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YHS: From time to time. They summoned me to their headquarters 10 times in 40 months and prevented me from leaving Syria, even to go to Lebanon. But this applies to dozens of activists and intellectuals. And this is child's play compared to what tens of thousands of people suffered under the regime of Hafez Assad.
reason: What is the daily life of an opposition figure like in Syria? Do you find that society at large accepts you, even if the regime does not?
YHS: There is nothing unusual about our daily life except that we expect an "invitation" from the security services from time to time. Right now, a friend of mine is in their hands. They called on him four days ago and asked that he come see them on May 4. He was anxious when he telephoned me last Sunday. As for me, I spend my time reading, writing, sending and receiving emails, and meeting with friends once a week over a glass of arak. That is nearly all I ordinarily do.
When people are not afraid they express warm and generous sentiments toward some opposition figures, at least those who really respect people and have worked for their benefit. At the same time many Syrians have negative views about all kinds of politicians. They are not wrong because self-serving politicians, and now self-serving activists, are not rare.
reason: Is liberty possible in the Middle East of today?
YHS: Never; liberty and the Middle East are as incompatible as health and illness. If you want freedom you have to throw away all those traits that we see today in the region. Freedom is not possible in the petro-monarchies and emirates, not possible where regimes control security tightly, not possible for so long as the region remains a battlefield for global dominance, not possible when regimes are exempted from the human and political obligations faced by the modern state because they satisfy what the world hegemon, the United States, wants of them.
If you are asking whether there are inherent qualities in the peoples of the region that make liberty impossible and perhaps unimaginable, then believing this means that everything we learned since the Enlightenment is worthless. In other words, if those in the region are "incompatible" with freedom, then concepts of humanity, science and reason are irrelevant. But if these concepts are relevant, then freedom is possible and indeed compatible with what people in the region desire.