Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is the Syrian revolution over? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

“The battle to overthrow the Syrian regime is over once and forever.” This was a carefully thought out statement issued by President Bashar al-Assad’s government and declared the day before yesterday by Jihad al-Maqdisi, the Syrian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, right before the start of the Istanbul Conference – held yesterday under the slogan the “Friends of Syria.” The conference was the largest diplomatic gathering ever to confront the regime, and was attended by over 80 countries. In fact, what al-Maqdisi said was further corroborated by a report published by the British newspaper “The Daily Telegraph”, which quoted Syrian activists in Turkey as saying they had “lost hope that they will unseat Bashar al-Assad.”

So was al-Assad, by being hasty in announcing victory, maneuvering to undermine and thwart the international gathering in Istanbul? Last week, President al-Assad announced his acceptance of Kofi Annan’s 6-point proposal [to end the Syrian conflict], before he, later on, stated as a condition that the practice of arming the Syrian opposition must come to an end. The demand was somewhat ambiguous, for it has not been proven that the opposition is armed; and hence it is impossible to cease such a practice. Spokesman al-Maqdisi resorted to such a trick the day before yesterday by saying that the regime had emerged victorious, but it will take some time for al-Assad to withdraw his military ordinances (given that the battle is over). Of course, this statement was meant to buy time so that the regime can continue with its killing and destruction until the revolution is ultimately aborted. Such postponements, all being to the advantage of the Bashar al-Assad regime, were first initiated by Nabil el-Araby, the Arab League Secretary-General, who first proposed an Arab observer mission to Syria and appointed Arab mediators, and then international observers were sent. Yet throughout this process we have continued to watch the same game; serving as a license to kill.

The entire world is aware that the battle is extremely unbalanced, and nevertheless, talk continues focus either on armed militias or the fear that militant groups may emerge in the future. Yet, no one talks about over half a million armed military and security troops who everyday carry out the killing and destruction of a few hundred, or even thousand, independent fighters or elements enrolled in the Free Syrian Army. The killings are horrific and bear no parallel to any previous wars. For example, four days ago, al-Assad’s troops destroyed 80 out of roughly 200 houses in the village of Deir Simbel, in the Idlib countryside, according to “The Daily Telegraph”, a situation which we all know recurs throughout the country. This is how the image of the Syrian people’s revolution now appears, one year on the beginning of daily confrontations; the regime’s armed forces versus the defenseless uprising Syrians, whilst the world watches on helplessly and only declares its concerns over arming the opposition.

It is natural that the revolutionaries stationed at the Turkish-Syrian border feel frustrated, for everyday they risk their lives when crossing the border to transport supplies, refugees, defectors and journalists. They are facing with an unfamiliar situation; a siege being laid upon their revolution, Russia and Iran overtly fighting against them, and no external power is bothering to declare its readiness to intervene to strike a balance.

The Syrian crisis has multiple angles, which I will address at the proper time; in terms of the regional balance of power should the Bashar al-Assad regime be successful in quelling the revolution. Yesterday, however, the Friends of Syria conference was held near the Syrian border, and we are aware that there were no real surprises, rather only supportive statements and condemnations of the massacres committed by the al-Assad regime. What is new about the Istanbul Conference and different to the Tunisia conference, held earlier for the same purpose, is that the Syrian opposition groups have officially announced their commitment to the principles of political pluralism and democratic rule, with full respect for freedoms, religions and sects. In fact, these were the same principles that various countries had insisted a revolution must adopt before they could declare their support. But I do not imagine we will see a parallel move to support the Syrian people’s revolution.

What we want to say to those who met yesterday in Istanbul is that the Syrian people will no longer accept to live under a regime that has persisted in humiliating them for 40 years, a regime that has killed thousands of them within one year, alongside the hundreds of thousands who are detained in secret corridors and prisons. We would say to the 80 or so friendly countries that they have deserted an entire nation, failing to provide it with basic requirements – medicine, rescue teams, food or water – for over a year in areas which the regime has isolated using its savage and repressive apparatus. We are regarding with wonder what they have done, or rather, what they have failed to do in Istanbul regarding the biggest human and political disaster in the region. By remaining silent and indifferent, they are killing a nation, and so al-Maqdisi was right to sarcastically say two days ago before the meeting that “The battle to overthrow the Syrian regime is over once and forever.”