Syria, a Revolution with no images
Ghania Khelifi - 03/04/2011
During a press conference held in Paris, the Syrian opposition has called upon Europeans to support the popular uprising and to require political reforms. However, Sarkis Sarkis from the Arab Socialist Movement, member of the Damascus Declaration, member of the National Democratic Rally, Abdulhamid Alatassi representative of the Secretariat-General of the Damascus Declaration in Diaspora in France and Anas Alabdeh, president of the Justice and Construction Movement, president of the Secretariat of the Damascus Declaration have stated that they do approve any military intervention in their country. They insist on the movement’s “peaceful” dimension and ask Europeans to put pressure on Al Assad through politics and diplomacy to open the country to media and initiate these reforms. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the violence in Syria and called on the country to conduct an investigation into the recent bloody events that took place in the city of Deraa. On Tuesday, the 22nd March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights had already required “a transparent investigation into the violence occurred over the weekend”.
Opposition representatives who do not mention the president’s departure, state that it is a peaceful revolution with national demands such as the lifting of the state of emergency in force since 1963, freedom of expression, the struggle against corruption, constitutional reform and popular control”. According to Mr. Alatasse, one of the speakers, it is doubtful that the Syrians protesting in the streets against “40 years of a regime considered as one of the most violent and against the Baath Party’s tyranny” could be as moderate. It is important to know that in 2005, the Syrian opposition has established a national council for change at the end of a congress that brought together 167 representatives of the country’s political forces. The “Damascus Declaration adopted back then, bring the opposition parties together and claims a multiparty system, freedom of expression and publication and the cancellation of the state of emergency. The main signatories of this call are the National Democratic Rally, a coalition of five prohibited Syrian parties, the coalition of Kurdish parties, Human Rights’ Committees and independent individuals among whom, the political dissident and former member of Parliament, Riad Seif.
Yet, this structured opposition is not the one that organised the popular uprising in March 2011. As in other Arab countries, it is the youth that thanks to a call on Facebook started the unrest in Deraa, a Syrian city located a 100 kilometres away from Damascus. Violent clashes are taking place near the al-Omari mosque, a rallying point for the regime’s opponents. The protests have hit several cities including the capital city but after the arrest of 25 young people, Deraa has quickly become the revolution’s stronghold. These youngsters were liberated under the pressure from protestors but they all had been tortured. In Syria, the 28 year old Ahmad Hafida, journalism student and blogger, is becoming the icon of the revolution. Arrested in February and then released, he is back in jail with several other protestors. For the moment, Bachar Al Assad remains deaf to the international community calling for the cease of repression of civilians. When he took office in 2000 after the death of his father Hafez Al Assad (in power from 1970 to 2000), Bashar who is now 46 years old had brought about some hope for change. But very soon, the Syrians had to face the truth, the son was following his father’s footsteps. In 2007, he reappointed as a president with 97% of the votes cast in a referendum. In an American newspaper he recently stated that the Syrians were “not ready for democracy” and that one “must wait for the next generation to bring this reform”. A political blindness that is hardly conceivable for an Arab leader in the current situation.
If the opposition is rather reticent about the President’s downfall, the protesters themselves are willing to go to the end of their revolution, to end this long father to son dictatorship. In defence of the Damascus Declaration’s signatories, it is important to recall that Syria could be threatened by “Lebanonisation” especially since the government is trying to manipulate the different communities and pit them against each other to maintain its control. As the dissident Sarkis recalled in Paris, even if it is originally a secular party, the Baath Party does not hesitate to the religion and ethnicity card. Besides the regime’s violence threatening national unity, given its geostrategic position, today, Syria is a country with a very uncertain future.
Translated into English by Elizabeth Grech