Sunday, 5 February 2012

Free Free Syria

I attended a anti-Assad Free Syria rally in Sydney today, which drew around 3-500 demonstrators to Hyde Park. Check out some crappy phone photos here.


Tom looking shady... 

Opponents of military intervention, many of whom support Assad for being a thorn in Israel's side, Syria's role in the "anti-imperialist" diplomatic bloc headed by Venezuela, or both, have been sharing this article by Pepe Escobar "exposing the Arab agenda in Syria". While I'd certainly agree with his analysis of the role the GCC & NATO are playing with regards to Syria and the Arab Spring as a whole, a lot of what he writes is pure speculation, such as:

"The Syrian National Council is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood outfit affiliated with both the House of Saud and Qatar - with an uneasy Israel quietly supporting it in the background. Legitimacy is not exactly its cup of green tea. As for the Free Syrian Army, it does have its defectors, and well-meaning opponents of the Assad regime, but most of all is infested with these foreign mercenaries weaponized by the GCC, especially Salafist gangs."

What the observer mission's report that Escobar quotes from has evidenced is that some parts of the civilian uprising have turned to armed violence. However, I've seen compelling arguments (from the BBC and other corporate media outlets, but also from activists) that many of these "shady gangs" are government-backed shabiha, like the baltageya in Egypt, committing acts of terrorism to intimidate the population while allowing the official armed forces to distance themselves. 

As western observers and commentators I think we need to see some actual evidence as to the leadership, intention or composition of these armed forces before we start prosthelytizing against them. Many stating that the Syrian resistance is all "salafist" or "brotherhood" or "western backed" are the same people who have written off Libya's democracy movement as a CIA plot because of atrocities committed by some armed groups or the composition of the NTC, ignoring the fact that there are significant ongoing protests against the NTC by those who rose up against Gadaffi, especially in still-impoverished Benghazi. Why these people decided to protest now if their original protests were simply a CIA plot is anyone's guess...

However, I do think that we can clearly say that the Syrian government is imprisoning and torturing dissidents, as it has for decades, and that we support the Syrian people's struggle for real democracy and against Assad. Just because he's an "enemy" of Israel or the US doesn't mean Assad isn't a ruthless unelected dictator. Even though there are opinion pieces in the Jerusalem Post calling for Assad's overthrow and dismissing the observer mission as a failure because it was "
directed by the Syrian authorities to visit and report about places and incidents of the government’s own choice" (hardly true, given they travelled to several locations without a government escort) still doesn't mean he isn't a ruthless unelected dictator or the uprising against his rule shouldn't have our support and solidarity.

The report itself documents violence against civilians by the military, the military by armed groups, and widespread suggestions that much of the armed groups are fighting back after 10 months of government crackdowns.

"On being assigned to their zones and starting work, the observers witnessed acts of violence perpetrated by Government forces and an exchange of gunfire with armed elements in Homs and Hama."
"The Mission visited the residential districts of Baba Amr, Karam Al-Zaytun, Al-Khalidiyya and Al-Ghuta without guards. It met with a number of opposition citizens who described the state of fear, blockade and acts of violence to which they had been subjected by Government forces."
And perhaps most importantly:
"The Mission has received requests from opposition supporters in Homs and Deraa that it should stay on-site and not leave, something that may be attributable to fear of attack after the Mission’s departure."
- now, 5 days after the mission has withdrawn, there's been widespread reports of the arrest, torture and murder of civilians, which is where today's protests in Sydney, across Australia and the world fit in.

There's certainly armed groups who are committing acts of violence against the military, the state and civilians. There's also certainly peaceful protest and opposition to Assad's regime, and Assad is also certainly attempting to crush and repress it. The report has shown that the escalating situation of violence is the result of that repression.

Supporters of the struggles for freedom in the MENA region over the last year should above all reject all attempts to restrict or limit the gains that these revolutionary movements can win; whether that's the attempts to repress them by the dictators; directing the movements off the streets, out of the workplaces and into parliaments; foreign military intervention, which might save lives (or might kill more) but will inevitably make it harder for revolutionary movements to keep challenging the status quo once the dictator is gone, or limiting opposition to the regime into a dualistic narrative of pro-west/anti-west, islamist/secularist or whatever. Good people who oppose global imperialism who would otherwise support the resistance of a people to their oppressors are coming out to lie about, obfuscate about or straight up pretend away movements for change because they don't fit their conceptions of imperialism and the regional political balance, which is just what the forces of global capitalism want to see happen out of any interventions.

Finally, in Australia's "free democracy" itself, the corporate media is showing its colours just as clearly as ever, getting this article up on the "attack" on the Syrian Embassy in Canberra while as of yet not posting a single shot of the protest marches calling for Assad to go in Sydney or Melbourne.

No comments:

Post a Comment