22 February 2003

The Wonderful World of Syria

As students here at Wayne State, we believe in education and the educational opportunities that arise. We also believe in open discussion of ideas and ideologies. However, there is a problem when there is an opportunity to do “educational business” with a terrorist country.

In the beginning of January, Wayne State signed an agreement of scientific cooperation and cultural relationship with the state controlled Damascus University in Syria. In any other case this would be a great opportunity to learn about another culture, but in this instance it is clearly wrong to have any connection, scientific or other, to the country of Syria.

Syria is one of the countries on the U.S. State Department list of states that sponsor terrorism. Syria supports and harbors terrorist organizations, including the al-Qaeda connected Hizbullah. Hizbullah is responsible for the murder of hundreds of Americans, in the bombings of the U.S. Embassy, and the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut - and probably the Kohbar towers bombing which murdered 19 American soldiers. Syria is also home to Hamas, a terrorist organization which has murdered hundreds of Israeli civilians as well as many American citizens in homicide bombings. We also must include Syria’s support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Al-Jihad and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. All of these groups have been involved in murdering Americans around the world. (www.nationalreview.com/comment/comment-horowitz102401.shtml)

What about Human Rights? Governmental Syrian security forces rule everyday life in Syria. They arrest and kill citizens for their political and religious beliefs. Not only do they murder individual citizens, they have already massacred thousands. In 1982, in order to end political dissent, Syrian security forces moved into the city of Hama. They proceeded to massacre between 30,000 and 40,000 Syrian men, women and children. In addition to this massacre, thousands of people were displaced. Nobody has ever been held responsible for these murders. In fact, Rifa’at Asad, the uncle to the present president of Syria, who was in charge of the massacre, was rewarded by being appointed to be vice-president of national security. Other officers were given higher ranks. Ever since the massacre in Hama, there have been no protests against the Syrian government. (www.shrc.org/english/99reports/18021999.htm)

As if all this were not enough, Syria is a major center for drug trafficking as well as forging Western bank notes. In November 1997, President Clinton told the Chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee that he wanted Syria and Syrian-occupied Lebanon removed from the list of 30 countries who grow and distribute drugs worldwide. This was based on the fact that those countries had reduced the amount of poppy fields used in the production of opium. They had also reduced the amount of cannabis, used for hashish and marijuana production. However, Clinton failed to notice that Syria and Lebanon had increased production of harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine. These drugs are more profitable, harder to trace and more dangerous. Over the last two years, Syria and Lebanon have increased production of hashish and marijuana and are the number one drug trafficking country in the Middle East. (www.ict.org.il/articles/crime2.htm)

Bringing our focus to Syria’s business practices, Syria has a new program to bring foreign investments to the country. This includes free-trade zones and laws that make it easier to build the country’s economy. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, this includes doing business with another repressive dictator in the region - Saddam Hussein of Iraq. This agreement was brought forward by the Syrian Ministry of Industry. Syrian and Iraqi officials have said that the value of the trade exchange is holding at about a billion dollars. (http://arutzsheva.com/article.php3?id=2010)

When we look over all these different areas that the Syrian government is involved in: everything from being a haven for and funding terrorist organizations, massacring tens of thousands of their own citizens, and being the number one drug producing and trafficking country in the Middle East, it is inconceivable how Wayne State University has decided to have any connection to the country of Syria. Who knows who the recipients of joint scientific projects will be. Iraq? Al-Qaeda?

Damascus University is not a public university like Wayne State. It is a university that is completely controlled by the state, without any chance of freedom of expression by the professors there. This agreement is being peddled to the students of Wayne as being part of “building bridges” between “equals” and “academic freedom” for those involved. Syrian professors and students do not have a concept of what “academic freedom” means, or even what “freedom” means. By creating such an agreement, we are legitimizing a murderous, terrorist, drug trafficking state. As far as “building bridges” between “equals”, this is not a bridge I in good conscience would like to help build.

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