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Opinion: The Heart of the Syrian Revolution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian protesters chant anti-President Bashar Assad slogans and wave a revolutionary flag in front of their embassy in Amman, Jordan, Friday, May 17, 2013 to condemn a May 10 massacre in Banias, Syria. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

After showing the dead body to his audience, a Syrian rebel known as Abu Saqqar held up an internal organ he had ripped out of a Syrian regime soldier, looked at the camera and brutally bit into it.

Abu Saqqar did not settle for this lone act, but instead vowed to repeat such savagery. The barbaric act violated the sanctity of death and revived notions of cannibalism, which we normally consider to be acts from history and legend.

Along with the soldier’s organ, Abu Saqqar also bit into many of the Syrian revolution’s values, sweeping the torment endured by victims of the uprising to one side.

The man who committed this atrocity gave a fiery, sectarian speech while he carried out his disgusting act. A few days after that, he appeared in another video, in which he was shown praying. He addressed the man shooting the video, saying that if the bloodshed does not stop in Syria and Bashar Al-Assad is not held accountable, then the entire Syrian people will become like him.

What turned this fighter, of whom little is known, into a cannibal? Why did the entire global media show concern over what Abu Saqqar did, to the extent that he has been placed at the heart of the Syrian conflict; his actions have raised suspicions about the Syrian opposition and the legitimacy of supporting it. Global reports did not show as much concern over the endless photos of victims of the regime’s brutality, the latest of which was the Baniyas massacre.

Is it because the regime’s brutality has become monotonous? Or does the number of the victims—80,000—no longer affects us?

Yes, we must carefully pause at this video, and we must shudder from its brutality, because it clearly shows what the situation in Syria has come to. It indicates the dark days that await Syria if the massacres do not stop. Abu Saqqar’s act, however, is not a reason to alter our stance on the legitimacy of the Syrian revolution, nor should it impact how we perceive the limitless cruelty imposed on the Syrian people by regime forces.

Abu Saqqar’s video was not a disinfected image of war and brutality. It was not a polished image of victims of torture and murder. It was an image depicting violence and cruelty in its clearest form.

The terrible crime committed by Abu Saqqar serves as an electric shock for the world. It forces us to realize how the situation is developing, and that it will continue if the larger crimes are not stopped. The Syrian regime is undoubtedly the party that holds direct responsiblity for these crimes, although, of course, this does not at all justify criminal acts committed by opposition fighters.

It would not be unreasonable to assume that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad was a happy man when he saw the video of Abu Saqqar. Indeed, appearing with his family in public two days after the video gained international attention, he walked through the streets of Damascus, smiling and talking to people in a manner implying that Damascus is calm, that there is no violence shaking Syria to the core, and that the “civilized” president peacefully mingles with his people while opposition fighters show their “true” colors.

After two years of unprecedented violence, Bashar Al-Assad has managed to drag the revolution into a cycle of murder and revenge.

Abu Saqqar bit into the heart of the Syrian regime—will Assad succeed in decimating the heart of revolution?