Syrian blogs are abuzz at the moment with another crack down on freedom of speech by the Syrian regime. Except, this time it's one of our own. Tariq's case took around six months to catch the attention of bloggers – six months he's still languishing in jail.
Tariq Baiasi, was surfing the internet one day, and happened to leave a comment on a public forum, criticizing the notorious security apparatus. Not long after that, on July 7th, 2007, he was arrested in his hometown of Banyas, never to be heard of again. As of today, Tariq has been in jail, without trial, for more than six months.
Razan, and a group of active bloggers, have set up a campaign website and an online petition. Please take a minute to sign the petition here. Razan has an extensive post about the issue on her blog, including an interview with activist Razan Zeitouneh:
Tariq’s online speech does not constitute a violation of the law. In fact, he actually acted on the basis of freedom, which as stated earlier, is guaranteed by the Constitution via Article 38, which states: “Every citizen has the right to express his opinion freely and openly, orally and written and in all other means of expression. He also has the right to contribute in the control process and in the constructive criticism to ensure the safety of national reconstruction.”
In her post, Razan mentions another blogger detained and forgotten in jail, Tariq Gorani.
Tariq Gorani was detained on 19-2-2006 for a year and four months before being charged with a seven years sentence verdict on 17-6-2007 for “endangering Syria's security”. His blog's name was Aldomari. “Aldomari” is originally taken from the first and the last independent Syrian newspaper that addressed and investigated the corruption of the Syrian authorities for a few months before it was shut down by the regime.
The Syrian regime's chokehold on its citizens’ right to express themselves is unrelenting. Whether our expressions of outrage on the web really matter is highly debatable. The government knows that organized internal opposition, if present, is impotent. In addition, Syrian opposition outside is missing in action. They could care less about Western condemnations of their human rights records because they know that Western powers seem to care about the average Syrian only when it is politically expedient. The regime knows what buttons to push to get the pressure off their backs; it is a game that the Baathist regime has perfected over a span of two generations.
Ahmed, also said:
لأن الستة أشهر التي قضاها طارق في السجن تكفي ليصبح مهذباً ، قصير اللسان ، لا يحشر أنفه فيما لا يعنيه ! لأن هذا الاعتقال خوّفنا و أرهبنا – كمدونين و رواد انترنت – فلن نقتفي اثره ، و سنقصر ألسنتنا ، و نكف عن الثرثرة في المحرمات. و لأنّه فعلاً .. الستة أشهر .. كافية !
Because the six months that Tariq has spent in jail are enough to make him “polite”, with a “shorter tongue”, and “not poke his nose in everything”. Because this arrest has frightened and terrorized us, -as bloggers, and Internet users-, we will not go after him, we will “shorten our tongues”, and stop gossiping about taboo issues. And because… six months, are truly, ENOUGH!