Insane Bloodshed, Not Revolutionary Movement
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Tuesday, November 8, 2011
The images of death brought to us from Homs, Idlib and Hama no longer consist of footage posted on the internet of protesters attacked or shot by the security forces. They now feature killings of a sectarian and confessional nature. The human rights groups that have been monitoring the daily tally of deaths, injuries, and arrests in Syria confirm that this is a growing trend. It is also evident from the names on the casualty lists. The news media vary in their reporting of these tensions. But horrific accounts have emerged, and Syria could face an even more horrific future if they are not addressed.
Last week, the Local Coordinating Committees called for demonstrations to be held on Friday and stressed that they should be peaceful. The Committees have issued such calls weekly ever since they were formed. But the emphasis they placed this time on the peaceful nature of the rallies was telling. It betrayed the organizers’ fear that the protest movement as a whole could become infected with the violence that has begun to characterize it in several parts of the country. This violence is not of the kind associated with a conflict between two or more parties with known identities and aims. It is the kind of violence that leads to bloody chaos in which some want Syria to drown – chaos that the world and the region know very well, particularly the Iraqis and Lebanese.
Over the next couple of weeks, all eyes will be on developments in Syria following the understanding reached between the government and the Arab League on an initiative aimed at fundamentally resolving the crisis. But there are important players who have a different agenda. These can no longer be regarded as small groups that spontaneously took up arms in response to the killing and detention of protesters by the regime. They have acquired the capacity to organize, select their targets, choose who to kill, and carry out their threats – unnoticed by the Arab satellite TV news channels.
These groups could be described as being engaged in ‘nation-destroying.’ Their actions have resulted in the forcible or voluntary cleansing of a number of neighborhoods and localities. They seek to sow divisions along sectarian and confessional lines – between those who see themselves as the core of a revolution to bring down the regime, and others accused of defending it. Reports from Syria tell of children from one denomination being expelled or excluded from their schools in localities which have become ‘pure’ in sectarian terms; of groups of people fleeing from one part of the country to another out of fear of bloody sectarian revenge; of civilian buses carrying inter-city travellers or government employees being ambushed, and the passengers either freed or killed depending on what sect they belong to. The killings have been particularly savage, recalling medieval practices, or the images which the takfiris in Iraq tried to implant in the public consciousness a few years ago.
The situation appears to be beyond the capacity of any of the parties concerned – including the regime – to decisively contain or control. All the evidence indicates that the operations mounted by the army and security forces have been fuelling these tensions. People are divided about the regime’s actions. Its opponents see the members of the army and security forces as enemies to be overcome, and they define those foes in terms of their sectarian or regional affiliation rather political loyalty.
As nobody is in a position to propose practical ways of overcoming this, the debate on what needs to be done keeps reverting back to square one. Many are adamant that the regime alone is to blame, and not just for bringing about this deterioration. They charge that these armed groups are actually controlled by the regime and its agencies. They argue that the regime is intent on creating sectarian strife as a way of prolonging its hold on power. But people find this reasoning unconvincing. Many groups have withdrawn from the protest movement, fearing a drift toward civil and sectarian war that would destroy the country they seek to reform.
A different impression may be conveyed by the mainstream Arab media, which are overwhelmingly controlled by the Syrian regime’s enemies and serve as the propaganda outlets for their intelligence agencies. The fact remains that the bloody spectacle on the ground, and the stories circulating among people close to the scene, have led to a heightening of inter-communal tensions. They have also convinced many that the mass movement which began in Syria several months ago has taken an ominous turn. It can no longer be described as peaceful, legitimate, or independent. By no means, however, does that bestow legitimacy – either moral or political – on the crimes committed by the regime’s forces against its opponents.
Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.