The charges dropped against Aktham Naisse, who heads the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria, is a major positive step. This long awaited political relief comes at a crucial time following the last Baath conference with its propositions of political and economic reform. Aktham was accused of insulting the country”s reputation, a convenient charge used by many regimes against their opponents particularly when no actual charge can be made.
As I read this news, I remembered my teacher and colleague, Professor Arif Dalilah, the economic intellect who is held in one of Damascus”s prisons also with no valid charge against him. Despite the fatal condition of his health, the man remains deeply in love with his country and frequently eulogizes the beauty of Damascus. Despite his loyalty to his country and patriotism, the issue is that he has a conflicting opinion. He did not behave in an irrational manner, use improper words, or hurt anybody. This peaceful, compassionate academy professor has taught thousands of students in Syria and Kuwait.
I dreamt that a major political decision was made to remove all prisoners of opinion from the Syrian jails and in particular, those detainees who have never been violent against their societies and whose hands are not stained by the blood of innocent people, but who defended their points of view peacefully and in a humane manner. Such a decision would advance Syria and strengthen its internal front. It would also protect Syria against the regular campaigns waged against it whether they are just or false.
It takes a lot of effort to change political and economic reforms that have been defended by President Bashar Al-Assad for years. Political and economic relief must be concrete to the Syrian people in order to send a message to the international community. The first steps to this reform would be a national understanding and acceptance of opposing views and the release of prisoners of opinion, as well as allowing the freedom of multiparty activities on a number of levels and the ending of the single-party control over society.
The release of Aktham Naisse gives one hope. The pain, however, comes as we dream of reform only to wake up and find that nothing has changed. Nevertheless, since hope is a friend of an optimistic man, we will keep hoping, dreaming and of course, waiting.