Let us assume that the Syrian domino will follow the same path as Tunisia and Egypt. Then let our imaginations take us far far away where, in the blink of an eye, the person who will win the upcoming presidential elections in Syria is an ideal and exceptional figure with similar characteristics to the Rightly Guided Caliph Omar Ibn al Khaddab (may God be pleased with him) with regards to fairness, decisiveness, austerity and strength. Can you imagine that with limited sources of national income this “Omar-like” president will do away with unemployment and will solve the problems of poverty and housing and the major problems regarding the youth? Can you imagine that he will turn Syria into a country where the people will not find anyone in need of Zakat [charity]? It is not necessary that these ideal characteristics exist in any leader around the world to transform his country into Plato’s republic. There is a lot of historical evidence from the biographies of just leaders, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, that nations are willing to accept and love the leader and be truly loyal to him even if they, along with him, live on water and dates, and this is on the condition that he lays the foundation for fairness.
This is exactly what the Syrian government has failed to understand. In an attempt to contain the tension and the demonstrations that broke out in the several Syrian cities, the government recently embarked boldly upon making promises that lacked real political reforms. For this reason these promises were met coldly by the Syrian nation and in order for us to realize that there is a large gap between the Syrian government’s “non-reform” promises and the real demands made by the Syrian street, a Syrian academic sent a strong-worded letter to President Assad reproaching him for not releasing political prisoners and not bringing the emergency laws to an end.
There are two main factors in these demands that would trouble any nation in this world; one is gaining freedoms by lifting martial law and releasing “non-criminal” prisoners, many of whom were thrown into prison and have remained there for several years without trial or through unjust military courts that are authorized under emergency law just like in Tunisia and Egypt. It is interesting that the release of such prisoners is one of the biggest concerns the people have even if they are not related to the prisoners or know them personally. This became noticeable in the popular demands that followed the outbreak of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Algeria and of course the people who are excluded from this are those who were involved in terrorist activity harming state security and society. The second factor is fighting corruption.
There was a very big chance that Syria would eventually be affected by the Arab tsunami [of revolutions] that swept Egypt and Tunisia and that is now sweeping Yemen and Libya. However instead of the Syrian government making the most of this delay by implementing pre-emptive and preventative strikes through the implementation of major reforms, what we saw was the complete opposite. The Syrian government was overcome by self-conceit and felt it was an exception and not vulnerable to the anger in its troubled Arab surroundings. It believed that its leaders were protected by a solid front and that confronting Israel would grant it immunity and a blank cheque to do what it wants to its people. This is the worst kind of blackmail and regrettably this kind of blackmail has been seen in the Arab world before. [Hosni] Mubarak used this approach when he reminded his people of his feats in the October War. Gaddafi condemned anyone who was against “the glory of Libya” which resisted Italian colonialism “house by house and street by street,” and now the Yemeni president is reminding Yemen of his great contribution to uniting the two parts of Yemen. They all delayed in implementing reform measures and all of them claimed to be different and now they have all become lessons for people to learn from.