Saving the Democratic Dream in Syria

2013-08-10:: please select category

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The so-called Arab Spring, which is currently taking place in the Middle East, is a strong wave of change that is unprecedented since 50 years. Millions of people who have been deprived from freedom have taken on the streets to announce the end of brutal dictatorships and the beginning of a new era of democracy, the sovereignty of people, and the rule of law. This is a historic opportunity to break the cycle of violence in the Middle East and reassure the people about their destiny and future and empower them to take an active part and contribute positively to the human civilisation; this opportunity is rare in history and might not happen again.


Certainly, liberating the Middle East from its intractable predicaments and helping the Arab World to break through its excruciating crisis, are not the responsibility of foreign countries. However, the international community cannot continue to endlessly ignore the humanitarian and strategic consequences of this crisis, such consequences would undoubtedly have dangerous effects beyond the Middle East. In the centre of this crisis, sits the Syrian conflict which has been raging for nearly 3 years. It is estimated that nearly 8 millions have lost their homes; 5 millions of which are internally displaced and the rest are refugees in the neighbouring countries. Over 150000 have been killed, and there are hundreds of thousands of injured, permanently disabled, arrested, and disappeared.  


International Organisations estimate that, with the continues random bombardment and killing by Al-Assad regime, half of the 23 million Syrians will become either internally or externally displaced within the next three months making it the biggest humanitarian disaster since the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda in 1994. 

The reason for this conflict lays in the intransigence and stubbornness of Al-Assad the son, who inherited the power from his father in 2000. He continued to rule by the notorious Emergency Law which was declared in 1963, suspended the constitution and prohibited any political or cultural activities. Instead of meeting the demands for reform and participation and expanding the margins for more fundamental freedoms and rights; Al-Assad responded by systematically killing the peaceful protesters using all means of weaponry including snipers. Over 6000 children, women, and men were killed during the first 6 months of the peaceful uprising, nonetheless thousands of victims who have been physically and mentally tortured in the notorious Al-Assad detention centres.

Since then, Al-Assad continued to increase the level of violence using more fatal weapons including Russian fighter planes, ballistic missiles, and chemical weapons against towns and villages that opposed his rule. And to avoid the collapse and defeat of his regime, he released Al-Qaeda prisoners from his jails and recalled his long-term extremist allies in Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran to fill in the gap that was created by the mass military defections and gradual disintegration of the state, add to that losing control over the borders and crossings.


The Democratic Opposition, which was forced to pick up arms, is fighting in very difficult circumstances to defend the innocent Syrian people and civilian areas against the brutal attacks of the barbaric Al-Assad forces.  The Democratic Forces are fighting on two fronts: the first is against Al-Assad regime which is trying to instigate ethnic and sectarian conflicts to shift the attention of the international community away from the core reason of the conflict in order to avoid accountability and responsibility for its criminal actions; the second front is against the extremist groups that refused to abide by the rules of engagement and code of conduct set up by the Supreme Military Command of the Free Syrian Army. Using distorted religious propaganda and bigoted anti-western slogans,  such groups are trying to impose a new form of dictatorship on the Syrian people, a dictatorship that is not less brutal than the one that the Syrians has experienced over the last 50 years.


As this war continues to take the lives of more innocents in the Middle East, there is a serious threat that this war would shut the door for the only hope that was revived by the Arab Spring, a hope to break through, to embrace the values of dignity, freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

As we continue to watch this tragedy unfold, it is immoral for the international community to remain paralysed, hesitant, or careless. With this bloody conflict that is threatening the whole Middle East with destruction and complete chaos, it becomes impossible to win the war against terrorism; state terrorism or extremist terrorism. It is completely wrong and dangerous that some politicians think that they can contain the situation by either giving Al-Assad regime, which has always used terrorism to survive, the time to win the war; or by allowing the extremist groups to tighten its grip on the local communities and oppress it.

Our only hope hangs upon the Democratic Forces that are fighting the battle alone against the dictatorship and neo-fascism represented in the corrupt and oppressive regimes in Iran and Russia which are becoming increasingly thirsty for power and dominance; add to that the threat of the international terrorist organisation.

It is crucial for the international peace that the free world would support the Democratic Opposition in Syria if they want the Democratic Choice in the Middle East to succeed in order for the region to avoid falling into a state of bloodshed and complete chaos which has become the common denominator between the illegitimate regimes and terrorist organisations that have no agenda but destruction, hatred, and revenge.


Author: Professor Burhan Ghalioun. A Syrian academic and thinker who has written many books on politics and sociology in the Arab World. The former head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), which is the main body for the Syrian Democratic Opposition.