Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Mass Arrests by Assad Regime Triggers Renewed Protests in Dara’a

Mass Arrests by Assad Regime Triggers Renewed Protests in Dara’a

 'The wave of protests in the province of Dara’a, the birthplace of the Syrian revolution eight years ago, were renewed following the Assad régime’s security forces’ arrest of dozens of young people in the town of Musaifra in eastern rural Dara’a.

 Local activists reported that the province is on the verge of a new uprising because of the Assad régime’s security forces’ harassment of the local population and the frequent raids on civilian homes, the most recent of which targeted many homes in the town of Musaifra in search of people who are wanted by the regime.

 The new wave of random arrests targeted dozens of military-aged people and former FSA fighters.

 In response, new anti-régime graffiti appeared on the walls in the neighboring town of al-Sahwa calling for the overthrow of the Assad régime with all its symbols. The graffiti also rejected compulsory service in Assad’s army as they reaffirmed commitment to the principles of the Syrian revolution.

 Despite the so-called the reconciliation agreement in place, the Assad régime’s security services continue to raid civilian homes in Dara’a province. A civilian was killed in one of these raids in southern rural Quenitra while two others were detained a few days ago.

 In recent weeks, Dara’a has witnessed the scrawling of new anti-régime on the walls defying the Assad regime and threatening its presence in the province. The revolutionary movement has intensified since last month despite the Assad regime’s tightened grip on the province.

 A new video was published on social media showing the flag of the Syrian Revolution raised on the minaret of a mosque in the town of al-Karak al-Sharqi. Such moves will likely threaten the Assad régime’s grip on the areas that fell to its forces following brutal military campaigns in the past few months.

 President of the Syrian Coalition Abdurrahman Mustafa earlier said that the revolution “will not stop," and that the Syrian people "will not give up their fight for freedom.”

 Dara’a province, the cradle of the Syrian revolution, last week saw renewed anti-régime demonstrations in central Dara’a city emphasizing the revolution would continue until the overthrow of the régime with all its symbols. Various areas across the province also saw the scrawling of anti-régime graffiti on the walls denouncing the régime and its security apparatuses.'

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Nothing compares to Syria

 This is the 4000th post on my blog, News of the Revolution in Syria. 99% of which represents the views of others, many revolutionary Syrians, collated over the last seven years. I think I've learned something about Syria and the world as a result, and I hope it can do the same for others.

 The short version of what I've learned is encapsulated in the video above. Here is the text :
 "In 2011, the Syrian people rose up in revolution against the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad and declared that they now live in Free Syria where there would be liberty instead of mass arrests, justice instead of torture, and dignity instead of rape.

 To symbolise their new country, they adopted the Free Syrian flag, with a black stripe at the bottom, a green stripe at the top, and three red stars on a white background in the middle, and you can see it flying wherever there are Free Syrians.

 We can sit and watch as Assad rips the country apart, pretend it's some 4-5 way civil war where we don't know who will come out on top if Assad is overthrown. The truth is, the only way the country is ever going to be put back together again is as Free Syria.

 Please ask your government to supply the Free Syrian Army with anti-aircraft missiles so they can stop the bombing or if you live in Russia or Iran, please ask your government to leave Syria now. Thank you very much."

 The key points I was trying to make:

 1. It's a revolution. It isn't a civil war. It isn't a foreign intervention to get rid of Assad or the result of previous interventions.

 2. It isn't complicated. It isn't a multi-sided conflict. It is a genocide driven by Assad's need to stay in power. The position of other players in the conflict is either to line up with Assad, or to show greater or lesser opposition to him. It is the question of his survival that is the central dividing line of everything happening in Syria.

 3. The central reason for the conflict continuing was the exact reverse of the picture overwhelmingly presented in the world's media and by those supposedly progressive. It wasn't that the West had fed the conflict by backing the opposition, but that those words had been mere shadows while Free Syrians had bombs rained down upon them. It is our lack of the support to the opposition that means Assad has managed to stay in power, and he has visited barbarity without compare in the world today on the Syrian people to protect his throne.

However, we're in 2019, Assad is still in place, and the media story is Syria's Civil War is coming to an end. And so even among people opposed to Assad, there is a tendency to accept narratives that work in his favour. Most notably in relation to Syria, it is common to hear people saying that all states and politicians are as bad.  Specifically are these points.

 1. All Western leaders want to keep Assad in power. This is used to excuse those on the hard left that have opposed any assistance to the Syrian opposition, by claiming that centrists and right-wingers are no better. It is not true. It is those like Jeremy Corbyn that have invited mouthpieces for the Assad régime to come and speak in Britain, that have repeated Assad's lies about his chemical attacks, and supported the normalisation of his régime and demonised the opposition to him as a Western régime change plot at every turn.. Western policy, the left and fascist right excepted, has generally been to get Assad out, but they have deferred to Washington as the key player to bring this about. The US in turn, under President Obama's administration did have a policy of of preventing adequate support going to the rebels, that they might have a fraction of fighting power Russia and Iran give to Assad.

This however, isn't because of some demonic pact among world leaders to keep Assad in power, or to stop revolution from spreading. It was a specific policy choice, one that could have been reversed. It came about because President Obama's administration wanted to avoid foreign engagements, because of the bruising experience in Iraq, and because it wanted to obtain a nuclear deal with Iran and was prepared to see Iran dominate Syria in exchange.

 2. Other powers are just as bad. What Saudi Arabia or Israel do is just as bad, so the only people who can be allies are those who take exactly the same position in opposition to all of them, anyone else is just as bad as the Assad supporters. This isn't true. Talk to anyone who has experienced prisons in Israel and Syria and they will tell you the latter are far worse. Talk to doctors who know that if coordinates of hospitals are given to the Israelis they tend to avoid them, if they are given to Assad or Russia they bomb them. And while Saudi Arabia is fighting a bloody war in Yemen, one complemented by Iranian backing for the child soldier army of the Houthis that steals aid and attacks civilians deliberately, it is not torturing a nation to death the way Assad is.

 The Syrian revolution is the most distorted and lied against event in our lifetime. It has few enough friends as it is. I think that those who support the revolution should be given credit regardless of my disagreements with them on other issues. And when people give succour to Assad, it should be the first thing raised not the last. I would hope that approach would be followed by other supporters of the Syrian revolution, rather than cutting off all of those without an identical alignment.

 3. The real progressives in Syria are the YPG (aka "the Kurds"), and Turkey is allied to Assad. it isn't true. I finally wrote a piece about the YPG (also rebranded as the Syrian Democratic Forces to make them look like a separate organisation from the PKK that tries to break up the Turkish state by terrorist means) last year, called Rojava is Omelas. They are a cult round their leader Ocalan, whose portrait they paraded round Raqqa when they rook it from ISIS. They have collaborated with Assad against Free Syrians from the beginning of the revolution. Territory that they lose to Free Syrians should be a cause for celebration, despite the destabilisation the YPG continues to attempt in those areas.

  Untrue stories about Turkey fill the news and opinion columns whenever Syria comes up. From Owen Jones and the Labour leadership claiming in 2014 that the problem in Syria was Turkish support for ISIS, to claims today that Turkey is trying to hand over Idlib to Assad in return for Russian support in the northeast. Just because Turkey has diplomatic relations with Russia does not mean their interests are identical. Every few months the Turkish government announces that Assad is a mass murderer who cannot be allowed to govern Syria indefinitely. This is always ignored, and whenever a Turkish government spokesperson says that Assad might stay for a few months during a transition, it is taken as meaning that Turkey (or "Erdogan" as it is often tried to be personalised into a dictatorship) thinks Assad can stay forever. You do not have to agree with all of Turkey ruling AK party's policies, or even most of them, to recognise that it finds itself on the side of those opposed to Assad, even if it wants to use its own forces in Syria as sparingly as possible, just as it always wanted to keep the war on the Syrian side of the border and not go to war with Assad itself. 

 4. The Islamists are just as bad as Assad. This is something many Free Syrians believe, but I think they are wrong. There was a Syrian solidarity conference in London in early 2014 at which a leftist called Joseph Daher declared that all the Islamist groups were as reactionary as Assad and had to be fought as much as he (that is when leftists aren't deriding the taking up of arms entirely). I turned to a Syrian I'd just met who turned out to be a respected writer on Syria, and asked if Assad was the greatest threat, what if he couldn't be defeated without some alliance with the Islamists. The answer I got was "I don't know," and I haven't heard a better one since.

  I'm an atheist, and I believe people have the right to smoke what they like, so I wouldn't be comfortable being ruled by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist group now dominant in Idlib. But compared to be ruling by Assad, or forces that would surrender to Assad as the supposedly moderate groups in southern Syria did last year, it would be preferable by far. During the first five years of the revolution, HTS and its predecessors deliberately killed 350 civilians. Assad killed a thousand times that many.

 I've seen people argue that because Assad let some future HTS leaders out of prison as he was imprisoning secular activists, they must be working for him. It doesn't follow. The revolution's last advances, conquering Idlib in 2015, relieving the siege of Aleppo once in 2016, and taking the Manshiya district of Daraa, were all because the rebels from FSA and HTS fought together, not against each other. I find myself comparing it to the situation in Germany in the 1930s, where Communists and Social Democrats were so obsessed with their differences that they couldn't unite to stop the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. In the words of Malcolm X on my T-shirt below, Free Syria by any means necessary.

 Maybe I'm wrong on some points. In that case I would hope that I would learn from my mistakes. Just as I would hope that those who thought it were better not to intervene after Assad killed 1500 people in the sarin attack in August 2013 would recognise that not stopping him then is what has allowed years more of mass murder. Or that those who claimed there would be a genocide against the Kurds in Afrin or that Turkey would use their observation posts in Idlib to hand the province over to Assad would learn when those things didn't happen. Mostly people, as Talleyrand wrote of the Bourbons, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing. For me the two things that most surprised me was finding out that as early as 2015 Saudi Arabia was offering support to Assad if he kicked out the Iranians, and the collapse of the Southern Front into surrender agreements in 2018. I hope I learn something more generally from that.

 So this is my blog, and I commend it to you. If people have suggestions on the layout, I'm open to advice. I don't label most posts with the original author, as much of it is taken from news stories where I was only interested in the contributions of Syrians, and not the potted and misleading accounts of the situation otherwise provided. As I wrote in a piece called Assad Will Fall, I think the unstable nature of Assad's torture-theft régime means he will never be able to crush the resistance, and my hope is that sooner than anyone dare imagine the revolution will be successful, and this blog will be history.