As the Arab people rise up in one country after another, I can't help but think of Syria every day. I'm one of the lucky Lebanese who escaped the Syrian snipers, Syrian checkpoints and Syrian bombs. During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, thousands of Lebanese were killed and thousands of others just disappeared and were never heard from again. Where did they go? The Syrian army and intelligence service rounded them up and we assume tortured and murdered them.
Their crimes also include the murder of a Lebanese president-elect, a Lebanese prime minister and many other politicians, writers and journalists. They have devastated Lebanon and the Lebanese in so many ways and continue to do so even though it’s less obvious today.
In case you’re thinking I’m bitter because of what side of that war my family was on, you should know this: The Syrian regime hasn’t been any kinder to its own people. Much like Egypt's Mubarak, Libya's Gaddafi and Iraq's Hussein, the Assad family has ruled with an iron fist to keep its people down. Rivers have turned red from the blood of those massacred by the authorities, and that's not an exaggeration. The elder Assad used tanks, artillery and air bombardment to level the city of Hama after the Muslim Brotherhood revolted in the early 1980s, killing thousands. (See Thomas Friedman’s reflection on the Hama massacre from 2005 in the New York Times HERE.)
Then there's the small matter of Syria’s dictators backing and doing the dirty work of the Iranians, Russians, Hamas, Hezbollah and any other government or terrorist group looking for support or an intermediary to do its evil deeds.
So, what now? The Syrians are good people who have suffered far too long. I hope and pray they seize this historical moment and rise up against the lies, greed, crimes and tyranny of their dictator. It won’t be easy, but life is far too short to suffer quietly for all these decades and all these generations. I pray they muster the courage to reclaim their dignity and their country.
Peace, my brothers and sisters, is indeed overrated.