Friday, April 22, 2011

The Sectarian Card

It is sad to see that very few people make any attempt to view events in Syria away from divisive trends. And it is increasingly unfortunate that the “revolutionists” and their media supporters have proven to be much more sectarian and divisive than the regime. I have not heard president Assad or any official from the government even once mention the different sects in Syria or try to use it for political exploitation, whereas the “revolutionists” and media “analysts” (I’m using the term analyst very loosely here) have not missed a single opportunity to raise the sectarian issue and use all means and efforts to create and highlight divisions in Syrian society. Such attempts have become so vulgar that even President Bashar al Assad’s reform measures are described in such a repugnantly divisive way as to undermine them altogether and continue to incite Syrians to anger and violence.

When President Assad passed a bill granting undocumented people in Hassakeh Syrian citizenship, it was described as a way to take the Kurds out of the equation, implying that it’s a mere sinister plot by Assad to divide the Syrian opposition. This is both inaccurate and dangerous. It is inaccurate because the fact is that granting undocumented residents of Hassakeh was something that various groups had been discussing with the regime and encouraging Assad to adopt as an important measure to ensure equality among all Syrians. President Assad heeded those calls and did what should be recognized as the right thing. However, continued efforts to undermine and undercut such reforms were being made and thus certain sides felt it would be important to continue to incite Kurds, as well as other Syrians, making them believe that all this is just to shut them up.

When President Assad met with various representatives of different sectors in Syrian society, “analysts” continued to interpret such steps as mere attempts to appease this side or placate that side, only in order to sabotage this great “revolution”. Certain sectarian and ethnic terms continued to be emphasized in order to make sure that divisions in Syrian society are highlighted and strengthened. President Assad’s seriousness about reforms continued to be questioned, with many doubting that he would really put an end to the state of emergency in Syria, which was allegedly a key demand by the protesters. Once the state of emergency was lifted, again it was dismissed as “too little too late” by certain sides that have an interest in sustaining the current chaos and instability. Why exactly it is “too late” remains a mystery. Somehow a month ago it was a key demand but in one month it magically became too late. Yet again a key reform measure was dismissed and the divisions in Syrian society continued to be stressed as a means of continued incitement. The vulgar Robert Fisk, who is a Hariri paid propagandist, insists that the regime in Syria is a “Alawi” regime and therefore a “Shiite” regime, stocking the flames of Sunni-Shiite sectarianism.

All this has made it clear that there is indeed a conspiracy and a sinister plot against Syria, aimed at dividing it and weakening it so that the last state in the Arab world resisting US-”Israeli” hegemony is brought down and resistance against occupation is weakened.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Shallowness of the Angry Arab

In his usual shallow and sarcastic way, As'ad Abu Khalil, on his blog "Then Angry Arab," posted the following comment:

So Bashshar Al-Asad in his last speech said that Syria needs a new law governing demonstrations because there is no law dealing with demonstrations. He then said that when his reforms are implemented, there would no reason for demonstrations at all. I kid you not. So I say: why formulate a new law for demonstrations then? Huh?

This is typical of Abu Khalil's silly and irresponsible responses to events seriously affecting the nation. Of course, Abu Khalil does not wish to objectively and comprehensively analyze the important speech given by President Bashar al Assad on Saturday, as this would require actual analytical thinking of an important event, something that does not interest the Angry Arab. Instead, he has a score to settle and a grudge to satisfy with the Syrian regime, which leads him to limit his response to the most recent events in Syria to mere sarcastic nonsense and peddling of US/"Israeli"/Saudi propaganda. The actual full quote of the portion addressing the right to demonstrate from Assad's speech is the following:

"أن القانون الأخير الذي اقترح ضمن حزمة القوانين التي اقترحتها اللجنة هو قانون السماح بالتظاهر لأن الدستور السوري يسمح بالتظاهر ولكن لا يوجد لدينا قانون لكي ينظم عملية التظاهر.. وهذا الإجراء عملياً.. هو تحد لأن الشرطة لم تهيأ في سورية لمثل هذه المواضيع فلابد من تهيئة جهاز الشرطة بشكل أساسي ودعمه بالعناصر والمعدات وربما بالهيكلية.. إعادة النظر بالهيكلية لكي تتماشى مع الإصلاحات الجديدة فمن مهام الشرطة أن تقوم بحماية المتظاهرين وبنفس الوقت حماية الأشخاص الآخرين والاملاك الخاصة والعامة من أي محاولة للتخريب أو للعبث بأمن المواطنين. "

Translate: The next law among the package of laws recommended by the committee is the law permitting demonstrations because the Syrian constition allows demonstrations but we do not have a law that organizes the process of demonstrating, which is a practical procedure. It is a challenge because the police in Syria is not equipped for such matters. The police service must therefore be essentially prepared and supported with personnel, equipment and perhaps structure. [There must be] a review of the structure such that it compliments the new reforms, for it is the duty of the police to protect the demonstrators and at the same time protect other persons and private and public property from any attempt at destruction or undermining the security of the citizens.

President Assad then goes on to say:

طبعاً عندما تصدر هذه الحزمة لا يعود هناك حجة لتنظيم التظاهرات في سورية والمطلوب مباشرة من قبل الأجهزة المعنية وخاصة وزارة الداخلية أن تطبق القوانين بحزم كامل ولا يوجد أي تساهل مع أي عملية تخريب.

Translate: Of course after this package [of laws] is issued there will no longer be an excuse for the organization of the demonstrations in Syria and what is directly required is for the relevant agencies, especially the Ministry of Interior, to apply the laws fully and firmly without there being any leniency toward acts of destruction.

A proper reading of the above is that President Assad is tying these new laws to the situation on the ground today. He explains the need to have a proper system that can organize demonstrations, so that demonstrations in the way they are taking place today would no longer be needed. Thus, the second part should be understood as saying that once we pass these new laws, there will no longer be an excuse to organize demonstrations in the manner they are being organized during these latest events. And in that way we can properly separate between demands for reform and acts of destruction. However, because there currently is no law or system organizing the process of demonstrations, people are forced to go out on their own and demonstrate without obtaining permits and without being able to rely on proper agencies to protect and secure the demonstrations. Once a new procedure for demonstrating is introduced, there will no longer be a justification for hasty, chaotic demonstrations where it becomes difficult to differentiate between genuine, peaceful protesters, and those seeking solely to cause trouble and engage in destructive behavior.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Comment on Sham (Syrian Arab Republic)

The following is a comment I made on Prof. Joshua Landis' Syria Comment blog, in response to an inquiry by another participant regarding my posting of articles and reports from state media in Sham:

Dear OTW:

You should know very well that I am very critical of the regime in Syria and of its oppressive and repressive methods since the arrival of the Baath to power in 1963 (even though oppression in Syria did not begin with the Baath but continued after their ascension to power). I also believe that its propaganda is quite crude, bombastic, and just plain dumb, so I do not really subscribe to it in general. And this whole charade of people chanting “bel rou7 bel dam” or “allah, souriya, bashar w bass” is to me a display of reactionary rhetoric, backwards thinking, and ignorance. Moreover, I have repeated numerously that ultimately the regime should be held accountable for what transpires in Syria, as the situation is not forever sustainable and its failure to implement real and serious reforms is going to lead to consequences that the regime is responsible for.

My criticism of the regime, however, does not blind me to what is being cooked up for Syria. I do not operate from the springboard of hatred and spite such that I would rather destroy the country than see the regime survive another day. I have made clear on several occasions that I want what is best for Syria, not what is worst for the regime. What is taking place today in Syria is not a revolution by any stretch of the imagination. Although it started out with some protests here and there, most of these protests were very small and limited to specific areas and groups. There was never a clear presence on the street by the masses in rejection of their government, as was the case in Egypt. In addition, I found many of the protests to be repulsive and not representative of the Syria I’d like to see, specifically those calling for the end of mixed-sex schools and chanting slogans against Shiites, Iran, and Hizballah, which to me has nothing to do with demands for freedom and reform, but is rather an expression of the most vulgar form of sectarianism.

What we then witnessed was the steady descension of these protests into acts of violence and destruction combined with the most crude forms of vulgar propaganda, aimed not merely at opposing government repression, but rather at inciting people to violence by appealing to their base emotions, using hate-mongering and sectarian incitement. The videos, pictures, and stories that were being spread were intended to create a reaction stemming from pure hatred, which is always a dangerous reaction that is most likely to lead to chaos and division, rather than one based on rational thought. Videos of unknown and unverified “killings” and “massacres” allegedly by the regime against unarmed protesters were being spread in conjunction with filthy sectarian terms, such as “the Nusairi regime”, “Alawi regime,” “minority rule,” etc. which can lead to nothing but increased divisiveness in society.

What’s more is that most media organizations, both western and Arab, were peddling this propaganda and participating in attempting to incite Syrians through sectarian agitation. We kept reading time and again articles reminding everyone that Syria was a country of a “sunni majority” “ruled by a Alawite minority.” Over and over terms of “Alawite”, “Sunni”, “minority”, “majority”, “Shiite”, “Iran”, “Hizballah”, etc. were drilled into our heads in an apparent attempt to ensure that these divisive terms are imprinted in the minds of Syrians, so that all actions they take would be based on them and not on a feeling of true national consciousness. This was combined with the fact that the presence of armed groups spreading terror and chaos became increasingly evident, calling into question this entire movement from its core.

All this made it clear to me that there was a sinister agenda at play here, which was completely detached from the rightful demands of the majority of Syrians for genuine reforms. It was clear that there is a plan in place to take Syria from a state of stability to a state of chaos and confusion, as such a state is likely to do nothing but further weaken and disable a country. I saw that these foreign media outlets were active participants in this agenda in the way they reported the news and in their providing of platforms for reactionary individuals to spread their vulgar ideas, as was the case with Al-Jazeera and the debased Yousef al-Qardawi.

Therefore, I found it most critical that first and foremost we put a stop to the spreading of this destructive propaganda which can lead nowhere but to the descent of the country into violence and chaos. The only websites and news outlets that were carrying reports and articles rebutting these pieces of propaganda were unfortunately what people regard as “regime” or “pro-regime” sources. I found many of these reports and articles to be much more credible and believable than the hateful propaganda being spread by the so-called “revolutionists” with the aid of the so-called “free” international media, which has proven time and again to be anything but “free.” Hence, I chose to post them and distribute them. This in no way means that I subscribe to all regime propaganda, much of which I find to be distasteful and downright stupid (such as the hours and hours of phone calls supporting “Bashar” we are subjected to).

I have been very clear that my aim is not to overthrow the regime just for the sake of overthrowing it, regardless of what replaces it. I do not believe in satisfying grudges and settling scores as a basis of bringing about changes for the benefit of the country. I have particular disdain for uncontroled chaos and violence and destructive behavior. Moreover, I know for a fact that many Syrians on the ground have struggled and sacrificed, in a constructive manner, for the sake of improving their country, and they have been witnessing some of the fruits of their struggle, only to witness some destructive elements attempt to throw it all in the dumpster for the sake of narrow interests and service of foreign agendas. Finally, I am quite confident that President Bashar al-Assad is indeed serious about bringing about changes and implementing serious reforms that are going to change the political landscape in Syria, and to put a stake in the heart of this move toward reform for the sake of chaos and destruction, seems to me to be utterly counterproductive.