article published in May 13 2012
Syria’s popular movement has not withdrawn from the streets, universities and workplaces despite the continuation of the regime’s repression in its multitude forms, political and military. The death toll is continually increasing and has exceeded the 10 000, as well as the arrests, while the numbers of displaced persons inside the country and refugees abroad are growing day by day. The head of the Red Cross recently said that 1.5 million Syrians were in need of humanitarian aid.
In the same time, the non application of the Annan plan, the May 7 parody of “ fair and free elections”, the Farouk Battalion issue, the rise of criminal terrorists’ attacks these past few months, have plunged the country in more violence and uncertainty.
The Annan’s Plan and the regime’s repression
The Annan’s plan, which was the result of a compromise at the UN Security Council between the big powers from Russia and China on one side and US, UK and France on the other side, has not been respected by the Assad regime in any of its demands and this latter on the opposite has continued its deadly repression. . The United Nations Security Council has authorized the deployment of up to 300 unarmed military observers, currently 189 are in the country, to monitor a ceasefire in Syria that formally came into effect on April 12 as part of the Annan plan. The plan, as a reminder, also called for an immediate end to bloodshed, the delivery of humanitarian aid, a process for opposition demands to be peacefully articulated, the release of political detainees, allowing foreign reporters into the country, and permitting peaceful demonstrations.
The popular movement and much of the opposition skepticism towards the Annan’s plan by stating that it will experience a fate similar to that of the initiative developed by the Protocol of the Arab League and the infamous observer mission presented in December 2011 was therefore not wrong. The various oppositions groups in Syria have nevertheless expressed repeatedly its will to continue to go along the Annan Plan. Major General Robert Mood of Norway, the head of the UN mission actually confirmed the opposition’s acceptance of the Annan’s plan by declaring that “I can tell you from my engagement that whomever I meet, they tell me that they want to move on the basis of Kofi Annan’s Six Point Plan, and that includes the Free Syrian Army locally, and that includes Local Coordination Committees”.
So whose responsibility for the continual armed clashes in the country? The continual clashes between the armed groups from the Free Syrian army and the regime’s army are the sole and unique responsibility of the regimes forces. The Annan Plan actually specifically called for the government to withdraw its troops and to stop using heavy weapons in populated areas. Therefore, it is said very clearly that the government should first stop and then discuss a cessation of hostilities with the “other side” and the mediator. Meanwhile, until today, the regime continues its massacre of the civilian population on a daily basis. The Syrian regime did not fulfill to the commitment to withdraw forces from populated areas.
The regime has in the same time continued its plan to target the organizers and opposition members and particularly the ones struggling in coordination committees and defending a Democratic, Secular and anti imperialist Syria. Mr. Annan had moreover noted that personalities known to be partisans of non violence strategies to topple the regime had been arrested by the authorities. The case of the Palestinian Syrian intellectual Salameh Kaileh, who had been imprisoned in the past by the Syrian regime as well, is illustrative of this situation. He has supported unequivocally the Syrian revolution since the beginning, while criticizing for different reasons both the Syrian National Council (mainly external opposition) as well as the National Coordination Council for Democratic Change (mainly internal opposition) as not truly representing the revolutionary masses. He declared that they both don’t trusts the capacity of the people to achieve change, and neither of them believe that the Syrian regime can be toppled by the Syrian people. The National Coordination council’s call for reform and dialogue with the regime to achieve change misses the revolutionary moment and aspirations of the people, while on the other hand, the SNC’s call for military intervention also belies a lack of belief in the Syrian people to achieve change.
Salameh Kaileh’s case is interesting because his positions expressed above reflect a large and wide tendency of activists and groups operating in Syria such as the Watan Coallition representing 17 leftists’ organizations that are completely ignored by the Regional and Western Medias, as well as from a section of the “left” in the West. The regime has actually targeted intensively people sharing these positions by assassinating, arresting or pushing them to exile abroad. Arrests in the recent weeks have targeted people like Mahmud Issa, an opposition lawyer and activist from the coastal city of Tartous, the two sons of opposition figure Fayez Sara, who is the founder of the Association of Syrian Journalists and aid networks of doctors treating the injured.
An increase in demonstrations and popular resistance actions throughout the country were nevertheless witnessed these past few weeks, especially from the youth. Many flash mobs were organized as well as demonstrations in public spaces which had not known important prior mobilizations. The slogan “Stop the massacre! We want to build a Democratic and Civil Syria” which was raised for the first time by a young female activist standing alone in front parliament, was brandished by youth groups activists throughout the country following her arrest by the security services. Universities have continued to be centers of resistance. The Aleppo University witnessed a large demonstration of students few weeks ago which was severely repressed by the security forces killing 4 persons and arresting hundreds. Workers have also been target of the repression. Successful campaigns of general strikes and civil disobedience in Syria during the period December 2011 paralyzing large parts of the country also shows the activism of the working class and the exploited who are indeed the heart of the Syrian revolution. For this reason, the dictatorship has laid off more than 85,000 workers from January 2011 to February 2012, and closed 187 factories (according to official figures), to break the dynamics of protest.
Popular actions are still the main forms of resistance of the Syrian people; contradictory to the Medias claims all sides alike. This reality is nevertheless not to please to the regime, which wants to portray all opposition members as an Islamist extremist controlled by the Saudi regime and this is why they have targeted them since the beginning of the uprising.
Al Farouk Batalion and Saudi Intervention, or challenging the roots of the revolution!
In the same time, the main opposition members have continued to call for unification of the various armed groups in Syria under a civil authority towards which they would be accountable. The actions of the FSA should also be coordinated by local opposition groups in order to serve the objectives of the revolution. Since May 5, some efforts have been made to coordinate the activities of the various armed groups in Syria by establishing a Unified Military Council. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) has been negotiating with the various factions in the hope of persuading them to join such a body. The FSA command has told them that they would retain freedom of operation in their respective areas, and promised that the council would not interfere with their activities on the ground, but merely liaise between them and act as an umbrella organization.
These attempts are unfortunately until today not successful, despite many progresses. One of the main reasons behind this failure, in addition to the lack of coordination and weak equipment of the Syrian opposition armed groups, are the interventions of some neighboring countries, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar. These latter are trying to hijack the Syrian revolution and deviate it for their own limited objectives and not of the Syrians, just like they intervened in Egypt and Tunisia to limit the revolutionary processes by supporting financially the Muslim brotherhoods in Egypt and Al Nahda in Tunisia during the elections. Both parties do not challenge the interests of the Western imperialists and their clients in the region, while they want to limit the political, social and economic consequences of the revolutions. They have also intervened militarily in Bahrain in order to crush the popular movement.
Saudi Arabia has notably assisted financially and politically one specific group: Al Farouk battalion in Homs. The Syrians opposition members are aware of this situation and have condemned it.
24 different opposition armed groups in Homs actually started to work together in part because of the behavior of the Farouq Battalion. The representative of the 24 opposition armed group have criticized in an email dated March 25 and addressed to the SNC’s president Burhan Ghalioun the monopoly of Farouk Battalion over decision-making in areas under its controlled, especially in the Khalidiyeh neighborhood of Homs, and in its center in al-Qusayr, its attempts to subjugate whoever is outside its command by force, and adopting what they call a “big stick policy” in dealing with other fighters. They have accused Farouk Battalion of unjustified violence against their adversaries and other anti-regime groups that are not subsumed under the rubric of al-Farouq Battalion resulting in a heavy human toll. For example, al-Farouq’s mild punishment/warning to fighters in Bab al-Sibaa led to the death of five martyrs.
He also stated that Farouq Battalion’s behaviors are led by its financial backers – specifically, the Saudis. He adds that the basis of the crisis in the city of Homs in his email of May 25 is groups receiving uneven amounts of money from direct sources in Saudi Arabia some of whom are urging the targeting of loyalist neighborhoods and sectarian escalation while others are inciting against the SNC. The field leaders have noted that receiving aid from Saudi Arabia entails implicit conditions like working in ways other than the desired direction.
From their base in Homs near the Lebanese border, al-Farouq is well positioned to receive heavy weapons on the black market from cities such as al Qaa and Irsal via Salafist centers in the north of Lebanon.
Would this mean than the Syrian opposition is an instrument of Saudi and Western governments as some have attempted to do? Is the repression of the Syrian security forces and the army therefore justified?
Firstly the repression of the regime has started from the first day of protest and has constantly targeted civilians primarily, when they were no armed groups, which appeared as a reaction to repression of the regime and for their large majority to defend their families and neighborhoods. Secondly as we said before the Annan plan clearly stated the withdrawal of the Syrian army from cities and popular areas, which has not been the case!
In addition the Farouk Battalion group situated only in some areas of Homs has been condemned by the 24 other groups present in the city, while the Syrian popular movement has refused foreign intervention and the use of sectarianism. Reducing the Syrian revolution to one armed group would simply be ignoring its dynamics and the origins of the uprising!
The bulk of the Syrian popular movement has unequivocally remained independent from these foreign interventions and is still struggling for a Democratic, Civil, Social and Anti imperialist Syria.
The repression takes also other forms notably by the organization of parody elections while many cities and regions are under military siege.
On May 7, the regime organized so called free multiparty elections to elect a new parliament. The candidates and parties were not different to the past elections despite the new party and elections laws and the removal of Article 8 of the constitution that supposedly opened the way for multi-party elections. The candidates of the former officially recognized opposition, the National Progressive Front (NPF), appeared in this year’s elections on a list called the National Unity coalition. Previously, the NPF included the parties of Syria’s “workers and farmers”, yet no party with the exception of the Baath was allowed to field candidates in all of Syria’s provinces. The other two parties participating in the elections were the Communists under the banner the “People’s Will Party” headed by Qadri Jamil and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) led by Ali Haydar under the banner of “the Popular Front for Change and Liberation”. Both parties have been and are loyal and supporters of the current regime.
Most candidates in the elections did not publish electoral programs, the majority relying on pictures and a few vague phrases. Many Syrians mocked the candidates, presenting them as playthings in the hands of the regime and as a form of defiance to the elections pasted photographs of prominent revolutionary martyrs in the streets as alternative candidates in the elections.
The popular movement and the various Syrian opposition groups boycotted the elections on the basis that participating would mean compromising with the regime and recognizing its legitimacy. Demonstrations and strikes were organised in opposition to the elections. Some videos showed children insulting Bashar before casting fake ballots; mock elections featuring bribed voters, stuffed ballot boxes, and proclaiming the “freedom” of the vote; and citizens calling out the names of those who voted with their lives during the violent uprising.
Most Syrian governorates actually did not participate in the voting because of security conditions and because the majority of voters there were against the regime.
The result of the elections was no surprise: the lists of regime supporters won about 80 per cent of the seats in all the country’s governorates, leaving fewer than 20 per cent of the seats for candidates elected under the «independents” banner, but who are no less pro-regime. In addition to the deadly repression, the regime continues to ignore the real will of the Syrian people for Democracy and Freedom expressed in the streets of Syria where no one can impose their choice on them.
Terrorists attacks, insecurity and foreign interventions, whose interests and who to blame?
Al-Nusra Front, an obscure Islamist group unknown before the Syrian uprising, released a video on May 12 claiming responsibility for the twin suicide bombings in Damascus on May 10 that killed 55 people and nearly 400 wounded. The group has claimed responsibility for previous attacks, including double blasts in Damascus on March 17 that killed 27 people, as well as two other deadly explosions in the capital and two in the northern city of Aleppo. In all cases the regime and opposition traded accusations of responsibility.
The acknowledgement by the unknown islamist group has nevertheless not completely convinced the Syrian people, because the regime has accustomed the Syrian people to these king of actions and then blaming obscure extremists groups for it, while they were real commendatory of it. This has been the case for the past year in several similar so called terrorist actions but actually organized by security services, as it was the case in the 80s when various opposition groups were struggling against the authoritarian regime.
What is nevertheless sure is the rejection by the Syrian opposition and the popular movement in the streets who have condemned these terrorists’ actions. On Friday May 11, many Syrian in the demonstrations accused the regime to have perpetrated the bombings in order to hinder the uprising. In the demonstrations, we could find written slogans such as “Our revolution has nothing to do with these terrorists attacks of the regime”.
The final responsibility for these terrorists’ actions, are however to be borne by the regime. The same can be said for the insecurity in the country and the foreign interventions of all sides in the country for a regime that has both claimed to bring stability and to guaranty its sovereignty. The criminal behavior of the regime has brought the country to the current situation today and is guilty of the suffering of the Syrian people who have only demanded Freedom and Dignity, in other words democracy and social justice. Why has the regime refused to hear the people? Not as claimed by the regime and some of its supporters in the West and in the region to protect the Palestinian cause, to protect Arabism, to protect the secularism of the state or to face USA and Zionist imperialists. But actually to protect a mafia, clientelist, military, authoritarian and bourgeois regime which has not hesitated to collaborate with Western imperialists governments in the past!
We are not witnessing a civil war in Syria, because this would mean acknowledging the regime’s propaganda and separating the Syrian revolutionary process from the uprisings in the Arab world. No what we are witnessing in Syria is a popular uprising of the Syrian people for Democracy, Social Justice and real independence against a dictator and its criminal regime!
Viva the Syrian revolution and Glory to our martyrs!