Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Rights and dreams | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Even though the phrase “the importance and need to protect the rights of minorities” has continually been reiterated during the events of the great Syrian revolution and across the region for over a year now, to say nothing of its frequent airing in other Arab countries before, this expression seems closer to a black comedy than sincere and helpful advice. The “majority” of Arab societies suffer from a lack of rights and an absence of any sense of justice, dignity and security. Hence, asking one deprived entity to be observant of the rights of another deprived one is something akin to a farce.

Those regimes that have collapsed or are starting to collapse have never “respected” their people, thought of them as something to be reckoned with, or taken them into account. This attitude generated a feeling of growing inferiority and bitter “acceptance” of injustice, because the alternative was an unknown evil. And hence proverbs such as “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” began to spread, among others. Therefore, a new culture and mentality was generated, termed by the late, illustrious Algerian intellectual Malek Bennabi as “susceptibility to colonialism”. What Bennabi means here is the colonialism of subjugation, injustice and tyranny. [According to this theory], as time passes, the human psyche grows numb and begins to accept oppression as a feature of the disciplining and upbringing process. It begins to view killing as a price that must be paid in order to achieve the “ultimate goal”, alongside other dubious goals which oppose religious values, customs, standard norms, systems, laws and rights in all their forms. Of course this generates and entrenches the elaborate system of oppression and tyranny, as described by Sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Kawakibi, a genius human rights advocate from Aleppo, over a hundred years ago.

Perhaps the most important, serious and critical observation we can take from the events of the Arab Spring is the fragile and insufficient set of rights granted to Arab citizens in these countries, and the loose relationship between state and citizen under a social contract that is symbolic, superficial and frayed in the best of cases. This relationship has never been, at any point in time, equal, normal or balanced. It has always been a master-versus-slave relationship; a relationship between victor and victim, between conqueror and conquered. This substandard and faulty relationship can no longer continue in the same fashion, regardless of the slogans raised in support of it and the dazzling, beautiful, fictional goals promoting it, in the name of religion, nationalism, pan-Arabism, resistance, liberation, equality, socialism and freedom. This is because the actual practice reveals and exposes the exact opposite.

There is no clearer proof of the aforementioned than the existence of Arab regimes today that opt to side with the tyrannical, criminal al-Assad regime in Syria, despite the growing signs and accelerating momentum of the Arab Spring which calls for justice, dignity, freedom and the rise of the voice of the people. Yes, some still support the al-Assad regime that has been butchering its own people for over 40 years. This paints a frank picture of the wretched Arab political reality and our downward spiral into the mire of injustice, dictatorship, humiliation, enslavement and false idols, which we have seen again and again throughout history and from one generation to the next. This is why even though the Syrians’ struggle for freedom symbolizes one specific population standing up to their villainous regime, the stances adopted by the countries of the region – whether they support the revolution or the regime – reflect the level of sincerity or hypocrisy inherent in the hearts and minds of the people.

Syria’s revolution to overthrow the al-Assad regime is a moment of truth in an age of hypocrisy. No Arab citizen can be expected to protect their minority counterparts and offer them their full rights unless they personally feel the value of such a matter.