraq must succeed," Vahan Kirakos, a Syrian of Armenian ethnicity, said recently. "Iraq is like the stone thrown into the pool."

Though Syria's Constitution grants equal opportunity to all ethnic and religious groups in this very diverse country, minority activists say their rights are far from equal. They may not form legal political parties or publish newspapers in minority languages. More than 150,000 members of Syria's largest minority, the Kurds, are denied citizenship.

Minority issues remain one of the infamous "red lines," the litany of forbidden topics that Syrians have long avoided mentioning in public.

But in the year and a half since Saddam Hussein was removed from power in Iraq, that has begun to change, with minority activists beginning to speak openly of their hopes that a ripple effect from next door may bring changes at home.

And here in Syria's far northeastern province of Hasakah, which borders Turkey and Iraq, there are signs of a new restlessness...
Greg is more cautious than I am about events in that part of the world, but we certainly agree on the direction that things seem to be headed.
Still, if policies are put in place that ease such democratization along, rather than brutishly force it down people's throats (risking nationalistic and/or Islamic backlashes in the process), it is possible to see (particularly in conjunction with an Arab-Israeli peace) the beginnings of a New Middle East ten or so years hence. Rosy Shimon Peres-like dreamy talk? Yes, to a fashion. But at least something is happening in the region to stir movement--and the catalyst is Iraq, of course.
I would be inclined to say that real change in the Middle East before Bush leaves office. In Syria? I think that's not as likely unless real pressure is brought to bear, but that can't be done while we're still embroiled in Iraq. Two years hence? That's anybody's guess.

In any case, the direction events are heading has to be extremely disappointing to bin Laden et. al.