It is not at all surprising that among the most fervent defenders of the regime in Syria are Lebanese public figures. What’s striking however is how far beyond their Syrian counterparts Lebanese politicians, journalists, and even artists and activists have gone in their defense.
Speaking in an interview about the trip to Damascus she made with a group of 400 women, Samar al Hajj, one of the organizers of the Miriam Flotilla, went as far as to claim that “nothing is happening in Syria.”
“Enough talking about a revolution, what’s happening is not a revolution…The regime is fine, and as long as it is we are fine too,” she said in one of the many interviews she gave.
Singer Melhem Barakat said in an interview he thinks the revolution in Syria is just a “trend” because people there got “jealous.” He called President Bashar Al Assad a good and faithful man, hoping he stays in power “because we haven’t seen from him and his regime anything but all good.”
I can go on listing dozens of examples from just last week picked from across pro-Syrian regime Lebanese TV stations and Newspapers, including Al-Akhbar and Al-Safir newspapers that were recently banned in Syria.
One may wonder to what extent the Lebanese contribution is actually helping the regime in Damascus. I personally don’t believe they are doing much.
Syrians supporting the regime, just like those supporting the people’s revolution, don’t need Lebanese demagogues to provide them with arguments to support their position whatever it maybe. But there is no doubt that the almost racist discrimination against the Syrian people that most of the Lebanese supporters of the regime are shamelessly exposing is very provocative to the undecided Syrians.
“There is really nothing more annoying than listening to Nasser Qandil speaking about what’s going on in Syria on Al-Dunia TV,” one businessman from Homs recently told me.
While the “usefulness” of the Lebanese pro-regime “opinion makers” may be debatable, the easiness of their maneuvering is far from questionable, especially when compared with the difficulty that that the Lebanese backers of the Syrian people are finding in showing any support.
Back in May, in an article published in Al-Quds al Arabi Elias El-Khoury said “This is not Beirut, this is a shameful city plotting with the killer.” He criticized the “half muted” journalists, the reticent media, the shy intellectuals and the mob-like political scene.
Nothing has changed since then, despite the increased violence and the escalation of events and their expansion across the Syrian cities. Even the small demonstrations, and the candle lighting gatherings which were organized in the first few weeks in respect for those who died, have stopped.
“How can we help” and “would we be really making the Syrian people any favors” are two questions that keep popping in any discussion – and there have been many -- about what could be done in support.
Am talking about a moral stance here, not a political one. This is not supposed to be a March 8 and March 14 debate, but a typical endorsement of an unarmed people asking for freedom and for a better future who are being tortured and killed. It must have been as obvious as supporting the people in Tunisia and Egypt, and Lebanese politics shouldn’t have applied.
One of the most repeated arguments is that any voiced Lebanese criticism of the regime will be used to support the “international conspiracy” theory that Syrian officials and their backers have been promoting. That makes even more sense since a rather big chunk of the Lebanese people have been tagged as confirmed agents of the “West” by the “resistant” camp.
Another argument hesitant supporters have been repeating is the security dimension. Even Syrians living in Beirut and abroad are being extra vigilant in that regard keeping for example any landline phone conversations with family members extremely general or coded.
Afrah, a resident of the border town of Tel Kalakh who fled to Wadi Khaled almost two months ago following the crackdown of the shabiha on her village, told me this week how worried she is about the conditions of her family in Homs. “I know they are alive because when I call they answer …I try to interpret from what they say how bad the situation really is, I don’t even ask any question beyond how are you, and mostly all I get is Hamdellah, we’re fine.”
It’s even more complicated when a Lebanese, activist, journalist, or any other potential “agent” is talking to a Syrian colleague who is already on the wanted list of the Syrian intelligence.
Logistics is another dimension, especially in light of the present Lebanese government. Samar al Hajj, extensively spoke about how the Lebanese and Syrian agencies have facilitated the movement of the Mariam convoy during the visit to Damascus.
Meanwhile, young male refugees in Wadi Khaled don’t even venture walking in the streets out of fear they could be arrested by Lebanese security agencies and handed to their Syrian counterparts.
There are of course the more debatable arguments and the less honorable ones. The “this is not our cause and we’ve already paid our share of blood,” argument and the fact that a substantial number of the supposedly harshest opponents of the Assad regime in Lebanon still want it to prevail in Syria.
(Alia Ibrahim is Senior Correspondent of Al Arabiya TV. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)