Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Syria and the Friday of Departure | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

What does the so-called Friday of Departure [1/7/2011] in Syria – 4 months after the beginning of the uprising – tell us? Simply speaking, it tells us that the Syrian regime has yet to learn its lesson, whilst the Syrian street…yes, the street…is more flexible, informed, and developed, and knows what it wants.

The outbreak of wide-spread protests across Syria, with more than half a million protestors taking to the street in Hama, means that the Syrians are insistent upon [political] change, and are not backing down in the face of brutal suppression or political tricks. More importantly than this, the ceiling of the Syrian street’s demands have been raised even further, with these demands now outstripping those being put forward by others, whether this is the Syrian [political] opposition that met last Monday in Damascus, or the political solutions being proposed by foreign powers. The ceiling of Syrian street’s demands were not raised to this level in one go, but rather these demands developed step-by-step, which is precisely what happened in Egypt as well. However the former Egyptian regime – as I have stated in previous articles – delayed, and were ultimately three days too slow in responding to events as they unfolded…however the al-Assad regime today is approximately 40 years too slow.

We must credit the Syrian demonstrators today for showing unprecedented discipline despite everything that the al-Assad regime is throwing at them, for there is no violence, or sectarianism, or sabotage, or the outbreak of looting and rioting, regardless of whatever the al-Assad regime says about the presence of Islamist gunmen. This is an unconvincing story, whether we are talking about the Syrian regime’s claims, or the Libyan regime’s claims [of the presence of Islamist gunmen]. We are all aware that suicide operations are one of the key features of Al Qaeda-sponsored terrorism, and this is something that has been clear since the establishment of this terrorist organization. Therefore Al Qaeda only carries out terrorist operations in this manner, because suicide operations represent an inexpensive form of terrorism. Of course, the fear now is of suicide operations taking place in Syria, allowing the Syrian regime to say “See…Al Qaeda is here!” However before the ridiculous [Syrian] security apparatus attempts to fake such an attack, we must also recall that Al Qaeda usually targets “soft targets” such as crowded places, mosques, hostels, and even funerals. This is also something that we have not seen, either in Syria or Libya. In addition to this, the presence of Al Qaeda in Syria would represent a condemnation of the regime, not the demonstrators, for how could Al Qaeda be present in a police state such as Syria?

Therefore, the Syrian regime’s mistakes, and its reluctance [to implement reform] has brought it to this current crisis point, or shall we say impasse. Indeed the only thing that the Damascus regime excels at is never learning from its mistakes, or from weaving futile plots. However the Syrian protestors are the complete opposite of this; they are attentive and well-organized, and now have a clear depth. A report published by the New York Times [Syria Pulls Its Armed Forces From Some Contested Cities, 29/6/11] quoted one Syrian political activist in Hama as saying that “we learned from our mistakes”, he added that “to make a revolution halfway is to dig our own tombs.” Therefore, there is nothing surprising about half a million Syrian citizens taking to the street in Hama, for they have broken through the fear-barrier, and know how to tire out the Syrian security apparatus. At the same time, it is clear that the Damascus regime has not learnt from its mistakes, and has never acknowledged that the only solution to this crisis is reform, namely to implement a package of reform that meets the people’s demands. However even this is something that is no longer possible today, because the Syrian regime has delayed for too long, and so it would be very difficult to implement this. Therefore today it is clear – for the first time since the beginning of the uprising – that the Syrian people have the upper hand, not the regime, and one US official speaking to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity stressed that “time is on the opposition’s side.”