vendredi 23 septembre 2011

The Exceptionalism of the Syrian Revolution

Today, more than six months since the inception of the Syrian revolution, we can extract a number of conclusions from its daily events and from the ways that the regime has dealt with it, in order to determine the extent of its exceptionality in the Arab Spring, by Ziad Majed

- This revolution is more extended horizontally, or dispersed geographically, in comparison with most of the other Arab revolutions. Indeed, there is an average of 50 demonstrations (of disparate size) per day, distributed across the Syrian cities and rural areas; whereas, in the other Arab countries, concurrent demonstrations have not on average exceeded 15 per day.

- Likewise, the Syrian revolution is more persistent, despite brutal and sadistic repression by the security apparatus and associated militias (known as the Shabeeha). The exorbitant number of killed, wounded, kidnapped, arrested, and displaced has only been exceeded by the number in Libya—the key distinction being that Libya has endured an internecine war, while Syria has but one uncontrollable killing machine.

- The revolution has been better able, so far, to remain non-violent and avoid sliding into armed conflict and wide-scale acts of revenge, despite the horrible atrocities inflicted upon the participants and their families, and despite repeated attempts by the regime to drag the people into a cycle of revenge that would exacerbate sectarian impulses, as well as unnerve and frighten those who are hesitant about getting involved. The end result would be to open the field to the security apparatus to increase its criminally indiscriminate repression of the protestors.

- It is also more dependent on itself for coverage of its activities and events as a result of the regime banning the presence of independent media in the country. It is more productive and innovative in its slogans and cheers, and more expressive of domestic solidarity through its coordination committees and unions, which confront the objectives of the regime across cities, villages, and regions. Furthermore, the accompanying cultural and artistic movement, the writings about it, the spirit of satire bursting out of its slogans have become, after more than 180 days, a treasure—one that could possibly become the basic record, a foundational memoir of the revolution.

- It is incredibly rich symbolically, in terms of smashing the idols of the past completely, in part because it challenges the only Arab (republican) regime which was successfully passed down from father to son—and a regime second only to Libya in terms of how authority became centralized by a familial clan. Moreover, it is the richest in its icons, since there are incredible numbers of children, women, and adolescents who have been barbarically killed and thus transformed into inspirational figures for the movement to continue.

- Last but not least, it is the revolution with the most women in positions of leadership or representation, in comparison with the other revolutions.

 Conversely, it is possible to say that the past months have made apparent:

- That the Syrian regime possesses no way of behaving except through repressive security measures, and in its disposition and structure has no political flexibility to give whatsoever. The driving force behind it has adopted from the first day a policy of killing, terrorization, cutting connections between cities, and preventing access to their public spaces (with drastic measures in the capital Damascus and in the city of Aleppo), in order to isolate the protests in the countryside and smaller cities, and subsequently facilitate dealing with them with an iron fist.

- That the proportion of the frightened and intimidated individuals who have hesitated to get involved with the revolution or support it remains high in many areas, for different reasons, from economic to the psychological and the social-sectarian. There is also an element of submissiveness in requesting stability and commercial/services activity, in exchange for abandoning demands for freedom and dignity, which the regime has said “would lead to civil war”.

- That the assassination of politics over a period of 41 years has effects which are difficult to cure in mere months. It has weakened the ability to elaborate alternatives to the regime that possess a form of popular legitimacy, a political plan, and a democratic form of organization in the time allotted.

- That the response has been slow in addressing the necessity of coordinating the work between the old opposition, the new generation of the uprising, the personalities possessing moral standing or a cultural, political, or media presence —both domestically and abroad. This sluggishness has several reasons, which can be considered, but the key implication is that it benefits the regime and shows that the national collective leadership has not crystallized in conjunction with the pace of the protests and the bleeding of its people.

However, these things are subject to change and adaptation in line with the evolution of the Syrian movement in the coming weeks. Despite all the arrests, liquidations, and threats, popular pressure on the regime has not abated. It rather continues ceaselessly (and surprisingly) in its perseverance and insistence on the principle of “isqat al-nizham (the regime must fall).” It is likely that most of those who hesitate will change their attitudes when they feel their interests threatened or the balance tilt in favor of the revolution, or until they tire of persisting in a state of endless waiting. Additionally, the confused regional and international stances toward the Syrian situation will tend more and more toward increasing resoluteness in the form of additional sanctions against the regime, as its killing machine continues to reap the lives of its citizens.

What is most important, at the end, is that the Syrian regime will fall and join its Tunisian, Egyptian, and Libyan predecessors. Human and economic costs of its collapse, however, depend on how fast this collapse would be.
What is most important, also, is that fear no longer has an impact in the ranks of the revolution. Syrians continue to teach us every day to live with a quantity and intensity of emotions and feelings that can rarely converge in “normal” days. This will redefine human relationships inside Syria and around it, and will also take part in drawing the features of its future.

This text was originally published in Arabic in Now Lebanon. Many thanks to Jeff Regger who translated it to English.