The Arab Spring started three years ago when Mohammad Bouazizi set himself on fire, signifying in his action that the Arab people had had enough of the humiliation, mortification and corruption of the dictators ruling them since independence.
A policewoman’s slap on Bouazizi’s face was the stroke that broke down fear and silence.
Revolutions of freedom started in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, the biggest Arab country in area, knocking down two tyrant regimes in less than two months. The youth in Libya and Syria were also inspired to put an end to the long period of darkness under two of the most savage regimes in the world. They too felt they were able to break their chains and walk towards freedom.
The Libyans started off protesting peacefully as the Tunisians and Egyptians had done, but the dictator Moammar Gadhafi unleashed the army, far from a patriotic institution with its own power like the Tunisian and Egyptian armies. The army began killing Libyans, turning the peaceful uprising into an armed uprising and providing proof that the people insisted on breaking their chains, whatever the cost. The Libyans continued fighting while their tyrant continued killing them using whatever weapons were at his disposal and was about to win due to the flow of opposition weapons to his own forces, until the international community decided, with support from the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council to intervene on the part of the opposition.
The international intervention included western weapons supplied with gulf finances and the battle was sealed in favor of the opposition in less than three months. The Gadhafi regime collapsed, he was arrested and then executed, ending the era of the so called “King of Kings”.
The Libyan experience encouraged Syrians to break their barrier of fear, which had been reinforced by the arrest, torture and killings in the brutal government repression of an Islamist uprising in Hama in the 1980s. Those events had led some Syrians to believe they were destined to live with the suppression and the corruption of Assad and his family forever.
The fall of Gadhafi gave the Syrians hope they wouldn't be facing the nastiest monster on their own, and that the international community and their Arab friends, who stood beside the Tunisians and the Egyptians and used force to overthrow a regime that’s no less brutal than theirs, would not leave them alone in their own battle.
The disappointment on the part of the Syrians has only deepened their tragedy, and led to serious distortions of their revolution. They put up with all the killing, arrests and torture, insisting on the peaceful nature of their revolution, for the first six months, as the tyrant himself has admitted. The regime, however, pushed them towards arming from the first day, with security forces detaining young demonstrators and torturing them brutally, insulting their family honor even their religious believes in a clear sectarian drive.
Those detained were released as fighters in this regime project, as I witnessed myself during 60 days of detention in the political security investigation branch with my two sons. The regime wanted to turn the revolution of freedom and dignity into a sectarian war. The rebels tried as much as they could to keep it peaceful.
However, with the indifference of the international community and the regime’s insistence on giving the uprising a sectarian dimension. By including the Lebanese and Iraqi sectarian militias and by leaking videos of the killing of protesters through torture and with a focus on specific Syrian accents used by the regime thugs and death, as well as by setting free thousands of Salafi prisoners, the regime ensured it could no longer remain peaceful.
After a year of this battle, the soil had become fertile for extremist groups following the ideology of Al-Qaeda to overcome the authority of the Free Syrian Army. Soldiers and commanders who defected from the regime with a patriotic agenda away from extremism and sectarianism were attracted to these groups, encouraged by the support and the allegiance-buying practices.
All of this happened on front of the eyes of the regional and international intelligence agencies. There was a sequence of false promises of support for the patriotic and democratic forces that could have turned the tables in favor of the revolution and force the regime to acquiesce to a political solution that could have accomplished what more that 200,000 deaths did not. Several hundred thousand people have experienced arrest, torture, while millions were displaced inside the country and out.
All the previous leads to asking: Was it arranged for Syria to be the cemetery of the Arab Spring, fearing the spread of the protest movement to other regimes in the region? Did they want to give their people a horrible example by pushing the Syrians to this tragic destiny? Or did the Americans and the Russians want Syria to be a place they can reduce the power of Hezbollah militia, Iran and Al-Qaeda all together by putting them into a battle with each other and with a single loser, Syria the people?
The Syrians will win in the end but the price will be high. The sides that are working to extend the crisis either support the tyrant or block the chances of a political solution that would put an end to the regime and maintain the unity of the land and the people.
The revolution has been seized to exhaust the others at the expense of our blood. The Arab Spring may be delayed by some time but history teaches us that the people yearning to freedom will never be quieted.