No Alternative to the Peacefulness of the Syrian Revolution


Wael Sawah


Is it still possible to talk about a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis? It is difficult to answer this question, especially after the twin explosions of 17 March. On one hand, the majority of demonstrators in Syria have only their voices, throats and pens which they use to right their slogans on the signs. This has been proven once again through the peaceful demonstrations that moved on the first anniversary of the Syrian revolution. On the other, the military acts are significantly increasing between regular Syrian soldiers, security forces and militias supportive of the regime and the army dissidents and demonstrators who took up arms as their last resort: Either because they are wanted, they lost a loved one at the hands of the security forces, or for fear that their homes and safe havens will be invaded. However, the response of the regime has been the same in both cases. Whether the protests were peaceful or armed, the regime’s response was the use of live ammunition and the killing of protesters or detaining them, torturing them, and terrorizing their families, according to local reports, and others from the United Nations and international rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

It is must be recognized that there is a change in the stand of the Syrians on the peacefulness of the revolution. The more the regime increases its severity and ferocity in confronting the Syrian demonstrators, the more growing numbers are convinced that the policy of non-violence they have followed so far may not be completely valid. In spite of this, it can be said up until this moment that Syria has not yet slipped into the abyss of violence whose consequences are not calculated, although it quickly moving in this direction, at an escalating speed.

However, although this is true so far, we cannot be equally confident as we talk about the coming days. It seems that the regime has taken a clear decision to use a fist of steel in dealing with these demonstrations. Apparently the regime does not differentiate much between peaceful demonstrations and armed manifestations. The regime is supported by no less than thirty percent of the Syrians, possibly slightly more, which is a percentage that the regimes Bin Ali, Mubarak or Ghadhafi did not enjoy. Alternately, it seems that a large portion of the Syrians has decided not to return home, especially after their immense losses which made them owners of very little that they may lose again. These Syrians prove day after day that they will not make the mission of the regime to eliminate the revolution easy or possible.

Are there still neutral Syrians? It seems that the high percentage of Syrians who constituted the third party is diminishing. It is eroding towards joining either side. But there are those still holding on to their median position because they believe that the current state of affairs in the country will lead to destroying the joint living and tolerance lifestyle, as it will destroy the social fabric and the state infrastructure and institutions. They believe that it will not lead to the true democratic change the revolutionaries were aspiring for when they started their revolution.

All the above makes it a necessity to stress the revolution’s peacefulness and the political solution. Although the revolution’s peacefulness may be discussed from a purely expedient point of view, it is primarily a principle based one. It is not correct to pose the peacefulness demand this question: “So what is the solution?”. In fact, armament cannot be a solution merely because there is no other solution. And armament cannot be rejected only because the opposition cannot defend against the regime’s weapons, or merely because armament will double the number of victims, but rather because is constitutes, in essence, a stab to the moral structure of the revolution and changes its social and gender structure, making it impossible to confront the armed party who will ultimately win, if there is a winner. In short, the idea of the civil democratic state that inspired the Syrian revolutionaries will once again turn into a distant mirage.

The first generation (and we use the word generation as a metaphor) who triggered the first revolution sparkle, built their vision on the basis of peacefulness and non-violence. They never hoped the revolution would change the regime. Their aspiration was, as one of them, Yahya Al Shurbaji, said once, to change the binoculars “through which we look at religion, society and politics”. This generation refused to give up the peacefulness of the revolution, and stressed that if the peaceful option has not worked until now we must look at the causes of the failure, because the problems and obstacles that led to its failure will face us again in other options.

Yahya Al Shurbaji, who preferred to be killed rather than to be a killer, ended up in prison. There are reports that indicate he is in a difficult health condition. But Yahya is not alone in his fate: most leaders of the peaceful movement were eliminated from the street through killing, imprisonment or displacement. The street was emptied for persons who lack the flexibility, the in-depth vision, and the charisma necessary for leadership. This was replaced with fanaticism, shallowness and religious extremism, thus fulfilling without knowing the wishes of the regime, which sought from day one to make the democratic revolution in Syria of a Salafist Islamic nature, to make it easier to confront it. Days after the start of the demonstrations, the regime went back, in a symbolic gesture, on an earlier decision to move teachers with covered faces from study halls to other jobs. It asked the Imam of the Umayyad Mosque to appear on television to say that the leadership “responded to suggestions by religious leaders, and listed a number of the proposals among which were to establish an Institute for Religious Studies and launching a religious satellite channel that highlights Islam as the right that does not sway to the east or to the west”. The regime wanted to suggest that it is responding to the demands of the demonstrators, although the latter did not raise in any of their slogans religious or sectarian demands.

There are voices now inside and outside the country that call for the armament of the opposition. The general oppression and methodological killing conducted by the regime contributes to accepting these calls on a wide scale. However, it seems that the best that can be said on these calls is that they are wrong from a pragmatic, political and moral viewpoint. The armament of the revolution will only lead to increasing the regime’s oppression of it, without being able to achieve true gains on the ground. On the other hand, the armament will contribute to transforming the popular revolution into a war between two armed sides, a fight between two armies, and it will be difficult to take away the victory from the hands of any victorious party. Moreover, it will push the civility of the revolution to the back, and hide the basic civil slogans that the revolution sought to achieve, including justice, freedom, equality and building a civil – democratic state, in factor of war slogans that must take a sectarian turn, which will push the country towards a place that cannot easily be left.

Now, more than at any time before, the stress must be on rejecting armament, sectarian fighting and militarizing the revolution. The stress must be on the need for a political way out for the crisis, the way out that will guarantee the lifting of the oppression and guarantee all the components of the Syrian society their rights to existence, work, movement, rehabilitation and political activity without avenging impacts that will strengthen hatred and will not lead to any result.

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Published in al-Hayat Arabic newspaper of Tuesday, 20 March 2012

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