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Syria: Security amongst the student ranks? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Regarding the protests that broke out at the University of Damascus a few days ago, students at the Faculty of Science claim Syrian security agents were heavily deployed throughout the collage and the surrounding area, and that many security agents even attended lessons in the lecture halls!

The worst misfortune is the one that makes you laugh, and so Syrian activists ridiculed these security measures on the Facebook social networking website, where they said: “throughout the week, they [the security agents] have had to pray with us and attend the Friday sermon, and now they must learn with us at university!” One joked that “this will make them more civilized in their dealings with protestors” in the Syrian cities. Is it conceivable that a state, any state, would deploy security forces in mosques, to examine the identity of worshippers, and likewise deploy them throughout universities and cafes, yet then go on to say that there are cars being driven by unidentified masked men firing on people in the streets, in order to promote the theory that the unrest in Syria is a foreign conspiracy? Is this the best way to achieve security, and to address a crisis that could have major implications for the regime on the whole? This is inconceivable.

The problem is not only security forces infiltrating universities, but also the spread of the so called Shabiha [gang]; this is an armed group who the Syrians view as being above the law. This group functions to suppress citizens and their demands, working under the auspices of the security services. This appears not just to be a feature of the Syrian regime, we also saw how the Egyptian security forces used thugs during the 25 January Revolution in Egypt, and before that we saw the so-called “Fadai Saddam” [militant group] in Iraq, and today we are seeing the actions of armed militias loyal to the sons of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. It seems that Arab police states are based on militias rather than institutions, just like the [armed] militia deployed in Iran to suppress its own citizens.

The question is: if this is the mentality of police states with regards to the management of security, and dealing with their citizens, what is their fundamental perception of the rights of their citizens, let alone preserving their dignity? How can those governments consider demands for reform, and improving citizens’ quality of life, when they enact discipline through gangs? It is true that all countries of the world, and the respected ones in particular, have advanced and strict security apparatus used to combating drug smuggling and counter-terrorism, but these are institutions, rather than militias, thugs or mercenaries, such as those that we have seen in Libya. If the establishment of security, and control over the citizens, is in the hands of outlaws, thugs and mercenaries, then what is the value of the judiciary, or state institutes in these countries? How will Syria, for example, abolish its emergency law? Therefore, it is not surprising that the Arab citizens have broken through the wall of fear and silence, and that police states – which first came to power through coups and oppression – are now being overthrown after all these years. What we are seeing today during this crisis is what Arab citizens have lived through for many years!

Day after day, crisis by crisis, it has been confirmed to us that the earthquake of incidents in our region is aimed at republics which have turned into monarchies. In these regimes, rulers did not hesitate to use any means necessary in order to remain on the throne, but the question is: who can go against the zeitgeist and the current reality? The answer: No one!

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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