Monday, August 08, 2005

My message to Syrian Expatriates Minister

Here in I include my message to "Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban," the Syrian expateriates minister.
I sent this message through her personal web site: http://bouthainashaaban.com

"Dear Dr. Bouthaina,

Please let me have the pleasure to thank you for all the sincere and hard efforts you are undertaking for a better and stronger Syria. Here, we are made proud by our governments’ honorable stands, and we pledge support and loyalty to our country under the leadership of Mr. President Bashar AlAssad.

This mail is with regard to the delay of military service for the Syrian Expats residing in the Arabic Gulf States and the law governing it. I perceive this law as a means to give the chance for our technical professionals to pursue career development opportunities outside Syria that will participate later on in developing our country. It serves also as an acknowledgment of the service our expats do outside, far from their families and society, acquiring wealth and expertise in line with the efforts of their brothers serving in the Syrian army.

Please, let me introduce myself:
I work in Saudi Arabia for an international company specialized in the drilling of oil wells. The company is an equal opportunity employer who seeks diversity by hiring high profile engineers from all over the world. And it offers a very promising and rewarding career development. I was given the chance to join the company by fulfilling some criteria, like having an excellent academic record. I view my job as an opportunity to gain exceptional technical and managerial experience that I can use for my own benefit and one day for the benefit of my country; if god wills.
Recently, and after submitting a residency document obtained from the Syrian embassy in Riadh, I have been denied a postponement of my military service and was informed that I would not be able to leave Saudi until the beginning of the next year.
This has caused me a great personal distress. It has impacted my personal life in many ways. Engaged recently to a Syrian lady, this will leave me without seeing my fiancé for 1 year. Also, I have scheduled technology-training courses in UK before the beginning of the next year, canceling them will have a negative impact on my career. These are few aspects to mention, and I will not elaborate more on that.
I would like here to express what I believe are the current facts and amendments that should be applied to the laws governing the commute of Syrian expats to their country:

The acquiring and processing of Residence documents:
With the current fast nature of work, finding time to issue residency documents and process it is not as easy as it looks to who has got used to the bureaucratic ways of doing things. As a country looking for bright future and reform, I believe the starting point should be breaking bureaucracy, which is a major time waster and efficiency detrimental. Referring to current management context, we can find that a major role of a successful manager is a “Bureaucracy Breaker.”
I have been to many countries and embassies, and it took minutes to verify that I’m residing in Saudi Arabia. Because it is there in my passport, it is stated clearly and stamped with relevant dates. Why should it take us months to verify what can be verified instantly? Same could be applied to the Visit Permit; what is the real necessity behind it? Cannot it be verified at the boarder that the visitor is a Syrian Expat?

The time limits permitted:
The current law allows the Syrian expat in the Gulf States to leave the country of residence for no more than 3 months a year. We should ask ourselves: is this number chosen as a result of a careful study? Did it really take into consideration the consequences of this imposed limit on our Expats and on our own country’s interests? Or was it just a random choice of number?
Here I can present few reasons why this number is not in favor of the competitiveness of our working force living abroad. The nature of work is changing, and it has been changing for quite a long time, because of all new technological advancements. Successful companies are expanding and becoming more and more international. Mobility is an advantage if not an essential condition of employment with these companies.
I will talk also about companies working in Oil field. Working in oilfield is very demanding; it requires working in remote locations, in harsh weather conditions, and for long hours, while residing away from civilization for weeks and months in other cases. As compensation, the oil companies offer contracts that accommodate for long vacation days spanning from at least 3 months up to 6 months a year. That is regardless of the training courses offered in other countries where these companies usually have and operate specialized training centers.

The choice of residence countries:
The question here is: Why is it only the Gulf States? Aren’t our expats in other countries doing the same service? This take us back again to the same fact about the international nature of today’s companies. And after all, the question is: either we acknowledge that the expats are doing a civil service to their countries, so we give them the proper privileges regardless of their country of residence. Or we do not acknowledge, and then we have to deny these privileges to all of them.

To summaries, the current system in place for producing and processing the paper work doesn’t provide for the changing nature of the world around us, with all these communication technology revolution. And after all, its necessity is even doubted.
The current time limits imposed do damage the mobility and adaptability of our work force abroad, and in most cases they lead into its abuse by low quality employers or by unfair employment contracts. And finally, our expats in all countries are there for the same reason and serving the same interests, they should be given fair treatment.

At the end, we can say that, the current laws governing the relation between our expats and our beloved country need revision for a more favorable state of our expats, and consequently, their home country. As Mr. President says, “This home is for every Syrian with no condition but love and loyalty.”

Yours truly,
Bassem Mansour"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The road from Saudi to Syria; Welcome to Syria

It was twice the times that I crossed the boarders from Saudi to Syria, then twice the times in the other way. What I have to say is that the Saudis are doing the best job, the Jordanians are doing a good job, while Syrians are doing the worst among the three.

Let’s try to see the matter from the eyes of a Syrian expat who’s crossing the boarder going to his own country, most probably after a long time away. If I can’t know how the others do really feel, I have to say it from my own view. Each time I go back home I feel so enthusiastic to touch the Syrian ground, to have the nice and worm feeling of one’s inside his home. And to be frank, I do expect it from the moment I reach the Syrian boarder. Just to be disappointed starting by the non-friendly gestures of almost every stop at the different Syrian boarder posts.

Crossing the Saudi boarder, literally, you don’t have to step outside your car. You just sit there in your comfort and hand your papers to the immigrations officers sitting in the kiosks with hand reaching distance. Our brothers in Jordan don’t have the same system, but we can say they are trying to make it up with their friendly gestures and by saluting you each time they approach you asking for papers.

I wont say that every Syrian officer is treating you bad; actually some of them are nice and try to be friendly, while others might even rob you by taking money to process your papers. Then what the real problem is? The problem is that up till now, we didn’t realize in Syria that ones manners do leave an impact on the other people he’s dealing with. Well, that’s fine if you are just dealing in normal everyday life cause after all you cannot expect all people to have good manners. But when you are dealing with people while you are doing your job, you have to do it the proper way; you have to conduct yourself properly. That’s what we call in other instances, customer care.

In most other countries, well the countries I’ve seen till now, the officers at the ports will be accounted for any misconduct they might do, they even have systems to assure the quality of conduct. You know why? Because ports are the country’s gates; they are the first impression a visitor will have when he enters the country. They are the first and very important step with building rapport with other nations and cultures presented by their visiting citizens.

Please protect our gates; let’s show our beloved country in a proper way. Let’s make our welcome gates as lovely as our country is.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The lose-lose situation of Syrian expats and their home country

World wide, the Syrian expats are driven by urging need to visit their country and reestablish the connection with their beloved ones, their society and culture.
For their disappointment, they find that it’s not easy as it is supposed to be because of all the paper work and bureaucracy encountered in the process. Not mentioning that their relatives have to follow up on the paper work to make sure it’s processed.

In my personal experience, it took me over two months to get a residency status from the Syrian embassy and send it back to Syria where it was being processed for long time before I got the results that I was renounced the right to come back to my country before the beginning of the next year. Not only this, but I cannot leave my country of residence before the beginning of the next year also, in order to be able to come back to the country. Other wise I will be confiscated and sent to do my military service.

If it’s agreed upon that the expats working abroad are still following a mission to serve their country by acquiring wealth and by acquiring knowledge and skills that can work for their home country, why should we renounce them the right to connect with their beloved ones, and send them to do military service. Well, they are already doing a service to their country, which is harder than military service in many aspects.

I work for an international company based in the Arabic Gulf where I have fixed sets of vacation and training seminars that I have to attend in Europe. they sum to the total of more than 4 moths a year. According to the current law, I cannot leave the country of residence for more than 3 months a year or I will be renounced the right to come to Syria.

The world is changing; the nature of work is changing also. While it’s taking months to process admission papers, I can do amazing things on the Internet ranging from conducting business to 24 hours banking to 24 hours online training… etc. and after all, the laws that govern the relation between expats and their country didn’t change. So should I destroy my career and destroy my technical development in order to go to Syria, in order to marry a Syrian lady and build myself a house back home. Cannot I do that while keeping my job and a promising career? Well, I’m afraid if I lose my current job I wont be able even to dream about building a house.

By chance, my manager is a Syrian expat who was born outside Syria, and he himself is disappointed because of all the processing he needs to go to Syria and sometimes it just doesn’t work at all and he has to wait till the next year. Few days ago we where discussing that and he told me the amount of frustration he will encounter because of the bureaucracy and jargon he is encountered with whenever he goes to the Syrian embassy. What harm will we do if we grant him approval for visit on the fly? Especially that he has visited the country before, which means he has a clean record; if you understand what I mean.

Another friend of mine work for the same company and he’s just disappointed because he has never got the chance to know a Syrian woman that can guard him and his family with her deep cultural and religious beliefs. They have says here about Syrian women; about how good they are and how lucky you are to marry a Syrian woman. And after all, we Syrians living abroad cannot get to know Syrian women and build our families with.
What harm will we do if we allow our men living abroad meet our ladies who can protect them from the suffering and disappointment they have in their relations with foreign women who doesn’t understand and value our values and believes.

The current laws that govern the commute of Syrian expats to their home country are dull and outdated. They cannot let the expat enjoy his rich heritage and beautiful county, while not allowing the country to benefit from the wealth and energy the expats can bring in, leading to a lose-lose situation. It’s better for the benefit of our beloved country and its loyal subjects to change them to what can benefit all.

Syrian Expats Blog on line

Since this site is on, I would like to have the pleasure to invite any Syrian citizen who believes that expats are indispensable mean for the revival of our beloved country, to publish their views for a better future.

Today, I received the news that I won't be able to go home, not to get confiscated and sent to do my military service. Then I was looking through the internet to find a way to say what I believe is going on with me as a Syrian expat.

I found Blogger.com of great help. Then this site was up and published on the network; Thanks for Blogger.

In my search also, I came across the Syrian Expatriates Ministry web site. There I found a welcome message. From that message, I quote: “In this ministry, we will work hard to restore the ties with all our Syria sons living abroad. And to execute Mr. President directions that this home is for every Syrian with no condition but love and loyalty.”

I would also thank Rima my fiancé, the lovely Syrian lady whose waiting for my return back home, for her love and support.