The story of a young opposition activist who says he had to flee for his life
Farid, a 25 year-old Damascene journalist, was sitting with Bashar smoking argileh, Syria's version of the hookah, when his friend told him, "You should seriously consider leaving the country. It's not safe for you anymore."
One of Farid's many contacts within Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Bashar was a "freelance" IT consultant who helped the regime track down cyber-dissidents. Farid, who asked that his real name not be used for fear of retribution, had heard this warning from him before, usually before Bashar ended up crying in his beer about his complicity with a criminal dictatorship. Farid's stock response was usually to cajole Bashar to quit the losing side and join the revolution. "You'll get your own weed farm and a brewery in the middle of Damascus. I won't let them crucify you for catching demonstrations when Assad falls," he'd promised. But this time was different; there was a more menacing tone to Bashar's instruction.
"If you are ever to see your girlfriend again, leave the country. Do you still have people who owe you money?" he asked.
"No," said Farid. "I've got some money laying around."
"Get out now."
"I'll leave when the regime does," Farid joked.
"Don't worry about that. The regime is planning to leave in September if things don't get better, and things will probably get worse in Ramadan. They're arming all the minorities, trying to spark a civil war like the one in Lebanon. But this one will probably last 50 years."