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Syria versus Syria - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In Jordan, demonstrators are accused of being provoked by Syria, whereas in Syria, the opposition is accused of being provoked by Jordan. Such is the case with all troubled countries in the region, yet we all know the truth: the problem lies within the borders, and even if evidence of foreign interference was found, people would not have taken to the streets in such numbers, had there not been deep convictions to do so.

What happened in the Arab world has occurred roughly 30 years late, but no one wants to courageously admit that the protests have resulted from chronic deplorable conditions that were inevitably going to explode, be it yesterday, today or tomorrow.

Following Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Bahrain, it is now the turn for Syria, and the crisis there is still in its infancy. The Syrian regime can either address it wisely and emerge victorious, or foolishly and lose the battle. Nobody can claim that they did not expect the situation to explode in such a closed country. It is natural for the situation to deteriorate rapidly in a country that has been living in a state of war for nearly have a century, yet at the same time, continues to promise development. Syria has chosen to live in the trench of a war that has not taken place for 40 years. Now the regime thinks with a trench mentality, awaiting the battle and formulating its policies accordingly.

In this continued state of emergency, several problems have piled up, and caused the situation to explode. Is it a sectarian problem this time? Or is it a problem of political freedoms? Or is it a problem related to living standards? Or is it a political conspiracy?

In fact, all the aforementioned elements have contributed to the explosion. Without addressing the covert talk of sectarianism, it is impossible to remedy this ill. Any orator in Syria could mount a platform and provoke the Alawis or the Sunnis, and his talk would resonate amongst some of those who felt congested by the situation. Without dialogue and frankness to emphasize the fact that internal unity is more important than all religious and ethnical loyalties, sectarian calls have now found fertile grounds.

The restrictions placed on freedom have also caused the streets to ‘explode’. Although President Bashar al-Assad has pledged to increase the margin of freedoms, the state has continued to suppress, despite the fact that its people are considered to be amongst the most intellectual and cultured Arab peoples. For example, recently unrest broke out in the city of Daraa, after the security forces arrested some boys for scrawling the following slogan on a wall: “Now it is your turn, doctor.” True, such a phrase would be alarming for a country that is not familiar with the freedom of expression, but we are in an age where we see far more dangerous messages being spread across the internet, and read by a million people across Syria. Instead of taking this graffiti with a pinch of salt, or even painting over the walls, the police put those boys in jail!

In addition to the suppression of freedom, the country has been living in distress for four decades, as a result of its outdated war policy. Damascus is still hosting obsolete organizations that date back to the 1960s and 1970s, costing the state budget hefty sums, and making Syria an object of international isolation. It is not logical for Syria to be self-constrained under the pretext of war, whilst all other countries around the world have changed; from Russia to China, and even Vietnam. The people here do not see a war, so they cannot be patient, nor do they experience any affluence, so they cannot rejoice. The Syrian people have been patient in supporting the oppressed people of Palestine, but it is inconceivable that they should support abhorred regional entities such as Iran or Hezbollah, nor should we expect their own skeptical people to support them.

Who cares today about talk of resistance in the Shebaa farms, or about aiding Hezbollah or Hamas against the Palestinian Authority, or talk about Ahmed Jebril, or even Ahmadinejad in Iran? For a Syrian, like all other citizens of the world who love their countries, Syria is the number one priority.

It is certain that Syria’s preoccupation with political disputes and alliance games have drawn its attention from internal reform, at a time when a citizen there can see his neighbors enjoying better lives. Here I am deliberately not talking specifically about democracy or internal political reform; because I know that these two demands are very difficult to put into practice.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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