From the Editors
The New York Times says Jadaliyya "Brings New Life to Arab Studies." Read about it by clicking here.
After the breakdown of the rhetoric of a conspiracy of Salafis and armed gangs, the Syrian regime has resorted to a rhetoric of colonial conspiracy. This is especially so after the recent resolution by the Arab League [to suspend Syria’s membership]. This rhetoric of colonial conspiracy has traction with some of the political forces because it masks their own parochial discourse with the principled issue of resisting colonial forces within the context of the Arab revolutions. This rhetoric also resonates with some intellectual circles affiliated with the nationalist or leftist currents because it offers an exit from the necessity of confronting their own intellectual laziness in the face of great changes that are not listed in their ancient dictionaries.
Amnesia is the condition of possibility for the formation of conspiratorial rhetoric. Such rhetoric requires that we erase the facts that produced the beginnings of the Syrian popular revolution.
The first fact is the existence of initial attempts by small groups that are affiliated with the secular left to mobilize in Damascus. These small mobilizations were faced with intense violence, which prevented them from transforming into a phenomenon that transcended intellectual circles.
The second fact is the tragedy of the children of Daraa, who wrote the slogan, "the people want the fall of the regime," on the walls. This was a result of their being affected by the general atmosphere that was created by both the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. This small occurrence, created by the children, was transformed into a blatant expression of a reality with dual meaning. On the one hand, it expressed the daringness of children when adults are silent because of [the latter’s] fear. On the other hand, it revealed the nature of a brutal security regime that has ruled Syria for four decades. The regime did not apologize for the torture of children and punish the perpetrators of these ugly acts. [Instead,] it persisted in detaining the children and insulted their families, who had gone to beseech the regime on the basis of their honor. This is what sparked the revolution in Huwran, which then spread to all of Syria. Thus the point was reached wherein the child martyr Hamza al-Khatib, along with his mutilated body, was transformed into a symbol and an icon.
The third fact is the making light of the people's demands, as well as the head of the regime's replacement of the term "rats"—that was used by Qaddafi—with the term "germs" in order to describe protesters. This demonstrated intransigence, arrogance, and pride. These features meant that merciless repression was the only means for confronting the popular movement, such that protests turned into killing fields.
These primary facts must be the basis of any discussion of the current Syrian situation. Before the regime speaks of an American-Qatari-Saudi conspiracy to topple it, and before those opposed to the regime speak of the Israeli commitment to its survival, analysis must take off from these three facts so as to [be able to] understand the Syrian revolution. This is a spontaneous revolution that the people have initiated out of desperation from the regime, in defense of their human dignity (which has been trampled on by military boots), and without waiting for an opposition that has been repressed and marginalized.
It is difficult to be convinced by the hypothesis of a spontaneous conspiracy! This type of miserable talk belongs to the past, and is no longer capable of addressing any one. How are Syrians to be convinced when they have witnessed the repressive machine that crushes them as it combines with a machine of lies that works to destroy the heroic image and nobility of their struggle.
The spontaneous popular uprising did not surprise the authoritarian regime alone. It also surprised the democratic opposition, as it did the entire world. The international hesitancy whose stages we witnessed in the first days of both the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions was repeated in Syria over the span of eight full months. This of course does not mean that there are no conspiratorial possibilities for the region. The conspiracy existed as soon as the Egyptian regime began to decay, and a convincingly disguised dictatorship was installed in order to abort the revolution. Similarly, the conspiracy in the Libyan case was not possible without the stubbornness of the stupid dictator who brought on the external intervention. His self-obsession led to the destruction of the country as the price for his fall from the thrown.
Being surprised by the revolution does not absolve the revolutionaries and opposition forces of their responsibility. Only the revolution alone can protect Syria from the disintegration that threatens the county, which is the result of the regime's reckless policy—relying on external support and not hesitating to destroy everything.
In its ninth month, the Syrian revolution faces four dangers:
The first danger is the drift towards sectarian practices. This is the biggest trap that threatens to destroy all the values that thousands have fallen to defend. There can be no sectarian revenge, regardless of the reason. It is the responsibility of the National Council and all opposition forces to condemn this [type of] behavior. Otherwise, the revolution will descend into racism and dig its own grave.
The second danger is the use of arms. There are divisions in the army, and several military formations claim to have joined the Free [Syrian] Army. This army must defer to a strategy that is devised by the political leadership so that it will not become a tool used by external actors. Military personnel must understand that the Syrian revolution is a peaceful popular revolution and not a coup.
The third danger is the call for external military intervention. This intervention will be the death of the revolution, because it is being encouraged on the delusional basis that the colonial Western states will come to save the people from a regime that has been pliant and provided services to external actors in return for extending its rule. External military intervention will only come, if it comes at all, on the eve of the regime's fall. In this sense, external military intervention will be meaningless. It will expose Syria to the trap of conspiracies.
The forth danger is the failure to give political work the full attention [it deserves]. The regime is maneuvering and playing games. Though it is under political pressure. However, the Arab and international pressure, important as they are, will not solve the problem. The Syrian people will solve the problem when it subsumes its battle under the cause of democracy, and not within the framework of Arab axes and for the cover of oil authoritarianism. Rather, [the fight must be] for the sake of the freedom of Syria and the Arabs.
The responsibility to save Syria from conspiracies—which the madness of the regime and its suicidal project are leading to—falls on the shoulders of the opposition as well as the activists of the coordinating committees. The road might be long and hard, but it is the road to freedom and it has been charted by the dignity of the people. It is immune to humiliation and oppression.
The square has returned to its owners, and Egypt's revolutionaries have returned to their square. Dictatorship, disguised at times and not at others, is no longer possible. The military council is turning on the revolution before any of its accomplishments are realized. It is returning to its repressive methods.
The youth have returned to the square so as to write a new page in [the history of] their revolution.
The revolution cannot stop in the middle of the road. The middle of the road opens the door wide open for counter-revolution, and allows for a conspiracy to empty the revolution of its guaranteed victory. This is what the youth of Egypt know as they themselves face bullets. They hold their country in the their throats, which are wounded by the cries for freedom, as well as their raised fists.
Love, salutation, and solidarity to them.
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