James A. Paul, the writer of Syria Unmasked, and Middle East Watch are to be congratulated on a superb piece of research. Unlike the typical human rights inquiry, with its necessary but not terribly informative list of abuses and victims' names, this one paints a picture of the whole system that Syria has put in place. The authors achieved this through a combination of extensive reading and interviewing witnesses. The presentation is restrained; the facts speak movingly for themselves.
Chapters cover such topics as prison conditions and the use of torture; government control of nominally independent associations; the special controls on Kurds, Jews, and Palestinians; the tight vise on cultural activities. Perhaps the most outstanding chapter, because the most original, is the one that details the no less than fifteen security services, telling who runs them (nearly all 'Alawi) and explaining what each of them specializes in (Lebanon, the protection of government buildings, etc.). The study leaves an overall impression that the regime is more secure than it used to be, and so it is slightly less vicious; but its arbitrary rule has, if anything, increased over the years.
The only thing this report is missing is proper publication (as was done for the companion volume on Iraq, by Yale University Press).