Shortly after President Bashar Al-Assad assumed power in the year 2000, Syria witnessed a period of relative freedom of expression, during which political forums where opened for an extensive public debate, and a newborn civil society movement started to push for reform and change. What had been known then as the "Damascus Spring" came to an end in early 2002, when the government closed down most forums and arrested many activists.
Now the country is living a similar atmosphere. Everybody is talking about the changes that are expected to take place after the upcoming Regional Congress of the ruling Baath Party in June. In newspapers, on satellite TV channels and on the web, Syrians are participating in a debate about the future of their country. Although the increasing freedom of expression is most clearly noted on the internet, you can also feel it on the street; people who seemed to have no interest in politics now boldly express their views on change and reform.
In Damascus, for the first time in years, there is hope in the air:
It will be spring again!
Update (24.5.2005): No. Not yet.
Picture: Barada River at Al-Jisr Al-Abyad