We, the Tarabut-Hithabrut movement, support unequivocally the Syrian people in their struggle for their liberty and their rights.
There are those who say that the situation in Syrian and the wider regional reality is complex, and they are right. However, we want to directly address various objections raised against taking a position in favor of the democratic uprising of the Syrian people:
- There are those who say that the Syrian regime is anti-imperialist and comprises the last barrier to Western domination in our region
The Ba‘ath Party regime in Syria is a corrupt government of a small group of powerful and wealthy people who control enormous amounts of capital, which was stolen directly out of the pockets of the Syrian people. This ruling clique is not motivated by anti-imperialist ideals and can serve neither as a model for these ideas or as a defender of socialism. Although this regime is in a confrontation with Israel and the United States, certain occasions such as the Gulf War show that the regime’s positions on international affairs are not consistent or principled but opportunistic. In addition, the Cold War is long over and the regime has is allied with Putin’s Russia, which is, as should be emphasized, a capitalist, authoritarian government with its own imperialist ambitions, as well as supported by the new empire, China, which is equally devoid of scruples or constraints.
- Protesters against the regime are peons in an imperialist plot
The uprising in Syria started in Dar‘a when a group of parents who protested when the security forces jailed and tortured their children, who dared to write “the People Demand to Depose Bashar” on their school building’s wall. Insults and humiliations directed toward the children’s parents and local leaders triggered the mass protests. The protests that spread throughout the country were inspired by the successful democratic uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. We should not forget this.
There are also foreign forces that are trying to take advantage of the situation and ride the wave of Syrian protesters, but this does not turn the protesters themselves into peons or agents of imperialism. The source of the protest is in the Syrian situation itself. Syria has no official statistics and no trustworthy data, but Syrians are well aware that even before the protests the unemployment rate was incredibly high and since then it has only worsened. Many people could only make a livelihood by joining the oppressing and surveillance apparatus of the regime or by supplementing their income by collaborating with them. Most of the population can only survive their day-to-day lives through bribery, where they must receive and take bribes in order to live and get a hold of basic good and services. Syrian voices demanding fundamental change have grown steadily louder and the masses started to shake free from the fear. The Syrian people are the source of the present protest and any consideration of this issue must begin with them, their rights, their suffering and their legitimate demands.
- The Syrian regime supports the Palestinian resistance
The Syrian regime has a special security force whose purpose is to monitor and suppress the political activism of the Palestinian refugees who live there. The regime does not allow any political organizing that does not follow its political line. Regime dissidents are disappeared and murdered. Syria has 19 different security forces who have one goal: to eliminate any threat to the Syrian regime. From a historical point of view, the Assad family’s support of Palestinian organizations was always conditioned on other issues. The Syrian Army massacred Palestinians several times during its wars in Lebanon (Tel Al-Za‘atar, Tripoli) and of course, the regime acted again and again to divide the Palestinian national movement (their support for Abu Musa in Lebanon and their encouragement of the war between Hamas and Fatah are only two of the most obvious cases) and by doing this they undermined the independent will of the Palestinian national movement.
- The social protest is primarily an inter-confessional* struggle. The regime defends the minorities and especially the Alawi group, which might suffer from a Sunni takeover.
There are inter-confessional* tensions in Syria, which sometimes result in hate crimes and revenge attacks. But the current regime is not an ‘Alawi regime. The security force known as Al-Shabiha (literally “ghosts,” thugs that drive Mercedes cars that the regime pays for) is a security force established by the Ba‘ath party whose goal is to suppress resistance and political activity among the ‘Alawis. Because Assad finds it complicated to use the standing army and the official security forces against his own community, he established an additional security force which is above the law. Many ‘Alawi opposition leaders have been murdered by the regime and its agents, and many ‘Alawis are in the opposition’s ranks today. Al-Shabiha have been trying to exacerbate inter-ethnic tensions in recent months, and this is also the purpose of the recent attacks in Christian neighborhoods, whose perpetrators are not known. This has no connection to the protests against the regime, in which members of all confessional* groups took part.
- A large part of the Syrian people supports the regime, as many as oppose it if not more.
In a dictatorial regime, there isn’t much meaning to citizens protesting in favor of the regime. Decades of dictatorial rule break social structure down and prevent the emergence of local leadership. Every citizen who shows signs of leadership is in danger of being eliminated by the government. Other citizens know this and live in fear. The same TV networks that broadcast the “support protests” also broadcast citizens kissing Bashar Al-Assad’s photograph and declaring that “There is No God but Bashar” while soldiers are stepping on their backs and pointing a gun to their head. If we examine our own history, we will remember that, before the First Palestinian Intifada, Israeli TV would film Palestinian merchants and passers by in the West Bank answer a weak “yes” to a question by an Israeli journalist about whether they feel happy, and a determined “no” when they were asked if there were any political problems. To see these expressions of support as something authentic is to be blind to the deep fear and oppression in Syrian society in light of these forced expressions of support by frightened citizens.
It s important to emphasize how paralyzed the political system is, even though it is dependent on the regime: until now, after a whole year of protests, there was not a single published statement of support for the regime by any local branch of the Ba‘ath party or the artificial parties affiliated with it under the “National Progressive Front.”
- Opposition to the Assad regime is armed and therefore not popular and not legitimate
Among the protesters there are those that use weapons. However, the strongest and clearest voice that emerges from the protests in Syria from their very beginnings is one that speaks of nonviolent revolution and resistance. There are testimonies of armed groups of rebels that also commit war crimes and murder citizens — we condemn these crimes to the same degree that we condemn the regime’s crimes. Behind these crimes there may be different interests, but their background is a decades-long oppression that has prevented the establishment of a democratic political culture.
Concerning the question of the legitimacy of the armed resistance movement: let us not forget that Syria, like the countries that support it, arms and supports other armed organizations in other countries. Those who oppose the Syrian resistance because it is armed and at the same time support other armed resistance movements unconditionally are operating under a double standard.
It is not our purpose in this article to pass moral or ideological judgment as to whether the use of violence in order to rebel against an even more violent regime is justified or not, but history has proven to us numerous times that the weapons of the resistance have eventually been turned onto citizens, whether after the victory or on the way to it.
- What about international intervention?
Today, after months of widespread protest and economic crisis, the current regime is being held alive today only through the generous assistance of other states such as China, Russia and Iran. This is also a form of international intervention in the matters of the Syrian people.
We oppose international military intervention. Every place where such intervention took place, the consequences have been dire. The powers that intervene militarily do not do this out of their dedication to the good of the world’s freedom-seeking people, but rather out of economic and strategic interest. There are some examples that are close to us in both space and time: Iraq and Libya. Nothing good comes to the world’s people from imperial military intervention, and there has never been some Robin Hood armed with combat jets that will faithfully prevent massacres without massacring and plundering himself. This has been true especially for the US and NATO, but not only them. Obviously, a possible future Turkish intervention would also not be for the Syrian people but rather for the suppression of the Kurds and the interests of the Turkish establishment. Different competing local factions can invite foreign imperialist intervention — that’s the way that it’s always been. Every foreign military intervention is always under the cover of a local organization that invites them.
The question is not who is more cruel in bombing civilians — the Western powers or the local dictators. From a humanitarian point of view, all bombings are equal. But from the point of view of the long-term consequences of military intervention, the consequences of the initiation by local and foreign powers of pseudo-legitimate military activity in the region are totally different. It is a terrible blow to a people fighting for their freedom. Since at least the 19th century, Western powers have been invading different countries to save the poor indigenous peoples from themselves. The argument about the cruel locals who slaughter each other is not new. This is how it was done in Africa, in Asia and even Israel tried it. We cannot fall into the trap of foreign military intervention in the name of the humanitarian ideals of an enlightened elite.
- What will happen when the regime falls? A worse regime will rise in its place.
It is not for us to decide in the place of the Syrian people. The masses have flooded the streets and they are demanding the end of the current regime. There is no way of knowing what happens the day after the regime’s fall. It is very likely that there will be additional, painful struggles.
We too are concerned by a potential rise of an Islamic intolerant regime or a puppet regime ruled by the US, or perhaps a regime that will continue the current state of affairs under a different cover. There is a big chance that this is exactly what will happen. However, it is the Syrian people’s prerogative to create the alternative and to judge its merit.
Many revolutions erupted to promote certain ideas, but after the revolution, a regime totally opposed to the revolution’s ideas arose. For example, the Algerian revolution ended with the establishment of an oppressive and dictatorial regime, and the revolution in Iran, which promoted freedom for Iranians, ended up being an oppressive and murderous regime. The final result does not undermine the justice of the struggle against colonial France in Algeria or against the Shah’s rule in Iran.
In Syria, more than 10,000 citizens have already been murdered by the regime. This fact on its own is enough to call for this regime’s immediate end. Even if certain aspects of the current regime are better than some possible alternatives, that doesn’t mean that this regime has any legitimacy to continue to exist.
Of course, we prefer that a civilian, democratic, non-confessional/* regime will be formed in Syria, one that respects the lives of its citizens and their social rights — a regime that expresses the will of the people, an independent regime free of external influence of the US, China, Russia, Turkey, Iran or others, which would express the Syrian people’s goal to free the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation and which will be friendly to the peoples of the region. But as we have said, this is the Syrian people’s decision, and only they have the authority to decide which regime and what government to have.
We are sure that a people that has bravely opposed a murderous regime will never again accept oppression and dictatorship from any new regime that arises. The Syrian people have begun a path to freedom from which there is no going back, and they will continue to struggle until they achieve their demands.
- Note: “Confessional” is the accepted English term for the different religious sub-groups under the Ottoman Empire. The term is used to differentiate these groupings from other types of groupings, such as grouping by ethnicity or nationality.