Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Assad is no better than Saddam | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55341380

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is seen during the filming of an interview with the BBC, in Damascus February 9, 2015. Assad said third parties including Iraq were conveying information to Damascus about a U.S.-led campaign of air strikes against the Islamic State militant group in Syria. In an interview with the BBC broadcast on Tuesday […]

The Syrian people are being oppressed, humiliated and killed by a criminal and tyrannical regime. This is the only view that any rational, objective and just person can have of the Syrian revolution, and this is the right view.

Syria is being ruled by a criminal gang that has stripped the Syrian people of their dignity, and their very lives. This is a regime that is practicing the worst crimes against freedom and justice, and more closely resembles the Sicilian mafia than a legitimate government.

It was precisely these practices that sparked the Syrian revolution, with hundreds of thousands of Syrians taking to the streets to protest against the regime. They raised pictures and chanted slogans, calling for Bashar Al-Assad to step down. This was the scene in Syria just a few short years ago; the people carrying out peaceful protests and rallies against the regime every Friday after prayers. While the criminal Assad regime responded to this with bullets and death, and carrying out a campaign of mass arrests targeting anyone who dared to protest, sending them straight to the regime’s brutal prisons.

Sectarianism runs in the blood of Arabs, and so they could not support the Syrian people without the specter of sectarianism rearing its ugly head. So the issue of rescuing the Syrian people, or alternatively defending the criminal regime, became ideological and sectarian issues between the region’s Sunnis and Shi’ites. We saw the emergence of the terrorist–takfirist ideology on the scene on both sides. We saw groups like Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, the Al-Nusra Front and the Al-Abbas Brigades emerge on the Syrian scene, among others. Each arrived with false claims that they had come to support the Syrian revolution or defend the people of Syria. But the fact of the matter is that they each came to defend their own views and beliefs against their own perceived enemies—far from what is in the interests of Syria, the Syrian people, or Islam in general. So they would say it is a “duty” to kill this group or that, because they are kuffar (apostates) or Nasibi (a derogatory term used by Shi’ites against Sunnis). Based on historical disagreements, they sowed discord and chaos wherever they went, completely transforming the situation in Syria. The Syrian revolution was the biggest victim of this transformation, while the Assad regime has benefited from it and may ultimately now be looking at long-term survival thanks to this saddening state of affairs.

These Sunni takfirists—let us simply call them terrorists—are unable to respect the pluralism, moderation, coexistence and tolerance that Syria enjoyed since its inception. How could they when they are all foreigners who come from countries that do not enjoy the same level of religious diversity and tolerance? So when such groups say they have come to show Syrians “the right path,” we can only denounce such views and beliefs as being illegitimate and those who espouse them as terrorists.

On the other hand, the views of the Shi’ite groups that have come to defend the Assad regime from as far afield as Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and elsewhere are similarly dangerous and alien to Syria. Sectarian hatred has blinded them to the oppression that is being carried out by the Assad regime against its own people, and they are only concerned with fighting the jihadist groups that are threatening their shrines while ignoring the bigger issues.

The presence of such groups has slowly transformed the situation in Syria, where mercenary forces and sectarian militias defending a criminal regime currently rule the scene. These forces have been blinded by sectarian hatred and they have completely forgotten that they cheered and danced in the streets when Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled, while in reality his regime is no different from the criminal Assad government. They are both Ba’athists, and while Saddam massacred Halabja, the Assad regime has carried out numerous massacres over the years, not least the Hama massacre. Both regimes invaded a neighboring country; Saddam’s Iraq occupied Kuwait, while Assad’s Syria took over Lebanon. So, these two regimes are identical, but those in Syria have been blinded by sectarianism.