SGV: On your Website, the Syrian Revolutionary Digest, you are described as “a liberal Syrian pro-democracy activist.” How do you define liberal with respect to freedom, democracy, human rights, minority rights and women’s rights?
AA: I believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international conventions on human rights, such as the Convention Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.
Inspired by my liberal values I started my “career” as an activist by launching the Tharwa Project in Syria as an initiative meant to facilitate the processes of democratization in the country and the wider region by addressing the issue of minority rights and improving inter-communal relations in the country.
My liberalism also includes a belief in the free market system, albeit my faith is balanced by an equal commitment to union rights and universal healthcare among other checks on the system. Continue reading →
As it happens, it was the Rushdie affair that inspired the book in the first place. The essay writing contest was the idea of the Ammar Abdulhamid, a US-educated Syrian who became disillusioned with radical Islam after the fatwa issued against Rushdie by Iran. He pointed out to the American Islamic Congress that while the Muslim world had vast, well-organised networks of people pushing extremist visions, nobody was doing the same thing for liberal ideas. “What we need is an essay contest on liberty with significant cash prizes,” he said.
On July 29, 2012, the “I am Syria” campaign was launched as “a neutral campaign, politically, religiously, and militarily, to express support and solidarity for the people of Syria and victims of the conflict in the area.” The campaign was launched as a joint effort between the the Summer Institute for Human Rights and Genocide Studies in Buffalo. Impunity Watch, and the Tharwa Foundation. You can follow the Campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Though I was chosen as the President of the Campaign, it is in fact the brainchild of my vice-president and friend, Professor David Crane, the founding Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (2002-05). Video below. Continue reading →
On May 15, and as part of the program for launching the Freedom Collection in Washington, D.C., I was invited by the director of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, to introduce President Bush by way of highlighting the tragedy currently unfolding in Syria. This was my introduction:
Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian human rights activist who in 2003 founded the Tharwa Foundation, a grassroots organization that enlists local activists and citizen journalists to document conditions in Syria. In response to his activities, the Syrian government subjected Abdulhamid to repeat interrogation and threats. In September 2005, he and his family were forced into exile in the United States. From his home in Maryland, Abdulhamid remains one of the leading bloggers and commentators on events in Syria through the Syrian Revolution Digest. Continue reading →
The following is the summary provided at the end of the 6th Episode of First Step, a reportage program produced by the Tharwa Foundation in 2009 to promote the cause of peaceful democratic change in Syria. I conceived the show after reviewing the YouTube videos prepared by our in-country activists showing the daily realities that people in Syria have to content with. the videos justified my faith in the possibility and necessity of the revolution, and that helped ut this summary together. The real heroes, of course, are the activists who risked their freedom and their lives to provide the videos. Continue reading →
On September 24, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus hosted an event entitled “Syrian Human Rights Policies in Syria and Toward Lebanese”. The event, moderated by Congressional Human Rights Caucus Executive Director Hans Hogrefe, featured testimony from Ali Abou Dehn, a Lebanese political detainee, Kamal El Batal, the Director of Human Rights for the World Council of the Cedars Revolution and Ammar Abdulhamid, Executive Director of the Tharwa Foundation. Continue reading →
On April 25, a day after my congressional testimony before the Near East and South Asia Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Tharwa Foundation took part in organizing another Hill event, this time focusing on Damascus Declaration and its potential role in leading the transition to democratic rule in Syria. In addition to speeches by representatives of the Damascus Declaration abroad and yours truly, a host of American officials and experts also took part in the event, among them: Ambassador Theodor Kattouf, and Congressional adviser Alan Makovsky. Below are some photos from the event. Continue reading →
On April 24, 2008, I became the first Syrian citizen to deliver a testimony in the U.S. Congress. My co-panelists included my colleagues from the Brookings Institution: Martin Indyk and Peter Rodman. In the testimony I try to set the record straight on the deteriorating internal situation in Syria focusing on Assad’s weakening grip and signs of growing popular discontent. The text of the testimony can be found below, and also on the House Foreign Affairs Committee website. Continue reading →
New York City greeted our planned Sit-In calling for the release of prisoners of conscience in Syria and which took place in front of UN headquarters with severe cold and much snow. But that did not deter us. Khawla, Mouhanad and I spent the whole day, but then we had to get back to Washington. Others braved it for 2-days.