Some interesting developments on the international front with regards to Syria. The Arab League has a working paper that is being examined by the Syrian regime. Allegedly the regime has accepted it, and on face value that means they will withdraw their killing machines from the streets of Syria’s cities and towns. In reality I don’t think much will change and most people I speak with are very sceptical. Of course the Syrian regime and its supporters still speak about ‘armed gangs’ roaming the country, and after eight months of security services torturing and killing people there now are some.
The so-called Free Syrian Army is also claiming responsibility for attacks against government targets, and it seems that the level of defections continues at a steady trickle.
What surprises me is that at no time in the number of years that I have been following this story has the region ever been closer to a complete explosion of war. For the first time ever, I find myself hoping that neither side wins. In a region of bad guys, the only losers are the people.
The first part of my post will discuss my latest trip to Damascus, and the second part is a response to a question asked by Dr. Haytham Khoury about developing sectarianism and radicalism we are witnessing( most of all on syria comment). I also believe this part will be relevant to OTW’s most recent post on his blog.
My last visit to Damascus only lasted for 2 days (20th and 21st of October). Just a few days prior to my arrival the regime “successfully” held a massive demonstration in the capital’s saba’a bahrat square( which hosts the nation’s central bank) . Transportation, advanced recording, food, drink, entertainment and most important of all SECURITY is provided to the pro-government demonstrators. The appropriate setting is given. A friend of mine who works for one of Rami Makhlouf’s multiple enterprises told me that he was forced to go, despite having a pro-revolution stance on the whole situation. Employees are threatened with dismissals from their jobs if they do not participate. Although the highly esteemed Robert Fisk was a witness to these one of these demonstrations ( the one held on the 26th in the Omayad square), his story that they are purely authentic is far from reality. The regime has done its homework and knows how to conceal its foul play.
That being said, the demonstrations have intensified in Damascus in limited ways, for example Midan, Barzeh, Rikn al Deen and Kafar Suseh are having daily demonstrations. Kadisya, The old quarter of Shaghoor have taken their demonstrations up a notch, furthermore the Muhajereen district has seen some sporadic demonstrations. I would like you to take note that these daily demonstrations cant be compared to the the demonstrations held in Homs. They are played along 2 tactics and it usually the first one: مظاهرة طيارة, literally meaning “flying demonstration” in which the demonstrators gather , chant and disperse in a swift manner , it is useful since it shows opposition to the regime and breaks the ” social order”. And the second tactic is the tactic seen in Homs, a regular and massive demonstration. This tactic doesn’t work well since the “security services” can overwhelm the demonstrators. Contrary to popular belief, the demonstrators in Damascus ARE NOT ARMED. Damascus country side is another story.
Sectarianism and Extremism
Syria has been witnessing a limited Extremist shift during the last decade, and it would be inaccurate to say that such a radical base does not exist., furthermore This fact played well into the regime’s propaganda. I will attempt to assess how this radical base came to be, and how to prevent it, I resorted to the expertise of a sociology professor. The links I provide will show you what progress the regime has done to counter radicalization.
What are the causes of Radicalization? :
1. Reaction to modernization.
it is noted that as societies “evolve”, many will incline to cling to their sects. One form of modernization is bureaucracy; the one in Syria is among the worst. Doing simple papers will send you to various locations for multiple signatures and stamps, there’s also the usual bribe. Another form of modernization is globalization, however I cannot relate this particular factor to the radicalization issue in Syria .
2. Societies become strict.
It is not secret that the Syrian regime is one of the strictest and most authoritarian states in the world, as a result many people have turned to religion as an everlasting solution. The inability to come up with solutions with the state has forced a sort of retreat to religion . here is a study conducted a by Freedom house .
3. Unfulfilled hopes and dreams.
Poor management has cut off many Syrians from a prosperous life
How do we Prevent radicalization?
a) Building civic society : syndicates, unions, clubs and committees all of which are absolutely useless under the current regime. Basically giving professionals, groups and such the ability to be represented and taken seriously. For example: the taxi syndicate in Syria, is pretty much worthless. I cannot count the times the chauffeurs complain about paying the member ship but getting nothing out of it. Obviously the state is not willing to adhere to any one’s demands and it is absolutely expected that the victim would find some solitude in religion.
b) more freedoms.
par لجان التنسيق المحلية في سوريا, mercredi 2 novembre 2011, 07:05
More than eight months have passed on the Syrian Revolution. Entire towns and villages have moved against a state of despair and absence of hope, due to the rampant mishandling of public affairs by the Syrian regime on all levels, and in particular on the political level. Thousands of citizens demonstrate each day, as part of grassroots social movements, using all forms of peaceful demonstration. They claim rupture from the existing authoritarian and family-based system of government, and they aspire to lay the foundations for the values of freedom and dignity to all citizens in Syria. The Syrian regime has confronted this revolution of values with an insistence on unaccountability, an attempt to stir up strife among the various components of society, and the use of the most repulsive forms of repression.
Every day tens are killed by the Syrian regime’s security and military apparatus and by the regime’s thugs. Every day, hundreds are wounded, arrested and tortured, and similar numbers are deemed disappeared. Reports of the United Nations and other international human rights organizations have recorded various types of systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, against peaceful demonstration. These include willful killing of demonstrators including children; imprisonment and other severe deprivation of physical liberty; torture and inhumane treatment; enforced disappearance of persons; and other inhuman acts intentionally causing great suffering to civilians, such as directing attacks against hospitals and the arrest, torture and killing of the wounded therein; and directing attacks against religious building and dwellings. Such reports have established that such acts are committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against civilian populations in Syria, with knowledge of the attack, and that they may therefore amount to crimes against humanity.
Considering the grave and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including through the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators, directly and indirectly by the Syrian authorities, with incitement by the regime’s media outlets, and the prohibition of independent and international press from working in the country, we set out our vision for the requirements of any international move to stop such violations:
- We affirm that respect of basic citizen rights is a defining attribute of sovereignty and statehood. Furthermore, respect of human rights is an essential element of a responsible sovereignty. The Syrian regime confronts the aspiration of the Syrian people to freedom and dignity with the commission of crimes against humanity. The Syrian regime has shot all doors on all inquiries into such violations, and on holding their perpetrators to account in an objective, fair and firm manner. Accordingly, such regime is not entitled to rely on the principle of Sovereignty to confront its own people. If it does so, it unsheathes yet another arm in the face of its own people, thereby exacerbating the bare condition of the Syrian people.
- We affirm the right of the Syrian people to freely determine, without external interference, the form of its political governance, and to pursue economic, social and cultural development of the Syrian society. The Syrian people has a right of self-determination, which is directly derived from Articles (1) and (55) of the United Nations Charter, when the ruling regime fails to meets its international responsibilities, and when it persists in its violations of individual rights and human dignity.
- As we insist, in the present very special circumstances, on the direct right of the Syrian people to affirm its right of self-determination before the international community, we assure that all calls based on the ground of “droit d’ingérance,” “devoir d’ingérance,” “humanitarian intervention” or “responsibility to protect” should not hinder the aspiration of the Syrian people to cause peaceful change by its own forces; or lead to dealing with the Syrian people as yet another sphere of influence in the game of nations. Every day, the demonstrators in Syrian towns and villages chant the motto “The People Wants…” The People Wants emancipation from authoritarian rule. It wants to take and hold the initiative in decision making in public affairs, in an independent and peaceful way, in order to determine all aspects of its public life freely and deliberatively. It also wants to maintain friendly relations among nations. The Syrian People does not want to substitute authoritarian rule by submission to foreign influence. The Syrian People extracted its independence and founded its modern State. It aspires to liberate all its lands and chiefly the Golan. It aspires to continue supporting the struggle of peoples for self-determination, and chiefly that of the Palestinian People. As the Syrian People is revolting against its oppressive rulers, it will not hesitate to revolt against all forms of foreign domination.
- We affirm that as the Syrian Revolution has been creative in its peaceful, incessant, and resilient movement, in the face of unparalleled repression, any international support, in light of the regime’s closure of any opportunities for national political solutions, must also be creative and unparalleled. It must be premised on the imperative of maintaining the unity of the Syrian soil, as well as the unity of Syrian society, in all its religious, sectarian and ethnic components.
- We consider that the objectives of international protection must be limited to ensuring the safety of peaceful assembly and demonstration, so as to enable the Syrian people to freely exercise self-determination, by its own peaceful forces, towards transition to a pluralistic, secular and democratic system of governance, based on public freedoms, as well as legal and political equality among all Syrians.
- We consider that the means for international protection, which must be approved by the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, must be limited to the following:
- To ensure proper conditions for peaceful assembly in accordance with the various human rights instruments in which Syria is a party. These include:
- To request that all member States of the United Nations shall take the necessary measures to prevent the supply of arms and all related materials to the Syrian regime.
- To force the Syrian regime to immediately lift restrictions on all forms of media.
- To force the Syrian regime to ensure the safe passage of all United Nations humanitarian agencies to all Syrian towns and villages, in order to enable them to supervise an immediate halt of killing and violence, release of detainees, uncovering of the fate of disappeared persons, withdrawal of armed forces, and removal of checkpoints from towns, villages and roads, to operate an uninterrupted international monitoring of all peaceful assemblies, especially those organized against the Syrian regime, and to report on any violations in their respect.
- To ensure proper conditions to carry out an impartial and objective investigation into the acts which are believed to be crimes against humanity, committed on Syrian soil as from March 15, 2011, and to refer their perpetrators to a fair trial. These include:
- To force the Syrian regime to receive an independent international commission of inquiry with a mission to investigate all allegations of human rights and international humanitarian law, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and to identify their perpetrators.
- To request all member States of the Unites Nations to enforce a travel ban and an assets freeze on all persons who are believed to be implicated, directly or indirectly, by way of incitement, participation or financing, in the commission of crimes against humanity in Syria, without prejudice to the principle of presumption of innocence.
- To refer the situation in Syria since March 15, 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court; and to force the Syrian regime to cooperate fully with the Court and the Prosecutor, and to provide all necessary assistance to enable the Court and the Prosecutor to discharge their respective functions.
- To ensure proper conditions to embark upon a nation-wide political process, as shall be agreed between all political and social forces composing the Syrian people, which should lead to achieving the desired democratic transition. These include:
- To ensure proper political conditions that allow a deliberative process to take place among all components of the Syrian people in respect of the transitional period and its constitutive procedures.
- To ensure proper political conditions to enable the Syrian people to carry out voting by universal suffrage and transparent, fair and free elections at all levels, as shall be required in the transitional period to achieve the desired democratic transition.
- To provide training and capacity building assistance to the Syrian armed forces and security services to increase their awareness of human rights and international humanitarian law, and to effect a change in their doctrine from protection of the regime to protection of the country, without prejudice to the unity of the army.
- The recalcitrance of the Syrian regime to meet its international obligations in terms of respect of human rights and international humanitarian law, may require, in this particular moment, that the international action contemplated above be supported by the sending of a United Nations observers mission, to be approved by a resolution of the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The mandate of the observers mission must emphasize prevention and assistance in building appropriate political conditions to achieve a peaceful democratic transition in Syria. The observers mission must comprise civilian components holding nationalities of countries known historically for their neutrality, and under the direct supervision of the Secretary General of the United Nations, in cooperation with the League of Arab States. The observers mission’s staff members must be in such numbers as to allow them to be present in or reach any town or village at any time, to monitor and report to the United Nations Secretary General, on any violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as on progress of the political process to achieve a peaceful democratic transition pursuant to appropriate constitutive procedures as shall be solely determined by the Syrian People.
- We affirm the priority of using dialogue and peaceful persuasion, including the use of non-coercive and non-violent measures. Yet we have no illusions as to the Syrian regime’ obstinate responses and its attempts to buy time. Experience has shown that the granting of time has not rendered the Syrian regime less resolute in committing yet further violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Such time costs the Syrian people more killing and destruction. Every day that passes means more people killed, and Syria finds itself even more remote from any possibility to find political solutions.