From Egypt to Syria to the Gulf States, Arabic youth are in revolt. With undying urges to shuck the bonds of despotic regimes and generations of governmental, religious and cultural oppression, they have risen up against their captors, and are crying for freedom and democracy.
The latest casualty in this war of oppression is Anas Maarawi, a Syrian blogger, web-developer and champion of open source software and free speech. On Friday, July 1, 2011, Maarawai was detained, by Syrian authorities, at his home in Damascus, and he has not been heard from since. A voice of freedom has disappeared from the face of the Earth, and the Syrian government has remained silent as to his condition and whereabouts.
Why Anas Maarawi, a man who simply wanted to express himself freely? He was a threat to the regime of Bashir al-Assad, the despotic Syrian president who is well known for his human rights violations, assassinations of political opponents, and criticism of democratic states, the United States included. Bashir's regime controls Syria's economy, and through mismanagement has kept the nation poor and on the verge of economic collapse. Furthermore, Bashir's security forces have required that Internet cafe's record user comments on chat forums, and they have also periodically shut down Wikipedia Arabic, YouTube and Facebook. Bashir knows that his control comes only through an iron fist and suppression of rights, and Anas Maarawi, with his quest for freedom, was his “public enemy #1.”
Maarawi maintained a personal blog, “Anas Online,” as well as several technical blogs. He also developed Android, the first Arabic blog for the Google operating system. Blogs are a forum for free speech, and Maarawi was blogging in Arabic, to an Arabic youth movement in revolt. He blogged about free speech. He leaked details of government-produced television series, and he commented on the Syrian government's block of Facebook and YouTube. He criticized the government for being the sole ISP in Syria, and having the ability to regulate information exchanges. Anas Maarawi, the voice of Syrian freedom, was a threat to Bashir, and on 7/1/2011, government goons took him from his home, never to be seen again.
Syrian authorities, as expected, have remained silent about Maarawi's detention. In fact, they have yet to make any statements, and surely have not admitted culpability in this crime against freedom. We do know that Maarawi isn't the only voice of freedom to be quieted. Other, less prominent, bloggers have also gone missing. The Syrian folk singer and political activist, Ibrahim Kashoush, was found with his throat cut, and Bashir's forces have also been implicated in that killing. To this day, Syrian governmental authorities claim that they do not take political prisoners or order assassinations. As expected, they remain silent on Maarawi, and the scores of others who have been killed or detained in recent months.
Where is the world outcry on the detainment and possible murder of Anas Maarawi, a champion of freedom and democracy? None of the free states, the United States included, have made any statements on the disappearance of this freedom-fighter, nor have they openly criticized Bashir's government for its recent rash of human rights violations. After all, Maarawi was Syrian, blogging in Arabic to an Arabic audience. Although he was an important voice of freedom to oppressed, Arabic youth, he was little-known outside of the Arabic world. The outcry would be audible had he been a white Westerner, but the free world chooses to ignore the plight of an Arab.
The outcry against Maarawi's detention has come solely from the blogosphere, where people truly value and champion free speech. Bloggers throughout Europe, the Americas and the Middle East have heard of Maarawi, and they are the only ones calling for his release. Pleas to Bashir's government have gone out, asking for information and his release from detention. Online petitions have been signed, yet only silence still abounds. The Syrian government fears bloggers and free speech, and will not waiver in its authoritarian rule.
Anas Maarawi has been a voice of freedom in a region ruled by authoritarian despots. All he ever asked for was his basic human rights. He championed the Arabic blog movement, and tried to give truthful information to the Syrian people. For this, he was deemed a public enemy by the government of Bashir al-Assad, who has a long and sordid history of eliminating his political opponents and dissidents. Maarawi's voice of freedom has gone missing, perhaps never to be heard again, and the free world remains silent.
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