Internet or enter-not: the Syrian experience
This working paper reviews the history of the internet in Syria, seeking to make a projection for its future in the country, in light of the current barriers and restrictions. The paper clarifies that the Syrian Telecommunications Company was authorised to enter the internet age in 1996. However, the internet was available only for some official departments and foreign agencies.
The author notes that during the first years for internet in Syria, Syrians in search of information used Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish internet providers. In this sense the document quotes that “until 1999, Syria was one of the rare countries in the world which was connected to the global internet network but did not allow its citizens to access it.”
Nevertheless, 2005 saw increasing growth in the internet sector with the arrival of two other private service providers on the market, but broadband access was still reserved for the privileged. At the same time, all forms of state control over information technology have been reinforced.
The author tries to find out the criteria for blocking sites, claiming that there is no fixed criteria either for banning sites – except where they are Israeli or pornographic – or for authorising them. In addition, main sites that offer blogging services are banned, and blogs are few in number.
Still, the paper concludes that despite its precarious state, the internet in Syria remains an effective tool for expressing political, cultural and social views. For instance, the document notices that the use of the internet is prevalent among “young” parliament candidates, as well as some “old” candidates who discovered this new tool for personal promotion.