I have a Syrian friend here in Oregon who has refused to discuss the political situation in his home country in public for the eight years I have known him. He left Syria (illegally) on foot in the 1990s and walked to Greece through Turkey before making his way (legally) to the United States. He won’t say the name of Bashar al-Assad out loud even at a Starbucks in Portland. He only feels comfortable doing so at his house or mine.
“They have spies everywhere, even here,” he says. “And my parents are still in Syria.”
He was being overly paranoid, I told him. There is no chance Syrian secret police are listening to his conversations at a Starbucks in the American Pacific Northwest. He said I was naïve, that it’s impossible for someone who didn’t grow up there to comprehend how thoroughly oppressive that government is.
I’m right, and I know I’m right. The mukhabarat really isn’t listening to random people’s conversations at this location.
Even so, he’s a little less paranoid than I first thought. The Wall Street Journal reports that “diplomats” from the Syrian Embassy are spying on Syria’s outspoken dissidents in the United States.
Syria is taking its war against President Bashar al-Assad’s political opponents global, using diplomats in Washington, London and elsewhere to track and intimidate expatriates who speak out against the Damascus regime, according to Syrian dissidents and U.S. officials.
Syrian embassy staffers are tracking and photographing antiregime protesters and sending reports back home, Syrian activists and U.S. officials say. Syrian diplomats, including the ambassador to the U.S., have fanned out to Arab diaspora communities to brand dissidents “traitors” and warn them against conspiring with “Zionists.”
It is long past time to banish these people from the United States. Deport everyone from the embassy and padlock the door.