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Syria Revolution: A Six-Year Flame Fighting Demographic Change | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Residents inspect damage from what activists said were barrel bombs dropped by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad in Tafas town in Daraa, Syria, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Faqir

Beirut – Not so long ago, Syrian children in Daraa scribbled “Freedom for Syria” across their hometown’s walls, knowing so little that a humble call for freedom will soon snowball into a full-fledged civil war that has stretched on for over six years.

Although it was not the sole factor at play, the arrests against Daraa’s youth for showing dissent became one of the brightest sparks to fuel a nation-wide uprising which demanded freedom and liberty, said Syria Revolutionaries Gathering member Omar Idilbi.

“Apprehending the children was one of the key triggers for launching the Syria revolution,” Idilbi explained. At least 15 children were arrested in the southern city of Daraa for painting anti-regime graffiti on the walls of a school.

“The revolution was being prepared for over two months before the events in Daraa,” Idlibi added. He cited six protests launched on March 15, 2011, before the brutal wave of arrests targeting Daraa’s children later.

Popular protests took to the streets then spread across Syria but the regime continued to disregard the demonstrations, despite close allies and friendly states advising it otherwise. Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime took no example in similar rebellions shaking up dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.

Assad’s regime instead greatly relied on its security services and notorious methods on neutralizing dissent, believing it could strangle it in the cradle.

At the time, leaders of the peaceful movement expected a confrontation with the well-known brute power of their authoritarian regime, but they did not foresee a world standing idle against the killing of innocent Syrian people.

“We expected barbaric and retaliatory killings by the regime against protests that grew broader and gained momentum by the day–but we did not think that the international community will stand idle against our death and refrain from taking the initiative to curb the regime’s hostility and aggressions,” said Idlibi.

“Syrian people remained silent and did not respond or retaliate for over six months of mounting regime transgressions. Not a single account of fightback against the regime was registered—it was only later that peaceful protesters were forced to pick up arms for self-defense,” he added.

“A number of effective and influential countries had it in them to halt the massacres in Syria, yet those states perceived Syria as a good investment opportunity to reorganize and expand influence in the region,” Idlibi said. He cited Israel as one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Syria crisis.

“Had those states shown a true desire to stop the shedding of Syrian blood, they would have been able to do so, and they would have also helped in making the revolution a success,” Idlibi said.

“But they (internationally influential states) are unwilling to have democracies established in the region.”

Syria’s revolution was a calculated risk with expected consequences—arbitrary arrests, unlawful prosecutions and systematic displacement were all fallouts revolutionaries were aware of.

Idlibi revealed that as of late 2011, vast foreign Shi’ite presence began appearing in the capital, particularly at the Sayyidah Zaynab area (south of Damascus).

Increased presence of overwhelming Shi’ite slogans, influence and values signaled that Iran had since 2011 an agenda to alter Syria’s demographic build.

Iran, over the years, has promoted pro-Shi’ite propaganda across the region in order to achieve its expansionist ambitions. Tehran today controls proxy Shi’ite militias in each of Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

“The matter of the fact is that the revolution suffered losses in 2016 and early 2017– but on the other hand, the regime did not achieve any gains. Most advances played into the hands of its allies found in Shi’ite militias and Russian forces,” Idlibi commented.

“We (Syrian rebels) believe that foreign aggressors stand to gain the most of the Syria crisis, and aggressors leave sooner or later. After that, the revolution will resume political activity,” Idlibi clarified.

“The rights of Syrian people cannot be compromised or cut short.”

“Assad’s regime is defeated, and is unable to reinvest in losses cut by the revolution–it is unable to reestablish a legitimate statehood authority for itself simply because it is a regime founded on principles of murder, terrorism and destruction.”