Is This Better Late Than Never for Syria?

A document that was prepared by Syrian intellectual and political figures could hold the key to Syria's future writes Al-Araby Al-Jadeed

A few days ago, Syrian intellectual and political figures prepared a political document which aims to launch a serious Syrian dialogue and bring to fruition the so called “Syrian national project.” The document stressed “the need to give central priority to the necessary intellectual-political framework to build a national leadership capable of restoring the revolution of freedom as a communal wager without giving up our duties of daily political resistance to the threats our country faces externally and which internally are part of the counter-revolution. This shall be done by empowering the democratic movement to occupy a real position in the future of Syria, which has the ability to represent balanced segments of the people in the field of party and public politics.”

The expression goes: It is better late than never. Will this expression be appropriate for Syria’s current situation if we take this document and the ideas it puts forward as an example of a late arrival?

It is fair for those who assume political responsibility to acknowledge that they have not offered a tool or experiences the people have felt able to trust, and that their fate in the path towards freedom has been mortgaged to those who have not played well and do not have independent desires. The first stab in the back of the dreams of the Syrian people was the early calls for foreign intervention. There was an assumption that America and NATO were guarantees in hand and that there was no harm in calling for foreign powers to intervene with military force to bring down a regime that clearly would not hesitate to use force of the highest degree to defend its existence — in exchange for a political and military tool which suggested that the other party, which claimed to represent the people and to defend it and its interests, was also trying to march toward a monopoly of power. From its first entity, the National Council, the political opposition, gambled on the regime falling quickly and did not pay enough attention to how the regime would fall, nor to which entities they were relying upon, nor to the programs they were proposing. Thus, the militarization began to separate the factions who had varying loyalties and various sources of funding. For the National Council, and the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces alike, it was acceptable for Islamist factions — from moderates up to extremist jihadists — to participate in the war, indeed even to devour other groups, and to be the playmakers on the ground. Likewise, the Muslim Brotherhood took control over the political decision-making, even if they took secular or democratic blocs as a front. In reality, these blocs had no weight, whether in terms of decision-making or their influence on the ground. The battlefield and the rifle had the final say, and whoever controlled the field of battle controlled decision-making.

What happened to Syria during the years of its crisis, and which looks set to continue, is that the destruction has become general and the cracks in the structure of society have turned into deep rifts, which will need a long time to bridge. A deadly strife has taken root and the trust between Syria’s communities has collapsed. The ability to live together now needs other bases, and civil society, the foundations for which had begun to be laid in the first decade of this century, despite being besieged by a repressive regime, has declined. The situation of women has also deteriorated and the secularism that may be the best solution to build a modern state in a diverse country such as Syria has become an impossible dream for some — and a nightmare for others.

The target audience for the rhetoric used by the opposition to stimulate public awareness and put forward issues and problems that people suffer from, as well as their cries for freedom and the ability to decide their future, were not solely based in area outside of regime control. This was a basic fact that the opposition neglected. They should have spoken to all Syrian people.  Were the people in the regime areas not Syrian? And didn’t these people have problems and interests and concerns and aspirations? Was it a deaf mass, with a single vision and position? The opposition did not pay attention to these participants and build on them, and it did not know how to win over more supporters to its side — not just internally, but abroad as well. The current scene shows how many Arab, regional and international regimes stand in the way of the Syrian people, and do not serve the positions of other opposition members who differ to them on some issues and do not serve any revolution, and can all be considered a variation of the regime, or under its cover, or in its category.

It is the right of any Syrian person to hold to account all the parties who have gambled with their future, whether opposition or regime. But remembering the past and evoking experiences to understand and critique them is necessary, in the hope that in the future there can be a possibility of rescue work.

All that is proposed in the document, if it is based on a critical study, is positive and necessary, and must occur in order to design long-term programs and plans for the future that includes a huge number of important and highly-sensitive issues. What is important now is political maturity and beginning to develop visions for possible solutions, and accepting the political realities imposed by the regional and international shifts around the Syrian problem.

The bloody years have shown that investing in war achieves nothing but destruction and the collapse of Syrian lives, with civilians paying the heaviest price. This is the support which was promised by the countries that have run their wars and conflicts on our territory and claim to be friends of the people and their protectors. International agencies and organizations have offered no support to the Syrian people and none of its binding or non-binding resolutions can put out the flames of war or halt the cascades of blood or prevent the humiliating and brutal fate the Syrians face, or stop them from being cast out of their homes and security to live out in the open, with borders shut in their faces. What tragedy could be worse?

The ideas proposed by the document signed by Syrian figures are important and necessary, but what is more important is to stop the bloodshed and the draining of the Syrian people. What is also important is to determine the weight of this document and the extent of its ability to gain a foothold in Syrian decision-making. The ability of Syrians to control their fate has been out of their hands for a long time, and all the intentions, ambitions and programs have not been able to change anything in reality if it they did not enjoy foreign backing and without mortgaging it to some entity or another. This promising step must be based on constants, the most important of which is political wisdom on one hand, and the national interest above all else on the other.


This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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