I am certain that the Syrian regime is among the worst ruling regimes in human history, in terms of its violation of individual freedoms and human rights. The regime runs the worst prisons and the worst detention centers in terms of living conditions and the types of torture which it practices against its prisoners. The Syrian intelligence and security agencies, including the military and civilian police, carry out the worst forms of torture to have sprung from the minds of human monsters the world over.
However, I believe that the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, if it occurred, would not be sufficient at all to end the state of oppression which has been established with this violence and these violations of human rights. Most oppressors, if not all of them, carry out violence when their situation tightens.
But, in parallel, it should be said that the Syrian regime, if it stays as it is without fundamental, major changes to its structure, will hinder any democratic transition process and will continue to confiscate and violate the rights of Syrians and their individual freedoms.
Based on this, we, as Syrians, confront a very specific challenge, as we must, whether opposition or loyalist, work to break up the violence and tyranny in the regime’s structure and in the structure of the opposition groups, especially the jihadist ones, and carry out our work even with the continuing survival of the Syrian regime. It is true that the regime has lost all sovereign authority, and has been tied up by the hands of the Russians first and Iranians next — but in the legitimate sense the militia is the victor. During a period in which it has transformed to become, little by little, nothing more than a militia, it has transformed the entire country into a combination of militias, and is now reconciling with the opposition militias, satisfied for them to stay and inflict what they will on the people of their regions.
This challenge requires us not to accept the victory of the street over reason and wisdom, and not to be content with our luck as a result of what has occurred around us, and to quit our hobby of “cafe chatter” and supranational analyses. We must understand that our authoritarian violence is not born of Bashar al-Assad’s rule, even if he has reached its furtherst limits during his reign, but that this violence was established with the first military coup in the country, whereby the coup-makers confiscated, with their armed violence, the rights of Syrians to choose their leaders and authorities in accordance with their free will. The issue of Syrians’ rights, freedoms and dignities as individuals did not receive the appropriate attention from most intellectual, political and cultural movements at that time (and not now). However, with the military men capturing power began a process of producing insidious misconceptions about the state, authority, the nation and the people, as well as other concepts and values which formed the basis for human civilization up to that period. All of this contributed to the absence of a culture of rights and freedoms from the public mind.
It did not take long after the military coups until the Baath Party made another copy, whereby it seized power and eliminated any conceptual or realistic meaning for the state as social organization based on the consensus of the individuals present in a specified political geography to manage their collective affairs (a simplified definition). The Baathist authorities did not recognize Syria’s political geography, and considered the current Syria to be nothing more than an emergency geography born out of the Sykes-Picot agreement, and therefore not fit to establish a state. It rejected in absolute terms acknowledging the presence of a Syrian community, because Syrians had no meaning or identity outside the unified Arab people.
With control over the national consciousness, Baathist and non-Baathist, not just in Syria but in the entire Arab political and cultural discourse, the “people” with its non-existence, became the source of authority. This term “people” is not present in reality, as its existence is limited to misleading demagogic rhetoric which gives legitimacy to authorities who do not have electoral legitimacy. The “people” within this sense transcend social reality and ignorance, and, in one sense, half a million Syrian human beings can be killed and the “people” are not affected by this decrease. Or some parties can attempt to wipe out an entire Syrian sect, either in terms of its existence or its political rights, and the “people” have still not decreased. This term is used in our recent conflicted experience as a tool of exclusion and aggression against individuals. The “people” with the regime does not enclose the opposition in its folds, and with the opposition loyalists are not included under its cloak.
It may be worthwhile for us to be familiar with our upcoming challenges to conduct a number of critical readings of the Syrian political experiments, and the experience of Syrian regime, since the beginnings of the establishment of the Syrian political entity within its current border. This is with the aim of observing the situation of the Syrian individual in terms of rights and freedoms. This is because the individual is the constituent unit of society, and it is upon the individual that the modern state is based. Most of us must note that the majority of forces and movements, civilian or military, who have entered the public domain from that time until now with the aim of political change, are from the same tyrannical clay, imposing their ideologies and leaders and policies on the public through violent means.
Even those who “shaped” the word democracy into the context of their slogan or in issuing their arguments were of a superficial character. Democracy can only be based on individual freedoms safeguarded by the constitution and laws and protected by government institutions able to do this, and incubated in the public mind. It is not possible to strive for democracy seriously and truly if the state is viewed as being based on the idea of the nation and not the individual (the nation: the Arab, Kurdish, Islamic, sectarian or otherwise). Most political or even cultural or literary movements have not given this individual the legitimacy of being an independent entity outside the concepts of the “nation” or the alignments of the “nation” or the morals of the “nation.” Rather their “ideal” is the traditional person who does not support innovation.
Therefore we must, if we want our country to befit human beings who know their rights, not base it on a term such as a nation for the Arab people or even the “Syrian people.” The term “people” cemented in our minds has previously been made from our presence as individuals in tangible reality and tyranny over our free will. This relationship between this “people” and between individuals must comply with its values and objectives… these objectives which were formulated by oppressive authorities. All of these authorities have populist speech and claim to represent the people, and then oppress them and impose their control over them, regardless of their ethnicity, religion or sect, under the pretext of defending the “people.”
If we want a country in which all Syrians are equal, where one is not lower than another, individually or collectively, we must build this country on the principle of our community with one another as free Syrian individuals. We choose to live with one another freely in accordance with the values that bring us together, and not subject to the values imposed by the conqueror on the conquered, or the majority over the minority, or the strong over the weak, or the rich over the poor, or the man over the woman. We formulate our collective values within a contract between us which we place above all, within this formula: a Syrian state based on a contract between free Syrian individuals, equal in rights and duties, with no preference due to religion, sect, ethnicity, sex, belief or doctrine.
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.