Syrian Christian Activist Hadeel Kouky Opposes More Than the Syrian Regime
|September 4, 2012|
The following excerpt was taken from MECN.org.
For many months, a young Syrian Christian woman, just 20 years of age, has been speaking candidly about the situation in her country and her personal experience opposing the government of Syria as a democracy activist. As early as March 2011, when anti-government activity was hardly measurable and could hardly be called a protest movement let alone a popular revolution, a student named Hadeel Kouky (also written Kouki; Arabic: هديل كوكي) was already active distributing flyers about democracy and the government was quick to take notice.
Shortly thereafter, the young Christian woman was arrested along with her friends and detained for a period of more than 40 days. In prison, she was interrogated about her anti-government activities, a process which included the administration of electric shocks and other harsh treatment. After her release, she returned to her activities as a democracy advocate, at which point she had discovered that cities like Deraa and Homs had begun to defy the government. With her continued defiance, Hadeel Kouky had to face the authorities a number of times until she realized it would be safer and wiser for her to flee the country, especially after they prevented her from returning to her studies at university where she had been active in organizing and participating in anti-government protests.
In a tale that sounds as if it were taken out of the pages of Lawrence of Arabia, Kouky sought the help of bedouin nomads to smuggle her out of the country, and eventually met up with men under arms who smuggled her to Turkish controlled territory. Kouky later traveled on to Egypt where she continued to speak openly about her anti-government views and exposed the government for the brutal way she was treated. In her own words, she says she was “abused in prison for just expressing a thought.” In a society that has been ruled by an authoritarian regime, and in a predominantly Arabic and Islamic society where respecting elders, not opposing the views of your host in their home, avoiding religious or political discussions, stopping short of expressing what others might consider blasphemy, and other cultural norms that place greater value on social acceptance than individual expression, her open calls for democracy as a young Christian woman of all people are entirely out-of-place within the local cultural context. This does not excuse the brutality of the government in its response to her acts of expression, but it does earn the young Christian female student extra merit for the many taboos that she broke simultaneously.
The expatriation of the young activist did not bring an end to either her vocal opposition to the Syrian government nor to her persecution. Kouky’s ordeal continued in exile in Egypt where sympathizers of the Syrian government found her, threatened her, and physically assaulted her. Why? Because she would not silence her voice and as she claims “the government is especially critical of Syrian Christians since their vocal opposition erodes the legitimacy of the government’s claim to be the guardians of a secular Syria” that permits every religious community to live securely and practice their faiths freely. The importance of a Christian is that minorities in Syria have not always had this luxury, not least of whom are the Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam, who were severely mistreated and persecuted for centuries under Ottoman Turkish and Sunni Muslim majority rule. Many argue that the persecution that the Alawites faced is in part responsible for breeding the harsh behavior of the ruling Alawite clans who run the country, including the family of President Bashar Al-Asad. The proponents of this theory suggest that indeed every action has a reaction, and that without a cultural value system that fully embraces human equality, a country like Syria, much like other Arab and Islamic societies, can never have a liberal democracy in which men and women, people of any religion, race, sect, tribe or age, can be guaranteed equal rights before the law, human rights, and civil rights.
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