Thursday, September 25, 2003

Syrian Activists in Prison

Al-Jazeera is reporting that eleven anti-smoking activists have been imprisoned in Syria since last May. I suspect that the reasons for their arrest stemmed more from criticism of government officials than their anti-smoking activities, however. In addition, fourteen people in Aleppo will appear next month before a military court for holding an illegal discussion of democracy.

With stories like this, we see why al-Jazeera is important in the Arab world as an independent voice, even if some of their stories have certain editorial slants many in the U.S. might disagree with. Last March I talked to a noted scholar of modern Syria who said that pressure generated by the network was important in influencing the 2001 "Damascus Spring." Let's hope the same thing happens again, this time without a major terrorist attack stealing the headlines. Because in the long run it is al-Jazeera, not Ahmed Chalabi, that will help bring democracy and respect for human rights to the Middle East.


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