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Syrian Blogsphere: Free Kareem echoes, Expats living in Syria and Certifying your Documents

Earlier this week, the Syrian Blogsphere responded collectively to the sentencing of Egyptian blogger Kareem Nabeel Sulaiman, with a joint statement, started on Levantine Dreamhouse…

We, as a community of Syrian bloggers, condemn the arrest and sentencing of Egyptian blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil Soliman for the peaceful expression of his dissenting views. We ask the Egyptian government to reconsider its decision to arrest and prosecute Abdel Kareem. The stated reasons for their action include the preservation of the public peace and state security, and the prevention of incitement against Islam. We contend that his arrest will achieve neither. Silencing such dissenting voices as Abdel Kareem’s, serves only to strengthen the hands of extremists who will not shy away from violence to achieve their goals. Moreover, we remind the Egyptian government that his arrest and prosecution violates at least two articles of the 1948 United Nations universal declaration of human rights to which Egypt was a signatory.

The statement was republished on many other Syrian blogs, and will stay on the main page of Syria Planet -Syrian Bloggers Portal- for a week.

The sentencing of Kareem, sends an alarm signal throughout the entire Middle East, and especially in a country like Syria where the internet is strictly censored by the state and where there had been cases of legal action against dissidents based on their internet usage [Although no legal action has been taken against bloggers, the .blogspot domain is still blocked throughout Syria's ISPs since late last year].

Ihsan, a prominent Syrian blogger, reflects on that…

A friend called me few days ago and asked me to be more careful about blogging and he was referring to one of my recent posts (Until further notice). He told me that he heard some disapproval about it from some of his high-level Syrian acquaintances! He said that things are now more sensitive in Syria about these sorts of postings…. I had to re-read what I posted because for a second I thought I may have been bashing God!

On much lighter notes, let's see how foreign bloggers living in Syria reflect on it.

Lindsay, an anthropologist working in Damascus, talks with vibrant details about her Ladies’ Night Out in Seydnaya…

We arrived in Saydnayya and passed in front of the restaurant off the main road. The ladies had never been to this restaurant before, and there was some disagreement about whether it was worth it. Through the façade of windows we could see that the hall was nearly empty, with only a couple other families sitting and eating. But Ayla insisted that there was people (or at least there would be), and that it would be great. We waited inside the bus as she went inside to speak with the host. Warda and the other ladies, meanwhile, were saying that they didn’t want to sit in a restaurant with nobody in it, that there were other places with better atmosphere and decor. Apparently this was a day to sit and be seen and party it up a little bit, which can’t be done in a quiet empty restaurant.

Ruth also an expat living in Aleppo, shares her own personal experiences here, including the oddities of living in an ancient city like Aleppo as a local, being a part of “harra” or “neighborhood”, and of course handling marriage proposals!

I ate lunch and played a little tag. But the inevitable subject of my marriage prospects came up. This time, it was in a much more serious way. Three out of the five women had someone they wanted me to meet and “at least think about.” Though my host mom says she’ll protect me from this pressure, she gets carried away when she’s with her friends. For better or worse, she saw the pictures I have on my computer of Rudy Youngblood, Reza Aslan and Dominic Monaghan and she says she can find a guy who looks like Rudy. I explained that what he looked like didn’t matter, but I got descriptions of several eligible bachelors anyway. We went to one of their houses later. That was the one who was described as looking just like President Assad. What a catch. His mother got all excited and despite the fact that she thought I was a little old, she said I could live in the second storey of house after the wedding. When it gets this serious, I simply say my brother would never approve and thus, I just can’t go through with it.

Bob is also chronicling his stay in Syria on his blog, Nine Months in Syria, in this post he talks about the Syrian attitude towards rain…

Contrary to Western attitudes toward a rainy day, Arab sentiments range from tolerating it – without complaining – to embracing it. Instead of “rain, rain go away,” it's the oft-repeated, “Matar al-kheir” – Good rain.

And finally, will close off by a post from Bassam, again posting about yet another dreadful task for Syrians, the bureaucracies of Certifying your Documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…

The thing looks as follows: you have a certain piece of paper that says whatever, and I mean by whatever is that no one in the embassy really reads what the “study certificate” says. Being employed is not equivalent to studying, nevertheless embassies signature and seal can be attached on anything no matter how bogus it is. This, is for the good luck of applicants of course. Anyway, next you have to put stamps on the paper: stand in line for 15 minutes
Then, certify the paper: stand in line for 20 minutes, at least

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