Syria: 9 years of struggle for democracy

SOCIALIST RESISTANCE The movement for democracy which erupted in 2011 in Syria, alongside others in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), gave hope that the Syrian people could overthrow the Assad dictatorship. After nine years, there are over 5 million refugees and 500,000 dead. Assad now seems to be on the verge of winning, but what will be left of the country? Can the regime survive?

JOSEPH DAHER The country has suffered vast damage and widespread destruction, because of Damascus’ war machine, backed by its allies Russia and Iran. Of course other foreign actors contributed to the displacement of the populations and destruction in the country — particularly the military interventions of the US and Turkey and, to a lesser extent, the armed opposition as well as hardline Islamist and jihadist militias.

Additionally, six million Syrians are internally displaced. Around 90 percent of the population live under the poverty line, and more than 11 million people are in need of humanitarian aid inside the country. The cost of reconstruction has been estimated at around$400 billion.

The regime can however survive in the short and mid term with the assistance of Moscow and Teheran. Its resilience does not mean however the end of its contradictions or of dissent, especially in areas held by opposition forces. Despite engaging in repression, the regime still faces challenges, as the reasons that led to the uprising are more than ever present. These include the absence of democracy, and profound socio-economic injustice and inequalities.

These conditions do not necessarily directly translate into political opportunities. No viable organized opposition has appeared. The failures of the opposition in exile and armed opposition groups have left many people who had sympathized with the uprising feeling frustrated and bitter. The absence of a structured, independent, democratic, and inclusive Syrian political opposition, which would have appealed to the poorer classes and social activists, has made it difficult for various sectors of the population to unite and challenge the regime on a national scale.

The latest demonstrations in Sweida against the economic situation and difficult living conditions, an often repeated criticism in many other areas of the country, and the continued protests and clashes in Daraa against the regime’s forces, demonstrate this situation: regional protests without coordination between them.

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