Businessmen and BusinessMobs (5 of 5) Unfamiliarity about Something Breeds Standing Against!*

Businessmen and BusinessMobs (5 of 5) Unfamiliarity about Something Breeds Standing Against!*
Once an Australian middle-aged European originated woman in her fifties, working as a room attendant with one of my hotels I was staying in, caught my attention; as it seemed to me she was trying to call indirectly. This is while my wife was busy picking up things before our leaving the room. I asked her if there is anything I could do for her. She started talking about her getting the room tidy and the chores for so doing. No sooner, with an expression of apology, she asked, "Sir, yesterday evening my husband and I were impressed by your online profile and the great accomplishments you have achieved, though you barely have reached 50! While my husband and I are about the same age as you, yet we do not have much! We do have a house on our own, a car, leading a quiet life, and have a nice voyage yearly.

Could you tell me why we are not as rich as you and how can we be?” A question more often than not, I am showered with. It looks as though a mystery I had solved or a genie came out of its bottle and gave me the key to wealth and vanished!?

“Madam, I believe you know that for someone to work on any professions against a paid monthly salary jobs including yours will not make you rich,” I replied. “If you were to get rich, you need to have tracked down the ways to riches; doing business or coming up with innovation is the genuine source of wealth in today's world (2). The thing that makes you cheesed off with your way of life at present is the wrong way you are calculating your income. As a businessman, I calculate my income by the number of projects I deliver, the deals I harbor, and the amount of money needed to make them through successfully. A doctor's calculations, in this sense, should be different. S/he needs to calculate her/ his income by the number of patients successfully treated. A lawyer needs to calculate her / his income by the number of cases won. A teacher likewise needs to calculate one’s income by the number of students she/he educated, taught, and qualified. 

The calculation in your case needs to be looked at by calculating how many rooms you cleaned, made tidy, how many checked-in customers were pleased with your performance, and how many recognitions you received for your good performance. In that case, we would look favorably about what we are doing in our lives. Carrying out professions all across the board is supposed to provide a good enough way of life for those involved; it certainly could never turn any into riches. Otherwise, when each one of us makes calculations and tends to view things from others standpoint; we then would feel envy; which in turn gives birth to hatred. ! Just imagine if I am green-eyed jealous of my friend the doctor for his treating thousands of people while I cannot?! I would have then overlooked the fact that I did not choose the study of medicine and its practice as a profession!? All it takes is that I will remain angry with myself, envious of my friend, and have a feeling of dissatisfaction throughout my life. It is the tragedy of miscalculation, wanting what others have, and being forgetful about what we actually have. For people to be poor and in destitution, it is a matter of disgrace to the corrupt regimes that should have built up an organized society and provided sufficient means for the people, instead of robbing their country off and squandering the its resources!”

It is worth noting in this context that the communist ideology shaped the minds of the educated and partisan Arab elites, much as it had stirred many of the young generations since the beginning of the twentieth century until today. This romantic awareness proved unrealistic and abject failure; when the countries whose economies had been relying on collapsed, and by the same token, their political systems and communities fell all apart. As it happened when the Soviet communist bloc collapsed. This bent of thought gave birth to a hostile and false relationship among the classes in society, which presumably, should have been complementary to one another. 

In contrast, the capitalist and liberal systems solved the problem of the conflict between the classes by their application of just laws to all members of the society, including the fair distribution of wealth, the right to medical treatment, adequate housing, education, the right to a decent living with a salary that provides the basics for an individual as well as for all members of the community. On top of that, they legally formulated and organized fair and just relations between the employers, the workers, and the employees. 

On the other hand, fake religious texts besides the way such false fabrications were interpreted might have contributed to the negative attitude according to which the society looked at businessmen and entrepreneurs. For example, there is a fabricated hadith attributed to the Noble Messenger (Peace Be Upon Him) that reads: “Accumulation of wealth can only be made through stinginess or doing prohibited acts!” Far be it from him (PBUH) to say that. A concept such as this has no place in the culture of Islam. Otherwise, most of the companions of the Messenger of God who raised the banner of Islam, such as Khadija, Abu Bakr, Othman, and Ibn al-Aas, all of whom were merchants and rich, were to be thieves and stingy people. Hence, this is something that can never be true!? Not to mention the fact that stinginess in itself does not make someone wealthy or rich, even if having some money makes one enriched! Likewise, the wrong interpretation of some verses of the Holy Qur’an, such as the interpretation of the ayat: (And those who hoard gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah - give them tidings of a painful punishment.) Only those incompetent would hoard money; those who have no idea about how to invest or those who seek to smuggle it. As for the business class, merchants and manufacturers, they invest money and spend it on expanding their facilities, trade, and projects, with a view to expanding their success. A practice such as this makes rewarding compensation in favor of the community, more valuable and far more important than hoarding money and thus avails spending zakat on the money, creating job opportunities for community members, and transforming the nation into an active, powerful, and influential player. Monotheistic religions all at large urged the practice of this behavior. *

Let me bring up few factors that had taken a toll on the negative perception and mistrust towards the business class in Syria. First, for 60 years, the Syrians grew up seeing that the majority of the businessmen put in front of the public eye were corrupt people interconnected with the crooked criminal regime. Thus, how could a man of the street know that there are ways for one to get rich far from being involved in forbidden acts. And on that basis, people judged all rich businessmen to have earned their money from forbidden acts?! Second: the corruption of the ruling class in Syria did not allow for yielding commercial and industrial opportunities in the light of which the Syrian citizen could see that getting rich is a natural phenomenon (2); as it the case for an American, Australian, or a Gulf states citizen; countries which are considered the land of opportunities nowadays. The third factor: the Syrian citizens' distrust in their country corrupted legal system prompted each to appoint oneself as a judicial officer, a supervisory accounting institution to whom businessmen should report the source of their money income, a presiding judge pronouncing sentences as well as an executioner, all in one formula. Notwithstanding the fact that none has the competence nor an efficiency to carry out any of those tasks!? This is while for a European, American, Australian, or a Gulf citizen the issue is different.  They think differently due to the citizen confidence in the effectiveness of the country's security forces and the justice its courts uphold!

As mentioned in a previous article, the Syrian business class, led by the businssmen class, is the guardians of the Syrian nation, because of its strengths that distinguished it throughout history. I do not have comparative studies delineating the Syrian business class and its Arab counterparts to get my point across. As an alternative, I will employ the observational approach in making comparisons and coming to conclusions. By way of an example, I will examine the Arab diaspora in recent years, as it may enable us to shape an opinion on that basis.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of the Arab people are going through a period of diaspora. The first was the diaspora of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, followed by the 1988 Somali war diaspora, then came the diaspora of both the Iraq wars in 1991 and 2003, as well as the Libya, Yemen, and Syria wars diaspora, on the heels of the Arab Spring revolutions outbreak. The first stark impression confirms that the Syrian business class, merchants, industrialists, and craftsmanship, managed during a few years of its diaspora to stand out and distinguish itself in the countries in which it was dispersed, whether in Europe, Turkey, Egypt and the in the Gulf. 

The Arabs built markets and streets of their own business, introduced new developments in the delivery of their business and service rendering, infused in these markets an active spirit, and thus looked at with admiration for their strength, their remarkable speed of renewal, and the rebuilding of this class. Regrettably, they were unable to take on an organizational order. The class is suffering an exaggerated lack of confidence among its members. A member of which described the situation as: “Just like grains of sand, each grain is rock-hard on in its own, adept for a survival struggle (1), but it is almost impossible to knead them altogether”!?

The Syrian Businessmen Council: A powerhouse that selfishness and the lust for bossing have wrecked! 

Several months following the revolution upraise, the businessman Ismail Al-Saadi, who lives in Dubai, called for the formation of a businessmen's council. I immediately agreed with him. Some of the members preferred to keep their membership secret out to fear, and many withdrew quickly when the situation got complicated. Then the council broke up after a year and a half. The council provided hundreds of thousands of tons of flour and foodstuffs to the afflicted Syrians. It, however, just like any Syrian gathering, suffered from cliquishness and regional-inclination diseases and a lust for some to show off and boss around!

Perhaps the most important thing the council was positive at was its getting-together the Syrian social and political leaders opposed to Bashar Al-Assad and trying to establish an administrative relief fund from Syrians’ donations, with a group of Syrian society leaders standing on its back, and working toward an independent national decision. I worked hard for three months until this grouping came into a success! Meetings were held at my house in Dubai in March 2013. My family was then living in Europe. Dr. Burhan Ghalioun attended those meetings in his academic capacity, as a wanted leadership public figure, as well as in his capacity as the head of the National Council. The late Michel Kilo also attended as an opposition member and the head of the Democratic Forum. The venerable Sheikh Saria Al-Rifai was present, as a figure trusted by the Syrians, along with his son Ammar. The inventor Adnan Wahoud took part in his personal capacity and as reporting attendant to put Mr. Issam Al-Attar in the picture as to the meeting deliberations, I pray Allah, the Almighty God that they all may long live. The meeting was also attended by a number of the Businessmen Council members. 

Its objective was to establish a Syrian ad hoc body that oversees and follows up the task shouldered by 54 Syrian figures, among the best technocrats in diaspora. They were charge with the task of laying out a vision for the revolution in keeping with the international law, in addition to administering the areas liberated from the Al-Assad regime and preserving the files of the Syrian state institutions. The said body may not interfere with the National Council and/or the coalition affairs; it, however, supports both, while both as per requirement may consult the body. That was because we had expected that Al-Assad would resort to destroying the state institutions. We however never thought that he would destroy the entire state and send the people in diaspora. During that meeting, I offered to donate $50 million to the fund. The project then again ended up in smoke; as Kilo gave it a killing blow when he declared that the Saudis gave him a promise that he would be having a hookah in Hijaz coffee in the next coming June. Soon after, he lured a number of businessmen *** to the Council to act as members of the Conference of Democrats which he established in Cairo in May, and contributed to transforming most of them into “politicians” (!?), who, albeit my insistence, no longer observed the council's principles. Accordingly like all Syrian gatherings, it ended up in vain and gone with the wind in the diaspora. I was left alone with what I started off spending about 18-20 million dollars from my pocket annually on Orient Media Group as well as on the Orient for Human Relief organization, which is another story of the success for a Syrian businessman!

Orient for Human Relief organization:

Dr. Ammar Martini (1), in agreement with the former executive director of the Orient Media, lawyer Fadi Michael Jabbour, (2) submitted a project proposal to help the wounded demonstrators who were shot by the Al-Assad’s militia during their going to the streets in protests. Those wounded were consequently taken to Turkey to seek treatment and escape being arrested in hospitals and clinics inside Syria. Dr. Ammar requested a budget to have the wounded be admitted in the Turkish hospitals to receive the necessary operations. He pledged, with the help of the Syrian doctors who fled the regime, to establish a post-surgery medical center to care for the wounded, in order to reduce the overall costs. I agreed on the condition that I would shoulder the entire administration; so that no further burdens would be assigned to me in addition to the many I already had been charged with, except for funding.

 In its first year, later on, the mission positively developed and gave birth to the Orient for Human Relief (OHR) organization. OHR established 10 hospitals in abandoned Syrian buildings distributed over the northwest, northeast, and south of Syria regions. Some of the buildings were headquarters of the ominous Baath Party, scores of which were destroyed by the Al-Assad and Russian warplanes for about 4 or 5 times, as it was the case with the Kafranbel Hospital, which we reconstructed time and again. With the help of a team of more than 1,100 doctors, nurses, workers, and employees, we set up around 72 medical points. Those points provided treatment for over 3 million patients, performed about 40 thousand full anesthesia surgeries, an equal number of half anesthesia surgeries, provided an ambulance system, a vaccination campaigns system, and a school in which about 21 thousand Syrian students were educated. Moreover, following the criminal Al-Assad's use of chemical warfare as weapons against the civilians, I donated about one million atropine injections, which OHR distributed all over the Syrian cities. We also set up a number of camps for the stricken families in the north of Idleb. 

Dr. Amar Martini, an energetic sort of man, would have been rewarded with setting up a memorial monument in recognition of his deeds, had he been hailing from different national background! Relentlessly he kept on looking for resourceful funding solutions; when he came to know that the monthly payments I had to make were increasingly overwhelming for me to withstand for long, so much so that for months the bills had reached about one million dollars.

He made arrangements in coordination with his cousin Shadi Martini and was able to connect me with a large group of American businessmen, including one Syrian, the wonderful Dr. Yahya Pasha, through the Alliance of Religions organization, which was founded by Mrs. Georgette Bennett, an American Holocaust survivor. The organization hosts about 120 American humanitarian organizations of all faiths. We reached an agreement that they would secure the medical needs, including medicines, equipment, and relief materials, and deliver them to the nearest mutually agreed upon point in Syria. On its turn OHR would handle the entire logistical tasks, starting from the clearance of goods to their distribution, the establishment and management of hospitals and schools, the payment of the salaries of doctors, nurses, teachers, workers, and employees, and securing fuel and everything the projects may require. Indeed, starting from 2016 my expenses decreased gradually year after year; thanks to their help and by dint of the fact that the Syrian areas in which we could provide aid were contracting.

Let me give an example: In December of last year, we were able to secure and distribute medicines worth $8 million in the Syrian liberated areas, which were provided to the Idleb Health Directorate, the Free Aleppo Directorate, the University Hospital, in addition to about fifty medical facilities, all of which provide treatment free of charge. Every month, OHR receives from the alliance of American businessmen and their affiliated organizations no less than 2.5 to 3 million dollars in the form of medicines and medical devices; all of which have been distributed free of charge for years. This is while people tend to think that it is the world’s different countries and the international organizations that are the giving hands doing good for them rather than their own sons!?****Allah the Almighty God rewarded me for the better, instead of that sort of the Syrian businessmen who failed me as well as letting down their people. They simply throw in the towel out of fear and selfishness. Until this moment, I have spent from my own pocket about 200 million dollars in aid for the Syrian people, to get rid of this criminal regime! Until this very day of writing this article, OHR has never accepted any financial support in cash. It only accepts personal support assistance from Syrians exclusively, in addition to accepting in-kind aid, in the form of medical or relief materials from whoever may wish to provide.

In this respect, I cannot help but pay tribute to the souls of the medical and media martyrs, who worked for Orient medical and media centers. They reached about 25 martyrs who were killed in action by direct targeting of the Al-Assad and Russian warplanes. I would also pay due tribute to hundreds of patients who died in the bombing of those hospitals.

I, Ghassan Aboud, an internationally high ranking recognized businessman who belongs to the free Syrian people, hereby declare that I will continue to fight against Bashar Al-Assad and the likes of him in Syria, and am going to do my very best to free my country so long as I can!

Notice: Mr. Ghassan Aboud will be taking a break. He will stop writing his weekly articles (Every Monday) during the summer vacation next August. He will be back on the 6th of next September. 


*A quote by the Egyptian thinker Ahmed Lotfy El-Sayed

** The Book of Zakat by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

*** This does not mean that all businessmen are straight. One of them A.Q.S. lied about the amount of his aid in addition to his failing the Council of Judges after promising its members a monthly salary, of which he did not pay a penny; and subsequently I had to pay them in full, for an amount of USD 450 K. I will be talking about the story of this person with documents in future articles.

**** The humanitarian organizations, due to the nature of the international conventions they are bound to observe and yet hampered with, may provide their assistance to recognized governments. Consequently, all of their aid went to the Al-Assad regime, something that the same international organizations acknowledged that the regime used the aid as a pressure tool to blackmail the people living in the besieged areas. The regime moreover used the aid as a tool in its support in favor of its loyalists. The regime hence distributed the aid into the markets and sold for its benefits! Only the NGOs, with Orient at the helm, provided the medicines, the hospitals, even tents and shelters for refugees, as well as setting up centers for documenting the criminal acts and giving assistance to have locally incurable difficult health cases be sent for treatment abroad. They also contributed to the establishment of social centers and set up workshops for refugee women in the areas beyond Al-Assad’s control.

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