Syria: To oppose, or not to oppose?

Maher Arar

Maher Arar

Human rights activist Maher Arar is the publisher of Prism Magazine, and first came to public attention after he was rendered by US authorities to Syria, his native country.
 The opposition movement inside and outside the country must walk a fine line between independence and intervention.
 Maher Arar, Al Jazeera, 11 Jul 2012

Clashes between rebel fighters and government forces have wrought great destruction [Reuters]

Deciding whether or not to oppose Syria’s rulers has been the recent dominant preoccupation of many anti-imperialist and left-leaning movements. This hesitant attitude towards the Syrian struggle for freedom is nurtured by many anti-regime actions that were recently taken by many Western and Middle-Eastern countries, whose main interest lies in isolating Syria from Iran. However, I believe a better question to ask with respect to Syria is whether the leftist movement should support, or not support, the struggle of the Syrian people.What I find lacking in many of the analyses relating to the Syrian crisis, which I find oftentimes biased and politically motivated, is how well the interests of the Syrian people who are living inside are taken into account. Dry and unnecessarily sophisticated in nature, these analyses ignore simple facts about why the Syrian people rebelled against the regime in the first place.A brief historical context is probably the best way to bring about some insight with respect to the events that are unfolding in front of our eyes today. Before doing so, it is important to highlight that, unlike many other Arab countries, Syria is not a religiously homogenous Middle-Eastern country. I am mentioning this because it is through religion that the majority of Arabs identified themselves for centuries. As it stands today, Syria’s population is composed 74 per cent of Sunnis (including Kurds and others), 12 per cent Alawites (including Arab Shia), ten per cent Christians (including Armenians) and three per cent Druze.

Syria earned its independence from the French in 1946. As has always been the case with any occupying and imperial force, France worked diligently to ensure that Syrian minorities were placed in top government and military positions.  The Alawites’ share of the pie was the military. By the time France left Syria, Alawites became well entrenched in this crucial government institution.

After two decades of military coups and counter-coups, it was no surprise that Hafez al-Assad, an Alawite and minister of defence at the time, seized power in a bloodless coup in 1970. Within a few years he was relatively able to bring about economic and social stability – which made him a hero in the eyes of the majority of Syrians, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Continue reading

Egypt Opposition movement calls for “march of millions” on Tuesday in a bid to topple president Hosni Mubarak

”]al Jazeera, 31 Jan 2011

Egyptian protesters have called for a massive demonstration and a rolling general strike on Tuesday in a bid to force out president Hosni Mubarak from power.

Our producer in Egypt reports on the latest developments

The so-called April 6 Movement said it plans to have more than one million people on the streets of the capital Cairo, as anti-government sentiment reaches a fever pitch.

The call came as Mubarak swore in a new cabinet in an attempt to defuse ongoing demonstrations across the country.

But opposition groups say personnel changes will not placate them and have said they will continue until the president steps down.

“The whole regime must come down,” Hassan, a construction worker and protester told the Reuters news agency.

 

“We do not want anyone from Mubarak’s retinue in the new government, which the people will choose. We want a civil government run by the people themselves.” Continue reading