April 23, 2011
Less than a month ago, I submitted a blog entry entitled, “Now it is Syria’s Turn: The uprising on its Way?” Clearly, we can say now that yes it is here and the Assad regime has showed no signs of mercy. Since the pro-democracy protests first broke out over a month ago, over 300 people have been killed. Yesterday alone over 100 protestors were killed, and if the images emerging from Syria are authentic then the victims are also children. According to Amnesty, a 7 and 10 year child were shot dead along with a 70 year old man in the city of Izzra. In fact,with most foreign media banned from Syria and with severe restrictions on al-Jazeera and other Arab networks, which are confined to quite neighborhoods in Damascus, much of what we know reaches us from social network sites such as facebook, twitter, and youtube. Yes, April 22 2011 will be a day which will go down in history as the day Syria followed the path of Tunis and Egypt (as, I write this reports are coming in that at least eight people have been killed today during the funeral processions of those killed yesterday).
Breaking out in the coastal regions, southern cities, the major cities of Homs and Hama, it seems that it is only time until the thousands of demonstrating in the suburbs of Damascus will be able to break the gates and enter the capital. With the huge Syrian bureaucracy and security forces well penetrated deep within the society, the revolution has its work cut out. In other words, Assad’s regime will not go down easily and the Syrian opposition has not clearly emerged. The Syrian government’s claim that the opposition is just a group of radical Muslims cannot be bought, and it seems that protestors include articulate groups from among Syria’s different sects: secular and religious Sunni Muslim, the Greek Orthodox and other Christians, the Druze, and it will only take a matter of time before members of the Alawi community will join in. For the Kurds in the Northeastern parts of the country, who seemed to have been appeased following Bashar Assad granting 300,000 Kurds with citizenship, they most likely will continue to work to progress their rights within the country and will throw their support to the Syrian opposition once a clear leadership emerges.
Regionally, it seems that Turkey has failed the test with them remaining silent to the Syrian people’s will and surprisingly still supporting Bashar Assad. However, with violence in Syria hitting new heights, Turkey might need to reconsider the “no-visa entry” recently granted to Syrians to prevent a influx of refugees, and political asylum seekers. Currently, I am trying to receive statistics of how many Syrians have crossed into Turkey during the last month to check if there has been an influx of entries. Nevertheless, with years of instability in Turkey’s Southeastern provinces, Turkey must now begin to worry that perhaps the lifting of visas with Syria was premature and might even lead to an influx of Kurdish activists that do not see eye-to-eye with Turkish policy makers.
Lastly, while many people supported the western invasion of Libya, on the night of the invasion I voiced my skepticism (see link) and questioned the intentions of the US and European forces. What now remains clear is that if the revolutions are to take hold and overthrow their despotic rulers, they will need to remain in the realm of a “popular” uprising as we are seeing in Syria and Yemen; in this sense, Egpyt provided all of the Arab countries how a non-violent civil protest can lead to regime change. Sadly, people will be killed as we have seen; however, the Libyan case has shown us that outside intervention actually can add to the pain and suffering of a local population and even prevent the success of a revolution. At this moment we need to ask ourselves if it had not been for the invasion of the forces would the Libyan Qaddafi still be in power?
For now, we will need to wait and see how successful the Syrians will be at overthrowing Assad. I also do not want to speculate now if these regimes will be “better” or “worse” for the entire region at whole since nothing can justify a country that has kept its people “under lockdown" for over four decades.