Sami Mobayed asks why many of Syria's intellectuals are living outside Syria, and points to a simple answer: compulsory military service dating from the 1950s. According to Mobayed, most Syrians left during the flawed union with Egypt, during the early Baath years pre-Hafez, and during the early 1980s, when a coup seemed likely (and when 20,000 Hamawi were murdered).
The implication of Mobayed's piece is that the Syrian government is successfully uniting Syrians with a series of very modest reforms, and that major ones may be on the way. He suggests the martial law may be lifted, ALL political prisoners might be released, a major cabinet reshuffle will occur, reducing the number of government posts given to Baathists, full citizenship for all Kurds, and a lifting of the ban on opposition parties.
He thinks it'll have some effect, but - contrary to the Bush/Bashar view of the world, Syrians don't want an end to the emergency law, or general amnesties, or voting rights as much as they want better education, health care, jobs and housing. He says that's also a reason why the embryonic opposition remain embryonic, isolated and lacking popular support.
Mobayed points to the fact that none of the signatories of the Damascus Declaration - which claims that Bashar and his government are part of Syria's problem not the solution (essentially a call for regime change, not reform) - have been harrassed or arrested. Is this the dawn of the second Damascene Spring?
Full article: Sami Mobayed, "A brand name called Syria"