November 21, 2003, 9:08
By Nir Boms & Erick Stakelbeck
“The advance of freedom is the calling of our time; it is the calling of our country.”
With this statement, made in his November 6, 2003, speech calling for the establishment of democracy in the Middle East, President Bush galvanized an increasingly active contingent of Syrian democracy advocates. The Reform Party of Syria (RPS) – a fledgling, U.S.-based political movement comprised of resident Syrians and Syrians living abroad – was formed shortly after 9/11 to express a voice that has been virtually nonexistent in Syria during 40 years of oppressive Baath-party rule: a voice of freedom. For members of RPS, Bush’s castigation of “dictators in Iraq and Syria” who “promised the restoration of national honor [and] left instead a legacy of torture, oppression, misery, and ruin” provided a source of hope for a new Syria, one free from extremism, terror, and iron-fisted rule.