'Under Bashar al-Assad, the system morphed into a family dictatorship riding the global neoliberal economic wave. This system cemented power internally through the nexus of the intelligence agency and elite military units (staffed mainly from the regime’s clan), and externally through submitting to Iran.
“Down with the regime,” children of a southern city wrote on a street wall in mid-March 2011. The revolution was formally announced, people say. The impetus for the revolution was always there, waiting for the right moment that always comes as a surprise.
The technical definition of a “civil war” is misleading because it practically distorts the picture of what is happening on the ground in Syria. Until now, well into the fifth year of the revolution, there are no cities, towns or villages fighting one another on the basis of their respective backgrounds, sectarian or otherwise. Simply put, the Syrian story is about a fascist regime utilizing various state institutions to kill its own people.
Yes, the peaceful revolution became an armed one. After nearly a year of facing unspeakable atrocities carried out by the Syrian regime, people’s patience gave way. Holding arms was rather spontaneous, and the regime’s use of rape as a weapon made using light arms to defend the family logical in the eyes of the people.
In areas under regime control, survival takes the form of hypocrisy and avoiding checkpoints, extortion and bribes, and praying not to be randomly picked up and thrown into prison for unknown periods of time, a journey that might end with starvation and death. Western media reports claiming that Damascus and other major cities are loyal to the regime fail to understand the attitude of these populations and the thick psychological layers of human reaction in perilous situations.
As for liberated areas, people enjoy a sense of freedom despite harsh living conditions and lack of services. The challenge for these people is to avoid getting hit by a barrel bomb or missile that the regime continues to fire with impunity and an international community that has turned a blind eye.
Meanwhile, a prototype of democratic administration has formed in some regions. For example, the liberated areas of Aleppo were divided into districts, each of which elected its local administration council. Those local councils formed the council for the city as a whole. The same story exists in the southern city of Daraa and around 500 other localities. The LACs, with significant variations depending on local conditions, try to manage services, distribute aid and interface with Sharia courts as well as armed groups.
Obviously, the setting is not perfect, but the phenomenon is encouraging as people argue on how to run mundane affairs. All this functions alongside an informal economy, bribes to Assad forces that have formed a siege around towns, a dire need for basic necessities, a lack of food, fuel and medical supplies, and amazing stories of ingenuity and survival.
The lack of political will among major world powers and their quest to clone a Middle East not in sync with its historical mode obviates reaching a prompt end to the conflict in Syria. And when a new balance of power is sought on the skulls of children, this does not bode well for all of humanity. Eventually, the people of Syria will prevail, asserting their cultural uniqueness and rebuilding their lives in a decentralized political setting.'