Syria: Questions Linger as the Revolution Continues

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Demonstrators march against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Homs 21 November 2011. Banners read, (C) "Freedom for detained students at Assad's prisons". (Photo: REUTERS - Handout)

By: Ammar Dayyoub

Published Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Syrian people have shown since the beginning of their non-violent uprising that they are capable of shaking the foundations of the regime and stripping it of all legitimacy. However, the regime has in turn shown that it will not hesitate to use all weapons in its arsenal to eliminate dissent. The majority of Syrian cities are no longer under the control of the regime, which is unable to enter them without resorting to acts of violence. Meanwhile, the popular uprising has not subsided. On the contrary, it is continually growing in size and scope. If not for the sustained power of this uprising, the current international, regional, and Arab influence would have been irrelevant.

More recently, political forces in Syria and abroad, namely the Syrian National Council (SNC), are trying to ride the wave of foreign military intervention à la Libya, ignoring the catastrophic consequences of other examples such as the US occupation of Iraq. These political groups do not trust the Syrian people and fear that the uprising will fail, but they do not understand that the uprising has grown precisely because it has no identifiable leadership and has remained popular, non-violent, and unarmed.

When violent security measures have forced the opposition to become armed, its sole purpose has been to protect peaceful demonstrators. The regime is trying to push the uprising towards militarization, and a segment of the opposition is trying to cut deals in order to avoid this. However, foreign military intervention will open the country up to the machinations of imperial and regional interests and the fragmentation of the Syrian state along communal and sectarian lines. This is neither in the interest of Syria nor its Arab neighbors, and it would complicate the task of rebuilding Syria as a democratic civil state.

Those advocating foreign military intervention and arming the uprising do not understand that resorting to militarization will compromise the popularity and moral high ground of the resistance movement, which largely depend on the use of non-violent strategies. This would also weaken the movement’s resolve by removing entire popular segments from the protests once weapons begin to play a fundamental role. If the government can scare off women, children, and the older generations from the mix by using violence, the rest of the people will follow. Thus, defectors who have parted ways with the Syrian army may be useful for the purpose of protecting peaceful demonstrators, but aside from that, their actions would be for all intents and purposes counterproductive for the uprising.

We must also be critical of anyone calling for foreign military intervention or militarizing the uprising on the pretext of reducing the number of causalities, because such developments would have the opposite effect. In popular uprisings, there are always some martyrs and casualties. Those who point to these casualties as a justification for settling accounts or to spread fear of an imminent civil war only raise doubt about the power of the uprising to move forward.

Problems and Solutions

The Syrian uprising must overcome four problems in order to succeed:
There must be more focus on economic issues. The agrarian crisis and the destruction of many industries through liberalization helped spark the uprising in rural areas and among the unemployed and marginalized youth. Addressing economic concerns would lead to new sectors of the population joining forces with the resistance.

The uprising must develop on the popular level in the cities, where participation has been limited to elite groups. This disconnect necessitates discussion of the relationship of the religious and national minorities with the religious and national majority. There is still confusion and lack of understanding surrounding what is happening in terms of popular national revolution in Syria. There is no doubt that Syria’s future is being shaped by the current crisis, and it is by the poor and marginalized groups. In this regard, the Syrian revolution is nothing less than a continuation of the string of Arab revolutions this year. There is a need to escape from the mentality of fear of “the other” – and it is an urgent issue despite what many people say – which has been cultivated by the regime through violence, force, and misleading propaganda, as well as the movements of the Islamic opposition and sectarian liberalism. Thus far, the different forces of the opposition and coordinators of the uprising have not been able to overcome the issue of feelings of mutual mistrust and fear among Syria’s various communities.

The uprising must spread to the Kurdish regions of Syria. Its presence has not been significant enough to effect major protests in the squares and streets of predominantly Kurdish cities. The majority of the Syrian people – and especially the impoverished groups – are rebelling and sacrificing, and there should be a real interest in encouraging Kurdish participation as well in order to arrive at a democratic solution to the historically deprived Kurdish community and Syrians as a whole. The killing of prominent leader Mashaal Tammo did not add much worth mentioning.

The groups within the uprising must overcome the lack of a clear program that represents its various factions and defines their goals, as well as the failure to form a unified leadership. This has allowed political forces that are outdated and disengaged from the new reality to hold a number of failed conferences in an attempt to falsely claim ownership of the popular movement. The differences within the SNC and the flimsiness of the justifications for its existence confirm this notion. The same applies to the coordinators, who have failed to set an agenda for the uprising, possibly due to a factional mentality and limited and narrow political activities. The Syrian opposition has long been famous for such practices, which has always led to failure in its battle with the regime, and we must not overlook the fact that the all-encompassing nature of the regime has been the key to destroying the Syrian political resistance and preventing emerging movements from organizing and coordinating.

The various forces of the uprising from coordinators to emerging political forces must confront these four shortcomings, which will in turn allow for the improvement of the situation in Syria in a way befitting the advanced stage that the uprising has reached.

Ammar Dayyoub is a Syrian writer.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

Comments

I have a simple questions on the publishing or any responsible person that in this picture why everyone's face is to the other side and the banners who have ant-syria regime message on the back side. for the sake of my clarity can you provide us with any of the picture from the front.
I hope u understand what i mean......

I think that Anonimous is repeating imperialist propaganda. If it cannot say that anti-imperialist forces are "dictators" - like in Venezuela, for ex, they say it is "going to be dictator". While the regimes imperialists support 100% are VERY democratic, of course, from Mubarak to Saudis :)

The author is living in a different planet, by calling the filthy criminals and extremists who are killing both the people and the Syrian army as "non-violent uprising ".
I used to be sympathised with them at the first 3 weeks, but it all changed when I started having news from normal Syrian people on ground and from all sects and religions, that it's not peaceful at all, and some even said, it never been from day one!
So wake up and smell the coffee, please ! It's not about "democracy", "freedom", and "reforms" anymore... It's about Syria, "to be, or not to be. This is the question."

I've been in many demonstrations and rallies, this picture you post looks staged. I've never seen demonstrators hold all their signs BACKWARDS for the photo!
I love the one that says: "U.N. S.O.S" and "... can't you go in a hurry...!!"
Where these kids raised in the US or is the education system in Homs Syria really good especially in propaganda in English targetting US audience?
It's too bad that no other Syrian opposition groups are given a voice in the media.

I think that Hassan Nasrallah is trying his best to do whatever it takes to lengthen the life of the Syrian regime, because the fall of that regime means a similar fall of the police state (Dawlat Mukhabarrat) that Nasrallah is establishing in Lebanon.

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