The strength of the Syrian popular movement has amazed the world and I have already said in one of my articles that: the Palestinian intifada was one of the most prominent schools that taught the Syrian people the courage of uprising and revolution. Thus, a Palestinian friend of mine objected to my statement and told me that the intifada was rightly the school where the Arab people have learnt freedom and resistance but the lessons taught in that school are not to be compared to the lessons the Syrian people are teaching today to other people, at least in terms of size and sacrifice. He justified his statement by comparing the number of martyrs and the extent and pattern of violence in both the Palestinian and Syrian uprisings.
Syrians’ strength stems from the societal aspect of their revolt that is almost inclusive and is based on a common belief shared by a large number of young men and women in the country. Young people believe that the current regime is no longer viable and has lost its functional character, its legitimacy and its historical and practical role. Therefore, they believe that the current regime has lost its ability to make honest promises that it can keep and commit to fulfill to gain the people’s trust. Thus, the regime that loses its role, legitimacy and people’s acceptance, loses its right to exist. Therefore, one of the main characteristics of the Syrian popular movement is its inclusive and deep aspect that allowed it to continue for more than a year and made it seem as if it no longer belongs to the times of the current regime, but to the upcoming period following the regime, to the next regime’s times despite what we hear about the power of the security and military forces that takes the form of wide spreading violence. Although violence is rarely considered as a proof of power, it is often a sign of weakness and confusion when it is used to solve political and social crises that couldn’t be solved with other means than politics and social work tools that are dictated and oriented only by a national mind.
This general societal aspect is the strength point of the movement which is not a partisan, categorical, class or elitist movement, but rather a mobilization of the forces of both civil society and community. The movement has also unified civil society and community struggle for a year during which they both faced the horrors of scary security policies that subdued a large segment of the civil society, especially youth, whereas the civil society persisted on rebelling and protesting. It endured the unbearable and withstood deadly pressures although it had seemed too far from politics and happy in its isolation and distance from public affairs and concerns and from authority and its apparatus and parties.
Here is a second strength point of the popular movement: it has brought the values of modernity especially those of democracy, freedom, citizenship and democracy to the citizen of the civil society that compulsorily ignored these values for half a century, the age of the current regime. Citizens were pushed away from politics and drowned in attractive promises falling on them from the authority’s skies. When citizens felt desperate, when they were devoured by deprivation that denied their rights, they went back to the public sphere from the door of modernity and civil society values, demanding their share of freedom, dignity and justice and sacrificing their blood for the sake of a new ruling regime in which they can participate and be responsible.
The civil society that led the movement and massively participated in it, faced what resembles a genocide at the hands of the security forces that hoped to see it retrograde after diminishing its role and the role of community to an extent that allows the regime to put down the rebellion. However, the community did not quit the struggle and the civil society managed to continue leading the movement in numerous regions due to the decentralized pattern of the leadership. A pattern that is lenient and able of automatically renewing itself. It was impossible to deliver the knockout blow to the civil society to destroy its nervous system and thus paralyze the large masses of activists as it used to happen during the regime’s operations against parties’ opposition, when the arrest of the leadership, the party’s nervous system, used to cripple the rest of the party’s organs, especially the grassroots. Therefore, it was easy for the regime to monitor and chase the active members one after the other.
However, in this crisis, due to the expansion of the leading nervous system apparatus, and the extension of its ranks and its local aspect, the arrest of the members did not manage to undermine the body, i.e. the community, and did not prevent the emergence of substitute leaderships to an extent that it seems today that abolishing this apparatus requires the elimination of the society itself; especially after the emergence of numerous prominent members in the civil society such as talented leadership forces that have offset the lack in young civil leaderships.
These young leaders managed to lead and pursuit the movement at the national level and in coordination with nearby areas. They also prevented the retreat of protests and the revolt in the majority of Syrian regions. They have also joined new regiments of demonstrators to the ranks of protesters stationed in the streets, which the regime failed to move out of the streets and defeat, despite the continuous military/ arms escalation to which the regime resorted during the past year.
By unifying the civil society and the community, which meant a unity between the modern leadership and common Syrian citizens in the different remote areas and cities, by developing new types of struggle that suit the need to react to the regime’s security campaigns, and due to the emergence of field forces which were impossible to destroy despite the security expertise of the regime, and to the conservation of the Syrians ‘common patriotic background, the policy of sectarian incitement failed to sow contradictions amongst the sons of one nation by trying to make the struggle seem like a blind battle in most of the country’s regions. They failed to do so, despite the- sometimes intense- tension occurring here and there in the country and despite the limited violations against patriotism and societal cohesion. This failure was one of the most important outcomes of the movement’s strength that emanated from the power and the solidarity of the people. This failure will remain the proof of the deep belonging of Syrians to one another and of the inability of long years of separatist and discriminatory incitement aiming at pushing them to adopt behaviorist patterns that would drive away their common and supreme loyalties and replace them with secondary or low loyalties that do not come in line with a unified patriotic presence and that does not allow the survival of a national unity.
Syria did not witness any sectarian wars or battles and it is most probably that it wouldn’t witness any in the future, as well, due to several reasons. Perhaps one of the most important reasons is that the regime is no longer meeting the needs of the vast majority of the citizens who are yearning for freedom, security and justice. Moreover, the regime does not represent any specific societal segment and is rather a regime representing those who are ruling it and benefiting from it; those who come from different categories, professions, movements and communities. It is the regime of those who separated from their entire people and put themselves in confrontation with their own people; those who excelled in intimidating religious minorities of the religious majority and who are now harvesting disappointment and are fighting as the representatives of an authority that became strange to its people against its supreme majority.
The citizens are struggling for a future open to freedom and carries the promise, even to those in power, of a place in the political sphere as well as participation in the management of the affairs of the future Syria. The movement’s strength emanates from its futurist aspect and the past of the regime. It seizes its determination from its societal character that allows it to face the categorical approach of the authority and its minority aspect as a power that guarantees the interests of its beneficiaries alone and not the rest of society’s segments. An authority that lives on compulsion and oppression more than on people’s general acceptance. The absence of people’s acceptance annuls the legitimacy of the authority while the popular movement seems legitimate thanks to the large number of participants and their insistence on getting rid of tyranny and belonging to the substitute of tyranny as free and open spheres where the individual can achieve his potential as a free, productive citizen after he was denied his right to be an individual and a free productive citizen, equal to other citizens due to the regime’s choices and policies.
A friend of mine has tackled a while ago the issue of the time period needed by the movement and talked about the regime’s strength. He qualified the authority’s apparatus as coherent and he talked about its persistence for an entire year. If someone has asked this friend on the first of march 2011 about the possibility of the eruption of a popular uprising in Syria that would last two days, he would have answered: this is almost impossible; it is even the incarnation of impossibility itself.
Today, it is hard to disregard the fact that the people has resisted during the past difficult year and that a society that does so is definitely stronger than its authority because it entered the battle without any preparation in comparison with the regime’s preparations for more than half a century to face a situation similar to that lived in Syria today. But the people refused to surrender under deadly conditions that prove that a new era is seeing light in the Arab world; the Arab people are drawing the lines of the new era and are ready to sacrifice everything in order to let this new era see light. The new era will be the contrary of the times when the people were promised freedom and received tyranny that mercilessly haunted their hearts, minds and souls. The people are removing the old regime’s burden off their shoulders, not to become free, but because they are free and are yearning to establish an alternative political sphere. An emerging truly free, patriotic and independent political sphere will be the greatest proof of people’s strength that will amaze the whole world.
The writer is a prominent columnist. Published in Assafir newspaper on April 21, 2012.