What is happening between the Syrian people and Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a war … a war of a regime against a people it wants to exterminate.
There is no other possible description at the moment. It is a new type of civil war even though a more complicated one with quite peculiar characteristics.
The Syrian people who are getting killed on daily basis as they take to the streets bare-chested cannot go back to how they were before the revolution started. Going back to their homes and surrendering to repression would mean death or mass execution by a regime that is deterred by nothing and whose only strategy is lying and murdering.
Syrians will remain in the streets even though they realize their revolution is only beginning and is still far from achieving its goals.
True civil war is usually one in which different factions of the same country are fighting, where one party sees the other as an enemy it cannot live with and sees whoever stays neutral as a traitor. A civil war can erupt for political, religious, ethnic, regional, and class reasons or a mixture of those.
However, people resort to civil war in urgent cases to fight repression as in the case of rebelling against the government or a certain ruling clique that violated the rights of the people. This was stated in the constitution of the French Revolution in 1793 as well as in charter of the United Nations.
In civil wars, governments might treat the revolutionaries as the other party in any regular war in order to abide by the rules of war and which stipulate the protection of war prisoners, not trying revolutionaries as traitors, and not seeking to retaliate on them. This, however, will never be the case with the Syrian regime, which has crossed all the lines of human values that can be consulted in such situations.
The next stage towards the possible civil war will start taking shape, like in the Libyan scenario, when the revolutionaries are able to control a specific region in the country and form a military power there. This scenario is only a speculation so far, but the Syrian revolution which started peaceful and faced thugs and security forces unarmed has lost more than 4,000 civilians till now and is facing a dilemma.
It is this dilemma that drove the revolutionaries to form military units that will become the nucleus of an entire army. The revolution, therefore, will have to give up its peaceful resistance and take up arms in order to face the daily mass killing of Syrians.
If an international solution is not devised, like the leaked Arab-American-Western-Russian plan to oust Bashar al-Assad and his aides — his brother and commander of the Republican Guard and his brother-in-law, former head of military intelligence Assef Shawkat, and security forces implicated in the extermination of the Syrian people — to Moscow, a military confrontation is bound to happen. This means that a civil war will last for a while until an eventual foreign intervention resolves the crisis.
The writer is Head of Media at Al Arabiya. This article was first published in al-Jazirah newspaper on Dec. 11, 2011 and translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid