Syrian people protest for democracy
Protests have erupted in Syria calling for democracy and an end to exploitation, largely influenced by revolutions taking place in other Arab countries. Although the first protests saw few participants, eventually Syrians stepped forward in large numbers, courageously demanding their rights and putting their lives at risk. Protests have taken over all major cities including Damascus, Aleppo and Daraa. Security forces have fired on peaceful protestors, already killing dozens including children as young as 11 years old.
Protests such as these are truly unprecedented for Syria under Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the current president. Both Bashar and his father, Hafez al-Assad, have a history of crack downs on all types of peaceful protestors. In fact, the Assad dynasty was responsible for the single deadliest act an Arab government has committed against its own people: the 1982 massacre in Hama.
The government attacked all opposition parties, both on the left and the right. Between 20,000 and 30,000 innocent civilians were killed by the regime’s forces on that day.
So when these protests continued despite the regime’s initial attacks, Assad faced a difficult decision. Either he could use disproportionate force to destroy the democracy movement once and for all (as his father did before him), or he could try to appease at least some of their demands in hopes of dampening their enthusiasm.
Assad has opted for the second option, at least up to this point in time. He has fired government officials known for rampant corruption, granted long overdue citizenship to the Kurdish minority in the East, and released some political prisoners.
The Syrian president has also invoked nationalistic arguments, proclaiming his regime the only resistance to Israel and the West.
Of course, this ignores that Assad’s regime has targeted Palestinians involved in political action and has recently detained many activists involved in the Egyptian revolution. The argument that Assad should maintain control for the sake of all Arabs only serves to highlight the man’s delusion or his unabashed deception.
Syrians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds have united in opposition to Assad, and are firm in their refusal of his paltry appeasement. Habib Ibrahim, head of the Democratic Unity Kurdish Party, summed up this sentiment: “Our cause is democracy for the whole of Syria. It is not a favor. It is not the right of anyone to grant.”
Assad, and every corrupt head of state in the region, has to understand that no matter what rights they finally decide to give to the people, their authority still has no legitimacy. The Syrian president was not democratically elected; he only succeeded his father who himself gained control through a military coup.
Nothing short of regime change and democratization will appease the Syrian and Arab masses.