On the telephone in Damascus, or via Facebook with Tartus (the Mediterranean coastal city and surrounding region with an Alawi majority, where my home village is located), I caught up with my friends and relatives on the events in Tunisia. We were all gladdened by this extraordinary episode in Arab history. Together we followed news of the Egyptian revolution, hour by hour, as if we were in Tahrir Square ourselves, and together we raised toasts when the end of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency was announced. Together we expressed our anger at the brutal violence of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime as it launched air strikes on Libyan cities and civilians.

As the revolutions spread from one Arab country to another, we were like a person filled with joy as he witnesses the realisation of a dream he never expected to come true; a great change was occurring to renew the waters of the Arab world which had been muddied and stagnant for a long age.

During this period we used to exchange views on the possibility of the rebellion reaching Syria, where political, economic and social conditions were unsustainable. We were particularly concerned by the lack of public freedoms in the country – freedom of opinion, media freedom, the freedom for political movements and civil society organisations to exist and develop and engage with Syrian society.

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