Syria: Why is Assad Afraid of a 19-Year-Old Girl?

by Khaled Abu Toameh
October 12, 2010 at 5:00 am

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has finally been able to get some sleep since one of the biggest threats to his regime has been removed.

He believes that President Barack Obama used a teenage blogger to spy on him and his regime. The girl has since been arrested and could spend the rest of her life in prison.

Assad’s notorious and ruthless secret services, the mukhabarat, deserve credit for "saving" the regime in Damascus from yet another US "conspiracy."

There is good reason to believe that the security agents and army generals who uncovered the alleged plot have either been promoted to higher ranks or rewarded financially. This is how things are in a country where Facebook and YouTube are banned by the government.

Last December, Assad dispatched his much-feared mukhabarat agents to arrest Tal al-Mallouhi, a 19-year-old high school girl and blogger.

Her parents were not allowed to visit her in her prison cell until last week and, of course, she still has not been permitted to see a lawyer.

In Syria, as in most Arab countries controlled by tyrants, it is not unusual for detainees to "disappear" in prison for years and decades.

This week the Associated Press quoted an unnamed Syrian official as saying that al-Mallouhi was being held on suspicion of spying for a foreign country — an allegation that has been dismissed by human rights activists and bloggers throughout the Arab world as "ridiculous."

Although the Syrians have not provided details about the espionage case, it is widely believed that the "foreign country" the official was referring to is the US.

The Americans do not need a 19-year-old girl to gather information about Assad’s regime, they argue. Moreover, they continue, does such a teenager have access to state secrets and sensitive security installations that enables her to work for the CIA or any other intelligence agency?

Al-Mallouhi’s blog was very supportive of the Palestinians and carried poems about Jerusalem and strong criticism of Israel. The blog also features a photo of Indian political and spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Arab dictators have long resorted to the old trick of accusing their critics and political opponents of working for "foreign powers," especially the US and Israel. This is the dictators’ way of discrediting anyone who dares to voice a different opinion than theirs or speak out about controversial issues.

By leveling accusations of treason against their rivals, the dictators pave the way for their incarceration or elimination.

Many people who have demanded reforms and democracy in the Arab world, and who were accused of spying for the US and Israel, have been imprisoned or killed. Unless the international community intervenes on behalf of the high school blogger, she could meet the same fate.

Syria: Why is Assad Afraid of a 19-Year-Old Girl? :: Hudson New York


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