Across the Bay

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Democratic Change in Syria

I've been meaning to post on some developments in Syria, but I've been tied down with work. However, Arabic readers might want to take a look at this series, "Democratic Change in Syria," currently being published in As-Siyassah. It's in its eighth episode, and, I think, still ongoing. It's a set of interviews with various activists, including the guide of the MB, Bayanouni (2nd episode). It gives an idea as to the variety of voices calling for change, and their consensus on the fact that the current regime is the problem, and it stands in the way of real change and reform.

I've collected the links to the PDF versions from the archives, and here they are for your convenience (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

I'll keep updating with new links until the series ends. Also, see this op-ed by exiled Syrian writer, at-Taher Ibrahim (who's also interviewed in episode 8). Ibrahim critiques Bashar's speech, and the current chauvinistic jingoism that's being engineered/sanctioned/manipulated by the regime (on that, see also the quote by Hazem Saghieh that I posted recently. It nails it on the head.)

Bashar's strategy is to use the Syrian people as cannon fodder, while attempting to split the opposition and to dictate the nature and the pace of domestic discourse. All this circling of the wagons is meant to avoid a deadly fight inside the regime (or should I say, the triumvirate) -- even perhaps trouble in the Alawite community -- while hiding behind a fearful and manipulated populace that's been put in front the barrel of the gun that Asad himself has brought to their head. By doing so, he eliminates the split between the regime and the people that the opposition declared in the Damascus Declaration, when it called for the handing over of suspects for interrogation by the International Commission, and proclaimed that the fate of the Syrian people should not be tied to that of suspected murderers. But, as Ibrahim put it, Bashar is using the Syrian people themselves as a "card."

Update: Here's episode 9 (PDF), with Abdallah Turkmani.

Update 2: Here's episode 10 (PDF).

Update 3: Here's episode 11 (PDF).

Update 4: Here's episode 12 (PDF).

Update 5: And here's the final episode (PDF).

Addendum: Meanwhile in Lebanon, Jumblat has picked up his campaign against the Syrian regime, separating them fully from the Syrian people. And while insisting on close brotherly relations with the Syrian people, he called the regime "guilty until proven innocent," and that it "has yet to prove its innocence from Hariri's blood." He also called for internal solidarity in the face of "attempts by the Syrian regime at sabotaging Lebanon's independence and its Arabism." (English synopsis here.) And, in an interesting remark he noted that "weapons don't provide protection; consensus and dialogue do." Furthermore, Hasan Nasrallah's attempt at combining the Syrian people and the regime in his "Jerusalem Day" speech (where he expressed solidarity with Syria's "people and leadership") was brutally critiqued in a daring piece by Dalal al-Bizri in al-Hayat, that really demolished HA's hypocrisy and its policies (English synopsis here. Hat tip, Jonathan). The Syrian "leadership," she noted, is a security apparatus that operates through violence outside and above the law. To stand in solidarity with it, in the face of such a massive crime, is appalling.

This in itself is another contrast to Bashar's speech. Whereas now in the post-Syrian era HA is no longer immune from severe criticism in the media, Bashar threatened everyone in Syria (media and opposition) that if they do not rally around the regime, they will be targeted as traitors. And Leverett wants us to "empower" Bashar! Sigh...