Syria has the most repressive regime in the Middle East (and that is saying something!). Not even Saudi Arabia, with its public beheadings and ban on female drivers, is as repressive. (There are many human rights reports on Syria. Check Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. But the best resource, in my opinion, is the Syrian Human Rights Committee website.)
The extent of the regime’s repression is mind boggling, but not as mind boggling as the extraordinary bravery of Syrians who now demand freedom. In my opinion, the Guardian had one of the most famous quotes from a protester in Tahrir square: “I came here to fight the fear inside me.” In Syria, the spontaneous chant of hundreds of thousands is “Ma fi khof, ma fi khof” (No fear, no fear). There is no demand in this chant. It is a refusal of fear, which truly is the only impediment protesters grapple with, not sympathy for the regime’s foreign policy, nor love for Bashar, nor belief in the regime’s promises. Our protests are usually small because people are afraid, not because protesters represent a minority.
Fear is a curious thing in Syria (and the Arab world overall). Arabs are not known for their docility. Yet, the word “mukhabarat” alone is spoken sotto voce. Of course, the Syrian regime has had to go to extremes of brutality to instill fear in a proud population. But the questions remain: How come fear has come to dominate our lives? At what point did we begin to keep quiet at government violations?