The media is spinning Ahmad Tomeh’s selection (he ran unopposed) as Prime Minister. He’s being described as a dentist, a humble man and a moderate consensus figure. When his Islamism is mentioned, it’s only to describe him as one of those nice friendly “moderate” Islamists.
The stories concentrate on his signing of the Damascus Declaration, without mentioning that the Declaration was an act of collaboration between the Brotherhood and democracy activists.
A real bio of Ahmad Tomeh takes us into dark territory.
According to a biography published by the National Coalition, his political career began in 1992, when he helped set up a peaceful resistance group in Deir al-Zour. He began to preach Friday sermons at mosques in 1997, but was stopped after two years by the authorities.
So the “dentist” also moonlighted as an Islamic religious figure.
The BBC gives his human rights credentials
In 2001, Mr Tomeh joined the Committee for the Revival of Civil Society in Syria, which campaigned for democracy, the release of prisoners of conscience, and the protection of human rights.
Mr Tomeh was one of the founders of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change (DDDNC), a coalition of political parties, human rights groups and pro-democracy activists named after a 2005 document that demanded Syria’s transformation from a “security state to a political state”.
In December 2007, Mr Tomeh became the DDDNC’s secretary general. One week later, he was detained with several other leaders of the coalition and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
What’s the Damascus Declaration?
In 2005, secular Syrian opposition parties and the London-based Muslim Brotherhood signed a founding text entitled the Damascus Declaration which called for “a democratic and radical change.”
And the Syrian Observer mentions that he “was detained after giving a speech at the funeral of Mohammad Murshed al-Khaznawi.”
While the government allowed prodemocracy activists to speak freely with the international media-something that was very rare a few years ago-those who openly communicated with the Muslim Brotherhood courted danger.
In May, prominent Kurdish cleric Sheikh Muhammad Mashuq al-Khaznawi was kidnapped and tortured to death after meeting with Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadr al-Din al-Bayanouni in Belgium and publicly calling for the group’s inclusion in Syrian political life.
A few weeks later, security forces arrested nine members of the Jamal al-Atassi Forum for Democratic Dialogue, a secular nationalist political salon, after a statement by al-Bayanouni reiterating the Brotherhood’s commitment to nonviolence and democracy was read aloud at one of its meetings (most were released several months later only after pledging to cut off communication with the group).
Rather than discouraging the opposition from uniting, however, the government’s obstinacy encouraged secular liberal, Kurdish, and Islamist dissidents to work together. In October, representatives of all three opposition currents signed the Damascus Declaration for Democratic and National Change, which explicitly called for the regime to step down and endorsed a broad set of liberal democratic principles.
The Syrian government wasn’t cracking down on human rights activists, so much as on the Muslim Brotherhood. And it could hardly be blamed for that. The Muslim Brotherhood is a ruthless terrorist organization that uses political and violent means to build a totalitarian state.