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.