Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Syria's stolen revolution

Christian Science Monitor has an article (Syrian activists to rebels: Give us our revolution back). It tells about a conference in Cairo of Syrian on 16 April of opposition leaders who believe that the FSA has stolen their peaceful revolution.

The article provides a multitude of viewpoints:

- “The regime is more afraid of the nonviolent protesters than it is of the armed Islamists. That’s why most of them have been forced to leave the country or are in prison," says Yara Nseir, who was forced to flee Syria last summer after she had been detained 18 days for distributing leaflets. "They wanted it to become an armed uprising because it allows them to tell the world that they are fighting terrorists.”
“Back then the regime would have armed troublemakers mingle with the protesters to have an excuse to open fire on us. Well, they don’t need to do that anymore: the Free Syrian Army has provided them with the perfect excuse to go on killing people.”

I doubt if it is that simple. The impression is that the Assad regime itself is divided and that Assad himself would be prepared to more reforms than some of his supporters. So he could use the mass demonstrations to swing the consensus inside the elite towards more democracy. But of course such a change takes time and their are lots of people in the police and army who are still stuck in older modes of thought.

- Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davuto─člu made a telling remark at an Istanbul press conference April 13, when he was asked if “the Syrian regime is afraid of their own Tahrir.” He replied, “That is what we have believed from day one.”
I think the Syrian government has good reasons to afraid of revolutions. Even peaceful revolutions like in Egypt and Tunisia often end up sowing lots of antagonism and new suppression. A peaceful transition is much better. But it will be hard to explain that to Turkey's government that is having its own vendetta against the Turkish army.

- The Syrian opposition has called for mass demonstrations this Friday to test Mr. Annan's peace plan. One of the conditions of the plan is that the regime allow freedom of assembly.
As I have ofter stated I am against those demonstrations. The opposition has killed lots of people by now and some hate it just as much as others the government. So opposition demonstrations are just as provocative and controversial as an army parade in Homs. That is not the way to achieve reconciliation and peace.

- The Syrian National Council, an umbrella opposition group, is supposed to provide a channel for working for political change. But even Ms. Nseir, who is the SNC's spokesperson in Lebanon, says the SNC is seen as too closely aligned with the FSA to present a real alternative to their armed rebellion.

"The SNC claims to be representative of the Syrian people. That’s just not true," says Nseir. "They talk only about arming the rebels. They never talk about nonviolent resistance and they certainly do not speak for the ramadieen, or grey people, the silent majority who support neither the regime nor the armed rebels.”

- In an open letter to the leaders of the Syrian opposition, Human Rights Watch cited “increasing evidence of kidnappings, the use of torture, and executions by armed Syrian opposition members.”

"I told them to their face they are criminals if they do such things, and that they know the meaning of the word freedom," says Ashamy.

Ashamy was told he had better not show his face around Tripoli again if he wanted to stay alive.

Note that this fragment tells that the FSA makes such threats in Tripoli in Lebanon.

"They have ruined everything," Ashamy says of the FSA. "In the beginning we were all Syrians. But when I was last in Homs [late last year] I found that people there were not even aware of what is happening elsewhere in the country. They see this as a purely Sunni Muslim insurgency, and I was accused of being a spy because my ancestry is Druze."

Postscript: This article Syrians questioning whether armed revolt works from 4 May 2012 also discusses the issue. It mentions that some of those who say to support peaceful action also support the uprising. They just don't see themselves as fighters with a gun and see the battle as a two track battle. In my opinion these people miss the point: "non-violent" is not really non-violent when it is meant to support the violence.

Postscript 2: The BBC article "Stuck in the middle - Syria's moderate voices" highlights some people in Damascus who try to stay in the middle and notes that the Assad regime is starting to see them more as a threat.

Postscript 3: Here (Preaching Nonviolence, Syrian Activist Heads Home) is an article about Sheik Jawdat Said who is presented as an 81-year-old Islamic scholar whose books and teachings helped inspire young Syrian activists to challenge the regime in peaceful protests last year. Unlike many "non-violent" protesters who praise the FSA he is against the armed uprising.

Postscript 4: This article (Syrian activists reach across sectarian divide) is about the Nabd (or Pulse) Gathering for Syrian Civil Youth - one of the many cross-sectarian movements that have emerged from Syria's 18-month-long revolt. As I see it one of the front organizations for the rebels aimed to get attract non-Sunni support.

Google also for "Musalaha Syria".

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