Monday, March 21, 2011

Debate on Syria Misses the Larger Picture

Ever since the March 15 demonstrations erupted in several cities in Syria there has been a number of allegations questioning the the merits of these protests with a particular focus on speculating over who is behind them. To dwell on such allegations is to miss the point and beg for context.

Since January, the Arab World has been swept by a pro democracy movement that is hard to miss. Starting with Tunisia, followed by Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya. Less significant numbers turned out in Morocco, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. Obviously, each one of these countries has its unique set of geo-political and demographic facts and circumstances but all of their populations share a common theme. They are Arabs who are demanding change in one form or another. Syria is no exception.

Despite their seemingly unique reality, Syrians are not immune to this wave of massive, popular discontent. In Syria today, corruption and nepotism are the standard rather than the exception, and political freedoms are non-existent. As such, the idea of Syrians demanding their rights out in the open should not be considered antagonistic by any stretch, no matter which Syrian is calling for it.

Those who propagate the equation of protesters to traitors are doing the future of Syria a disservice because dissent is needed and healthy and cultivates democracy, transparency and government accountability. In fact, this sort of disingenuous rhetoric, which attacks anyone who expresses discontent with their government as either a non-patriotic foreign agent or an agenda-driven Islamist, was invoked by Bin Ali, Mubarak, Qaddafi and Saleh but quickly debunked by the reality of the revolution.

The question of who and what was behind the initial spark of protests in Syria is now moot. Syrians will ride the wave of the democracy movement and a few thousand here and there will snow-ball into millions if grievances are not seriously and immediately addressed.


Abu Kareem said...

Agree. Finding a bogeyman more frightening than the status quo is the way the autocrats numb their people into submission. Clearly no one buys it anymore. More important than the number of protesters around Syria is the fact that anyone came out at all; this in a country where everyone always looked over their shoulders. As with their Brethrens in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain, they are no longer afraid of their rulers.

abulyas said...

Agreed Abdul Karim; however, this posting was directed at my fellow Syrian-Americans who are still in the shadows and have yet to match their public with their private opinions on what's taking place in Syria now. Fear is often masked by quasi-rational justifications such as the allegations I attempt to refute in this piece and unless we debunk these myths that are constantly perpetuated by the regime and still many Syrians these myths will forever nurse people’s fear and complacency.

Abu Kareem said...

Yes, I have always been surprised by how few Syrian-American voices are out there, even with the anonynimity of the internet, few seem to be willing to talk.