Syria at the Crossroads

The article below is republished here at the request of the author, Sîrwan Kajjo. The original article was first published at the Fikra Forum on 13 June 2011. The Arabic version of Kajjo’s article can be seen here.

Sîrwan Kajjo

Amidst the daily protests that have characterized the scene in Syria this year, an increasing number of questions are being raised regarding the final outcome in Syria and the impact of the ongoing demonstrations. Those who have closely followed the scene in Syria can clearly see that this movement across the country is the inevitable result of the extreme levels of suppression experienced by Syrians of every class. This is only the beginning of the end of four decades of totalitarian rule.

Syria today is not the Syria we knew before. Who would have predicted that the people would publicly call for the fall of the regime or even dare to demand freedom? Thus, the mechanisms used in activism and struggle are moving in a completely different direction. In fact, before it became a revolution against the country’s regime, it was a revolution within the minds of Syrian citizens.

Over the last forty years, the Syrian regime tried to implant mistrust between the Syrian people and attempted to systematically raise hatred between different sects. However, despite that, the governorates in Syria joined forces in order to support each other. We witnessed the cities of Qamishli, Amouda, and Hasakah in the north, known for their Kurdish majority, advocating on behalf of Deraa and Hama! At the same time, the protesters in Hama and Idlib were calling, “Azadi…Azadi,” which means freedom in Kurdish. If this is indicative of anything, it shows that the people in the street realize the importance of national cohesion in this crucial and sensitive stage in Syria.

The Kurds have long been accused of working for the outside and of calling for the separation from Syria. In fact, many Kurdish political leaders now sit behind bars in Syrian prisons under the false charges of sectioning parts of Syrian land and annexing them to a foreign country, undermining the national sentiment and morale. However, despite all of this, the Kurds have proven to be an integral part of the Syrian fabric. For the first time, the Syrian flag is raised in the Kurdish areas, which indicates their understanding of Syrian political equality. The Kurds are moving away from the nationalistic sentiments which have long been used against them by the system and the Syrian opposition alike.

The Syrian regime tried to take advantage of pre-existing sensitivities between various constituents, but it failed, as mentioned earlier. So, the regime declared war openly on the demonstrators. While the movement began with phrases and slogans calling for freedom and reform, it soon escalated to demands for bringing down the regime. These peaceful protests were met with brutal murder and arbitrary arrests. The Syrian regime has shown no respect for or commitment to international standards and conventions.

On the other hand, the international community did not show a pragmatic attitude towards the Syrian regime. There were comments made here and there, but not at a serious level as hoped for. The expected United Nations Security Council resolution towards Syria will not suffice if it only verbally condemns the daily massacres committed by the regime against innocent men, women, and children. Here we see that it is resting on the U.S. administration to intervene in some way. The United States of America is the only actor who can possibly instigate change on a practical level. Support of the current revolution across Syria is the safest way for the U.S. to help the Syrian people reach the shores of democracy. This support should provide assistance to the younger generation, which has been the main engine behind these demonstrations in Syria. This support can be technical, physical, or even moral.

The American stance is unclear in the sense that Washington seems to believe that the regime still has a chance to change its attitude. Although Obama’s language was tougher in comparison to previous cases, he showed hope that there could be some development in Syria. Maybe the U.S. has not yet absorbed the implications of the rapid changes in Tunisia and Egypt and still ongoing changes in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

The Obama Administration must realize that any alternative, democratic system in Syria will be the key solution to many regional problems in the Middle East. A change in the Syrian regime may lead the way for Israel and the Palestinians to take steps towards reaching a mutual solution for peace. In addition, the Syrian people will enjoy complete freedom that has long been a goal of the United States.

Sîrwan Kajjo is a Syrian Kurdish activist and journalist. He is based in Washington, DC as a freelance journalist.

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