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Tuesday, November 27, 2007 

Has Amazon been blocked in Syria?

Anas is claiming that Amazon.com is now blocked in Syria (thanks Yazan). As Yazan comments: "Why would any regime block Amazon.com?!! Unless people are exchanging secret *how to topple regime* advices through book reviews!"

It seems to be an incredibly random move, if it is confirmed. It comes a week after Facebook access was stopped. It seems someone has got hold of a list of the websites with the most hits, and is blocking them.

As Golaniya says about the Facebook decision, "I think they did not block Facebook–the-site, but the unfamiliar reaction to this site." In other words, it wasn't the content of the site that worries authorities, but the fact that people are becoming active and using something the authorities don't understand.

Could Facebook be the number one site in Syria? Quite possibly. And Amazon is probably pretty high up there too.

But are these bans working. Well, Idaf raises an interesting point. If this really was about stopping civil society, then they've just lost a brilliant opportunity to monitor the activities of all these people who - of course - are using their full real names on Facebook.

This paranoid regime is a JOKE!!!!

I read an article just recently that the syrians are getting their facebook fix in beirut, because it has been blocked in Syria..

The mind boggles...

It is blocked on 195. I can confirm this.

Dear Sasa,

What I meant by "unfamiliar" is not the "how many" Syrians are using Facebook cause as I wrote in my post they are not many. What I meant is that when the authorities does not authorize a session on "honour" crime in Rakka, a book club meeting in a cultural institution in Litani street, a music club in FCC, and social active civil society in Facebook, they are not opposing these activities themselves but how these cases can affect the inactive Syrian society and the disbelief to change in the Syrian psyche. A Syrian citizen cannot even "attempt" to activate her interests and thoughts into deeds. They want people to merely eat and hang out in cafes and restaurants.

Now, what Idaf wrote is just ridiculous, he is a perfect example of the Syrian formal rhetoric: apologists for crimes! I wanted to write a response but I thought he's not worth it.

Oh and his friend Joshua is something, I cannot see how he can write on one of the most controversial regional countries in the region, i.e. Syria when cannot write on his own about Facebook! He plagiarized my post.

One final note, I had a meeting last night with three owners of blocked websites to discuss the campaign and the event we are organizing on Facebook, you'd be surprised to know that "stupidity" is the keyword to understanding the Syrian authorities' censorship of websites. Allow me to give you the scene:

Owner of a site (competing site) calls a clerk in the XXX security branch in Damascus:

- What's the deal with you guys? This website is cursing you and you stay still? Well do something about it!!?

The clerk:

- Really? you got it abu XXX! I'll do it myself.

The clerk does not read the article/comment or piece of news that owner was talking about (assuming if he read it he will get it), does not file a report to the administrator, there is no committee to discuss the reason of the blockage, just phone calls, tick, button pressed.

Yup, this is a disgrace and I did not imagine that to this this level this government has become!

I wish they have a list of the popular sites, I wish they thought we are dangerous, I wish they knew us to oppose us, but they cannot even see us! I am sorry to say, ashamed to say, that they are not even close to having a head on their shoulders.

Oh and anon, that piece of article is pathetic.

Ok, so Golaniya, you mean what is being blocked is the 'potential' for activity, rather than activity itself? Is that right?

The reason I quoted Idaf was to give an example of how senseless the ban is - even from the authorities' point of view. If they were serious about cracking down on civil society, it is much better to let Facebook continue, and watch the activities of certain people.

But as your clerk example very clearly shows, there is no organisation behind these decisions, it is some idiot pressing a button because he feels like it.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Sasa,

What I mean is the "activity" does not exist to them, they don’t see "what" you're doing as much as that you are "doing" it. They are paranoid of the word "do", "organize"…etc. that does not mean that they might support the activities, we are talking about people who have no idea what you are doing in the first place, but they have the authority to smash what you're doing simply because you are "organizing" a gathering.

So what does it mean if there is no organization that is making decisions to block these sites? Does that redeem the authorities because their clerks are stupid? Isn’t the clerk a reflection to this authority's corruption culture that has been lasting for decades?

Nothing redeems censorship, nothing redeems human rights' abuse. And nothing redeems this regime.

Then they are more concerned about the fact that people are using Facebook, rather than what they are doing with Facebook?

I agree that there is a corruption culture, but how do you get rid of that? Even when you have a change of government the culture isn't removed.

This is a societal problem, not a leadership one. And it is a failure of leadership if it is not tackled.

To use an analogy, how many governments have there been since independence? 10? 15? But still the French system from the occupation period permeates the system of government, the education system, the law.

My point is, that the corruption culture is a very real problem which needs to be tackled directly.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Sasa,

While your argument focuses on the "outcomes" of corruption than the "makers" of it, that it is societal and not the leader is corrupted, my argument is that the regime's corruption made this very community corrupted.

Hence tackling the regime is tackling corruption.

Sorry Golaniya,

I thought those thoughts might get a bit confused! No, no, I was absolutely not blaming the French for the corruption. Corruption is a problem endemic across the Arab world - I really recommend the UN's Arab Human Development Report (written by academics from across the Arab world) - the link is here:

http://www.undp.org/arabstates/ahdr2005.shtml

They published four reports - 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. I can't remember which one the bit about corruption is in. But in 2005 they focussed on women's rights. It is very interesting.

Anyway, my point is that we are to blame, not the French.

The only reason I mentioned the French was to show that no matter how many times the Government changes, the culture doesn't get swept away with it.

The culture of corruption is something that has existed long before this government, and will last long after.

The role of the government is to either let it continue, or to try to end it. My criticism is that they are not doing enough to end it.

If it is a little clerk making his own decisions to block a website or not block it, without getting permission to do it - then they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

Was this decision directly authorised by anyone above him? No. But he still did it. That is corruption - it is corruption not JUST against the people, but ALSO against the government!

Hi,
Sorry if I'm interrupting your conversation golaniya and sasa :). I just want to comment on what sasa has said:"It seems someone has got hold of a list of the websites with the most hits, and is blocking them.". In fact this is right, if you check the top ten list of the most visited websites (according to alexa.com) you'll find that most of the top 10 are blocked or was blocked for a while (facebook, yahoo, msn, youtube ...) and now Amazon.

Nice blog sasa, it's my first visit and I liked it ... really :)

Sasa: "The culture of corruption is something that has existed long before this government, and will last long after."

Me": Ok so? you mean if it existed "before" (assuming it has) so it's not their fault that is existing "now"? this is not about the origin of corruption discussion, there is severe corruption in Syrian society, civil society is trying to lessen it, and for that people are imprisoned, detained and exiled. So yes, the regime is not only corrupted, but fight to continue this very culture.

Sasa: "The role of the government is to either let it continue, or to try to end it. My criticism is that they are not doing enough to end it."

Me: They are not doing enough?? Dear Sasa, they are not only doing nothing to stop corruption, they are reinforcing corruption. It is because of corruption they existed in the first place, if they are ever going to fight corruption they are doomed.

Sasa: "If it is a little clerk making his own decisions to block a website or not block it, without getting permission to do it - then they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it."
I second that, but do they care? How many reports have been written so far against censorship, why haven’t they done what you're saying?

Sasa: "Was this decision directly authorised by anyone above him? No. But he still did it. That is corruption - it is corruption not JUST against the people, but ALSO against the government!"

Dear Sasa, corruption culture is made, enhanced and continually encouraged and practiced by the regime against the Syrian people is precisely what made a clerk, a citizen, practice this very corrupted culture. He is a response to a 40 years of corruption, his very corruption is not "his" but "his-theirs'". You are undermining the process, the policy that has now become a culture. people are now affected by this regime, they no longer need a decision to violate law, they've become this regime. Corruption has become one essential element of the making structure of the Syrian society. It will take a lot of years to eliminate it and I doubt the makers of corruption will eliminate their own culture.

Actually Anas not really, if you checked the website you've mentioned and clicked on the "country" to choose Syria from the list they will list 100 top sites, and from these facebook which is top 6, Blogger is top 47, Youtube is top 15 are the only popular sites that are blocked from the 108 list of the blocked sites. Amazon is not rated as popular according to this site.

So out of 108 blocked sites three of them are popular, hmmm. Not sure if someone has a list at all.

Golaniya: "There is severe corruption in Syrian society, civil society is trying to lessen it, and for that people are imprisoned, detained and exiled."

Me: You are right to bring up these illegal detentions. And these people have done a lot to campaign against corruption.

But do you really think that is why they are targeted? Because they are fighting corruption? I think there are a lot of reasons - their fight against corruption isn't one of them. Even the government acknowledges corruption is a fight worth fighting (of course, that is a mask - because they are not doing anything themselves!) - not only is the subject not taboo, but something officially endorsed.

Golaniya: They are not doing enough?? Dear Sasa, they are not only doing nothing to stop corruption, they are reinforcing corruption. It is because of corruption they existed in the first place, if they are ever going to fight corruption they are doomed.

Me: I agree.

Golaniya: I second that, but do they care? How many reports have been written so far against censorship, why haven’t they done what you're saying?

Me: No, they don't care. They are a clumsy, giant organisation which doesn't have the ability or willingness to respond.

Golaniya: Dear Sasa, corruption culture is made, enhanced and continually encouraged and practiced by the regime against the Syrian people is precisely what made a clerk, a citizen, practice this very corrupted culture. He is a response to a 40 years of corruption, his very corruption is not "his" but "his-theirs'". You are undermining the process, the policy that has now become a culture. people are now affected by this regime, they no longer need a decision to violate law, they've become this regime. Corruption has become one essential element of the making structure of the Syrian society. It will take a lot of years to eliminate it and I doubt the makers of corruption will eliminate their own culture.

Me: You're going back to the roots and effects of corruption. Society, and this government, is a product of endemic arab corruption. Until we accept that it is part of the system, we can't fight it, because our fight will be in the wrong direction. If we campaign against government patronage (basically long-term bribery) - a new agent (eg business) will come along and fulfill that role. We have to tackle the root, not the product. Corruption is the reason the national income of the 22 arab states is LESS than the national income of spain. Our culture is rotten to the core with corruption.

Hi Anas - thanks! You're welcome.

Golaniya - maybe the officials only looked at the main list and weren't clever enough to look at the syria list of websites?!

Also, I'm not sure if the Syria list can be accurate. When i look at my web counters, none of the syrian hits are 'officially' coming from syria?!?! Is it because they are going through proxies?? I don't know these things...

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  • Written by sasa
  • From Damascus, Syria
  • From Damascus to London via Beirut. Based in and out of the central Damascene hamlet of Saroujah. News and feelings from the streets every day. I'm talking rubbish? Leave a comment. Welcome to the information democracy. See below for info about this site.
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