Bearing these hard-won achievements in mind, I have a question: How was it possible that Syria's Assad, who until recently required his people to get permission from the government to buy a fax machine, could move so rapidly from that position to explaining to all Syrians over the government's TV the technicalities of installing a satellite reception dish that could link them to the entire world? What a drastic change!
I could hardly believe my eyes as I watched this on Syrian public TV, and I remembered an incident that took place in mid-1992.
At that time, I was training in finance and looking for experts in the field. We found an ex-professor from a Syrian university, who had settled in Syria after retirement. We invited him to fax some documents, as, at that time, email, the Internet and scanners were almost unknown. To my surprise, the ex-professor asked me to wait for the documents, as he needed some time to travel to Lebanon in order to send the fax.
What, then, had forced a dictator like Assad to make the concession on satellite outreach to a people he had always controlled by fire and steel? I believe it was the freedom current and tide now moving through the Middle East. The wind of freedom blows so strong that it shakes dictators made of stone as if they were mere leaves on a tree.
Assad and his Baath party belong to history, simply because they cannot swallow the words "freedom" and "dignity." As a factual matter, despotic thinking, ideology and parties died the day the Berlin Wall collapsed. Where they have persisted, it is only because they have managed to live on borrowed time.