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The Washington Quarterly 30.4 (2007) 157-159

Letters to the Editor
On 'The Syrian Opposition'

Dear Dr. Lennon,

In the Winter 2006–07 edition of The Washington Quarterly, Joshua Landis and Joe Pace wrote in the article "The Syrian Opposition" that in February 2005 the then-arrested and now-imprisoned Syrian civil society activist Michel Kilo met with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood chief Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni in Morocco and Europe. The authors attributed the meeting to my March 2006 report on the Syrian opposition entitled "Democracy to the Rescue" for the Institute of Current World Affairs.

However, my article only cited that "two unnamed members of the Syrian Committee for the Revival of Civil Society" flew to Morocco to meet Bayanouni. In a subsequent e-mail exchange with Landis following Kilo's arrest by the Syrian authorities in May 2006 for his work with the opposition, I did not confirm Kilo's alleged meeting with Bayanouni.

This is a sensitive subject in Syria. Membership in the Muslim Brotherhood is punishable by death under Syrian law, and association of Syrians with the organization is strictly prohibited. To my knowledge, no other journalist or researcher has confirmed the alleged meeting.

During subsequent e-mail correspondences on the matter, Landis said he made the allegation based on an interview with an "anonymous" source. Landis claims a line reading "interview with anonymous" in the footnote citing my article was removed by TWQ editors prior to publication.

I do not claim Landis's accusation directly led to Kilo's conviction, but given the fact that he was in state custody at the time, the sensitivity of the matter is obvious. Following his arrest, Kilo was charged with "provoking religious and racial dissent, insulting official institutions, weakening national sentiment, damaging the image of the state and exposing Syria to the danger of aggression." On May 13, 2007, Kilo was sentenced to three years' imprisonment on charges of "weakening national sentiment." [End Page 157]

I request a clarification on this matter in the pages of your respected journal.


Andrew Tabler

Institute of Current World Affairs

* * *

Dear Dr. Lennon,

The publication of Joe Pace's and my article on the Syrian opposition in the Winter 2006–07 issue of The Washington Quarterly has stirred up a controversy, focusing on whether Michel Kilo, one of the central architects of the secular Syrian opposition, traveled to Morocco in February 2005 to meet with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to unify Syria's splintered opposition and agree on the principles of what became the October 2005 Damascus Declaration, as we had written.

When I was preparing to write this article, I e-mailed Andrew Tabler for confirmation of Kilo's role as an architect of the Damascus Declaration. Andrew had already written a fine article on the opposition, describing the Morocco trip without saying who had gone on it. In the course of the e-mail exchange, Andrew kindly offered to help with questions and responded to me, among other things, that "[a]ccording to several people I interviewed, Kilo was the guy who went to Morocco and met with Bayanouni in [February] 2005." Ali Sadreddin Bayanouni is the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

I was grateful to get what I believed to be this confirmation of Kilo's central role from Andrew and to find out that "several" activists he had interviewed had told him "Kilo was the guy who went to Morocco." I wrote to ask how I might credit him for his help and if he would coauthor. He wrote back, "[J]ust give me some kind of special credit in the footnotes. That would be enough for me." I understood this as confirmation that Kilo went to Morocco and that I could use it in my article if I credited Andrew. I cited his published article but did not mention our e-mail exchange. I should have.

I am aware of no one who denies that Kilo went to Morocco, but beyond the controversy about whether...


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pp. 157-159
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