The ophthalmologist vs. the dentist

Ammar Qurabi, a dentist who serves as the spokesman of a Syrian rights group, was arrested in Damascus after he returned from a trip to the US:

Qurabi, who represents the Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria, had left Syria in January, associates said. He spent more than a month in the United States, attending a conference on Syria, meeting with other Syrian activists and giving a talk here sponsored by the Hudson Institute. Late last week, he flew to Paris to attend another conference on Syria organized by the Aspen Institute, then headed back to Damascus.

He was taken into custody at the Damascus airport and was moved to an interrogation facility known as the Palestine Branch and run by Syrian military intelligence, according to relatives. They said Qurabi was able to make a brief phone call to a friend after arriving at the facility.

"No one knows the reason" he was detained, said Bahia Mardeeny, Qurabi's wife, a journalist who did not return to Syria with her husband and is now in Washington. She noted that other Syrians who attended the same conferences as her husband had returned to Syria without incident.
If you're puzzled by the title, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad trained as an ophthalmologist in London in the 1990s.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.