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Not in our name | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Razan: My dear friends of the al-Farouq Battalion [of the Free Syrian Army], now you have detention camps complete with instruments of torture!

Maher: The revolution is against people who do such things, more than anything else!

Nazeer: I’m against looking into this incident. This is the least of what they could have done…did you expect them to shower him with roses?

Razan: Anyone who tortures his enemy will one day torture political opponents and eventually anyone whose opinion differs from his. If you keep quiet, it becomes normal.

The above comments are very important, and lie at the heart of our moral and ethical understanding of unusual revolutions, like the Syrian revolution. Questions such as this have been the focus of the debate since the first day of the [Syrian] revolution, namely: how can an unarmed people who have been suppressed and killed avoid behaving in the same manner as their oppressors? The above comments have been taken from an online forum of Syrian political activists; these questions form the centre of wide-ranging discussions that have yet to be put forward openly.

The topic of discussion, or so it appears, is a leaked video that shows a Syrian Air Force Intelligence Directorate officer admitting to killing Syrian demonstrators. In the recording, the man appears to be bleeding and bruises can clearly be seen on his face, whilst those questioning him disdainfully refer to him as “boy”. We can assume that the recording was leaked by Syrian dissidents, perhaps even members of the group calling itself the Free Syrian Army [FSA].

Since we didn’t believe the videos shown on Syrian state television in which activists admitted to having committed violations, we will similarly not believe the story being told by the man in this recording. We will therefore not believe that he participated in the killings of Syrians, for now he is the victim and we will take his side in the same manner that we previously took the Syrian revolution’s side.

In fact, what has raised concerns amongst the Syrian people, and others who support Syrian activism, are the contents of these leaked videos, some of which were posted on YouTube. They all share the same features, namely an adoption of the approach of assault, torture, and sometimes killing members of the Syrian army and pro-regime Shabiha, on the basis that the Syrian regime’s practices excuse this and allow the opposition – or at least some of them – to adopt the same approach.

Courageous Syrian political activists such as Razan Zaitouneh, Samar Yazbek and others have not hesitated to condemn this issue as a disgrace that will strip the Syrian revolution of its credibility and legitimacy. Whatever the justification, the regime’s brutal practices must not become a pretext for the opposition to do the same. Any revolution or protest against a tyrannical and despotic regime would lose its legitimacy if it deliberately used the same means of killing, suppressing and wiping out the opposition. It’s as if these activists are telling those copying the regime’s practices: “do not do this in our name; do not distort our revolution. What you’re doing is exactly what we want to free ourselves from.”

On her blog, reacting to people trying to excuse those who behave in this manner on the pretext that they are victims of the regime, Samar Yazbek, says: “The Syrian revolution is exceptional in history, yet carrying out these deeds will strip it of its distinction.”

Instead, we should take exceptional care of the revolution. We should be more critical of and more sensitive towards what is being committed in its name, in the same manner as Razan and Samar.