Mustafa Nour is a human rights activist who, for reasons of safety, did not want to be identified by his full name in an op-ed piece in The New York Times:
"My foreign friends always tell me when they visit that the comment they hear most often from taxi drivers, shop owners and others is, “In Syria, there is security.”
True, Syria does seem much more stable than its neighbors. And though I often find it difficult to ascertain the opinions of my countrymen, especially in matters concerning politics and the regime, many do believe that it’s a fair bargain: limits on personal and political freedoms in exchange for the stability that is so dear to them. And those limits are quite strict: Syria has been ruled by emergency law since 1963, under a strong-fisted security force; opposing (or even just differing) opinions can lead to arrest, imprisonment or, at the very least, travel restrictions."
"Syria has degenerated into chaos and bloodshed so quickly in these past few weeks that I keep thinking: was our stability, our distinguishing characteristic, ever even true? The government tells us that if the regime falls the country could devolve into sectarian chaos. Perhaps that is so. But what did the ruling Baath party — the leader of our state and society, according to the Syrian Constitution — accomplish over the last 48 years if that is so?
And then came President Assad’s speech on Wednesday.
I was waiting for a different speech, one that spoke of holding those who fired on protesters accountable, that announced the end of the emergency laws, that called for closing the files of political prisoners and amending the Constitution to create greater freedoms. But what we saw instead was a show of power by Mr. Assad and a show of loyalty by the members of the Parliament. There was a clear declaration that anyone who continued to protest, to request our rights, to petition for the future of our country, was nothing but a troublemaker.
Because of his speech, many of those Syrians who called for reform will now begin calling for regime change."