Digitization and Social Networks (Pros and Cons)

Below is the original draft of a speech I gave on November 23, 2015 — in the framework of the Professional Speaking Skills class, at the University of Graz.

I was nervous and my speech didn’t go according to plan, so the text and the video are not exactly the same.  For YouTube version click here.

[Taking a picture of the podium and sending via WhatsApp it to mother in Syria.]

A few months before I was born, my uncle passed away. Decades before that, when he was my age, he completed his studies in the UK, where he lived for years away from his mother. My mother once told me that grandmother used to ask her to put on Radio London, even though she never understood English. At the time, telephone was not an option, not in the part of Syria where they lived. Somehow, listening to the BBC was the only way my grandmother could relate to her son. Continue reading “Digitization and Social Networks (Pros and Cons)”

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The Devil between the Details and the Big Picture

Over the last five years, the Syrian establishment has grown more brutal. Those reforms that were foreseeable in 2011 now seem impossible. Corruption has reached unprecedented levels. The establishment’s values and propaganda have never been as exposed. And yet, my opposition to this regime has faded so much that I no longer know whether I’m learning to be pragmatic or if I’ve resigned myself, given up my former convictions, and, in the end, traded everything for temporary safety.

Read the full article on the Freeman

In Memoriam: Sameer Moghrabi, Father of the Good

Abulkhair, father of the good. Image courtesy of the Syrian Civil Defense in Eastern Ghouta

Like any civil war, this one has divided the population and even shattered families. I’ve had relatives fighting on both sides of the conflict. Sometimes you’ll hear about siblings fighting on opposite sides. After years of division, it’s started to feel a lot more like ‘us’ versus ‘them’ — but who the “us” and “them” are can change from day to day. That explains how rebels in Eastern Ghouta can bombard Damascus, which today houses the majority of those who have fled Eastern Ghouta. It also explains the kind of retaliation on part of Damascus that sometimes doesn’t take into consideration that these people are still family.

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Sameer Moghrabi, Father of the Good”

The Thin Line between Us and the Enemey

“It’s hatred that threatens us all, not bombs or rockets. Tuesday’s Jerusalem attacks make this point very clearly. These attacks should be a wake-up call that no missile defense, gun control or counter-terrorism measures will protect us when hatred prevails. The thing about hatred is that you can’t overcome it by bombing your way out; that always backfires.”

Read the full article on the Daily Caller

Define Moderate

“Today it doesn’t matter what vision you have for the future or what your declared principles are. It’s not enough to include minorities and women within the ranks of your party, nor is it reassuring to claim that you believe in democracy. It’s certainly irrelevant how good your relationship with the West is. What truly counts now is how good you are at managing and containing this very destructive war.”

Read the full article on the Daily Caller

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