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oubliette (noun, from the French "oublier, to forget"): A tiny prison or dungeon cell where one prisoner is sealed inside, with a small hole for food, and forgotten forever.
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In Vleeptron's informal survey of sucky Earth places, Syria is tied with Myanmar (those who wish it freed of its brutal, repressive junta call it Burma) as the nation with the worst systemic human-rights abuses -- abductions, murders, massacres, torture.
I used to volunteer with my town's chapter of Amnesty International. I am no shrinking violet, but I found that the work we'd chosen was the most depressing, spiritually miserable work of any volunteer effort I'd ever been associated with. The work we tried to accomplish wasn't hopeless -- but it sure put on a damned fine impersonation of hopelessness.
I strongly urge you to join your local or campus chapter of Amnesty International. I think it's the most important work in the human-made world.
But prepare yourself for a brutal stomping of your heart, and a sense of profound shame to realize that human beings, members of your own species, do such vile things to their neighbors, sisters and brothers -- and dare to call it a valid form of government.
Our specific focus was activities to try to free a Syrian university student who had held up a sign politely calling for a little more freedom at his university.
He remained in a Syrian prison for about 18 years. If he'd had anything anybody called a trial, it was secret, closed to press and public, conducted by the security police, and he had no lawyer and no chance of acquittal. They may not even have bothered with the sham trial.
And then, miraculously and mysteriously, we learned he was released from prison and freed. We had no way of knowing how much our A.I. chapter's 18 years of advocating for him had to do with his release.
We were thrilled. Our instincts were to celebrate with him, hug him, congratulate him.
But we couldn't.
If we'd aimed any communication his way to congratulate his release from prison -- a phone call, or one lousy $2 Hallmark greeting card ("Congratulations on your release from political prison!"), it might have attracted the Syrian security police enough to get him arrested and tossed back into his oubliette again.
So we had to pretend that we didn't know him and didn't know our adopted prisoner had finally been freed.
Likewise, he didn't dare send us the slightest hint of thanks for our efforts.
A long time ago I used to believe that I had no right to be judgmental about other nations, cultures and societies, because I was here (USA) and they were a world away, I didn't speak their language, I was woefully ignorant of their history and their religions, I hadn't been raised among them -- and hell, my USA had tons of its own human-rights nasty habits.
That's crap. Murder is murder, injustice is injustice, rape is rape, making people disappear for decades -- or forever (Pinochet's Chile used to fly prisoners over the Pacific and throw them out of the Air Force plane) -- is a bestial form of "governing" which no heritage, however ancient, can justify.
Be as judgmental of crappy shitholes like Syria as you like. Be judgmental until their people rise up as they've been doing all over the Middle East and North Africa to force progressive and democratic change, and overthrow regimes which rule by gunfire and dungeon.
If you disagree, and maintain that a bourgeois ignoramus like me has no right to be judgmental about the human-rights atrocities of nations like Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Yemen, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Bahrain, please Leave A Comment and set me straight. Make it persuasive. I got to see that.
If you're really passionate about perpetual autocratic one-man or junta rule by live-ammo massacre and dungeons, sign your name.
I may be a judgmental bourgeois ignoramus -- but I sign my name to my ignorance.
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Al Jazeera (Doha, Qatar)
Tuesday 19 April 2011
Syria 'lifts emergency law'
Government approves bill lifting emergency law, in place for 48 years, following demands by pro-democracy protesters.
Syria's government has passed a bill lifting the country's emergency law, in place for 48 years, just hours after security forces fired on protesters.
Tuesday's move is a key demand of pro-reform demonstrators who have been holding protests across the country for weeks.
A senior lawyer said Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president [son of Hafez al-Assad, Syria's previous dictator for 29 years], was yet to sign the legislation, but that his signature was a formality.
According to the country's official SANA news agency the government also abolished the state security court, which handled the trials of political prisoners, and approved a new law allowing the right to peaceful protests.
However the interior ministry also passed a law that says citizens must obtain permission to demonstrate, the agency said, hours after the ministry imposed a total ban on political gatherings.
Syria's emergency law gave the government a free hand to arrest people without charge and extended the state's authority into virtually every aspect of citizens' lives.
Cal Perry, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Damascus, said the three steps were a major concession to protesters.
"The people on the ground here really wanted to see not only that court dissolved but also the state of emergency lifted because of these abitrary detentions, as they would put it.
"But the government is certainly going to draw a line between what they call peaceful protesting and an armed insurrection."
Hours before the decision, security forces had fired on protesters in the city of Hom, killing at least six people.
Rights groups say that more than 200 people have been killed in the protests which started in the southern city of Daraa one month ago, inspired by uprisings gripping Arab nations.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
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