Take the power back

With the first anniversary of the Arab Spring upon us the world’s attention is focused on Damascus, to see if the Syrians can follow in footsteps of the Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans and finally overthrow their own autocratic government.

In the Jasmine revolutions of 2011, it became harder and bloodier for each dictator to fall.  The speed with which Ben Ali was deposed shocked the world, Mubarak’s downfall took a little longer and Gaddafi’s overthrow and subsequent execution came after months of fighting.  The revolution in Syria has been longer and bloodier again, and nine months later, the only way for it to be a success, will be and should be, through the use of violent political action.  The Syrian opposition, led by the Free Syria Army, admit they are no match for Assad’s forces and are fighting an uphill battle against them.  However, unless there is a united, organised and armed opposition there is no hope of Syrian regime change and freedom.

While non violent change should always be preferred over violent action, too often non violence is seen as the only way.  When Nelson Mandela and the ANC were fighting apartheid in South Africa, the organisation made a tactical decision to move from the exhausted non violent protest to violent political action, a move which reaped dividends.  Even Ghandi, the poster boy of non violence, said ‘I prefer to use arms in defence of honour rather than remain the vile witness of dishonour’.  Finally, NATO’s intervention in Libya last year undoubtedly assisted in Gaddafi’s defeat.

President Assad has shown contempt for those protesting his rule, with his forces murdering more than 5,000 protesters since March 2011 and showing no signs of stopping.  Not content with simply gunning people down in the street, government troops have also used nail bombs, stun grenades, tear gas and torture on protestors.  Assad has also ignored his promise to the Arab League that his regime would remove tanks and troops from residential areas, cease violence against civilians, release political prisoners, start a dialogue with the opposition and allow journalists and human rights workers into the country.  Finally, the recent, reluctant, visit to Syria by Arab League monitors has done nothing to quell the violence.  While their presence has seen as dramatic increase in protester numbers, the murders have continued, with over 150 protestors shot dead since their deployment.

All of this adds up to a government that has no respect for its people and their rights, nor the Arab League, the United Nations, its neighbours, peers or the international community.  Assad has shown in the last nine months he will do whatever it takes to stay in power and crush or ignore anyone who stands in his way.  Therefore the only way to approach Assad is with a language he understands.

Organised, targeted and tactical violent political action achieves many things.  First of all it gives the oppressed group, in this case the Free Syria Army and the wider protest movement, increased power, honour, confidence and identity, something that Assad and his troops are taking away, by either murdering people, torturing them or dismissing them as fundamentalists Islamic terrorists.  As Fanon wrote ‘…the colonised subject is always presumed guilty… [h]e is dominated [and] made to feel inferior’.  By taking their protests further than demonstrations, attacks on government buildings for example, the Syrian opposition can rid themselves of this domination and inferiority.  As is often seen in Palestine, something as easy as rock throwing, while undoubtedly incurring a brutal punishment, can inspire others to do the same or similar.

Secondly, a united and organised opposition can bring greater publicity to the cause and articulate the protestors’ message, to both the wider Syrian public, regional bodies and international organisations.  This is important because Assad cannot be allowed to continue to win the propaganda war, by wrongly accusing the protestors of being terrorists and fundamentalists linked to Al Qaeda.  Opposition attacks on government targets would show that the protestors are fighting against the regime and not against other civilians, giving them crucial ground in the propaganda war.  Also, attacks by a formal opposition army may, in the long term, drag the fight off the streets, so to speak, and the protestors may be freer to protest while the government engages militarily with an opposition army.

Finally, an organised, united and strong opposition can attract defectors.  Already, tens of thousands of government troops have joined to the Free Syria Army and with attacks on government targets, increased organisation, support and momentum, many more may follow suit.  Although Assad’s army still far outnumbers the opposition, we saw in Libya how quickly things can change.

As the American civil rights activist Malcolm X correctly stated, ‘You can’t ever reach a man if you don’t speak his language.  If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can’t come to him with peace.  Why goodnight!  He’ll break you in two, as he has been doing all along…once you know his language, learn how to speak his language and he’ll get the point, there will be some dialogue, some communication, and some understanding will be developed.’  That is the language the Syrian opposition needs to approach Assad with, a language he understands.

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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Crime, Politics, Law

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One Comment on “Take the power back”

  1. James Hill
    January 5, 2012 at 11:30 am #

    The Al Qaeda flag flies in Libya, and the front runners in the Egyptian elections are the Islamic Brotherhood and an even more fundamentalist Islamic movement. This is a repeat of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in the 70’s: The west painted it as a political, student uprising, but when the dust settled Iran was under the oppressive rule of an Islamic theocracy. I fear that the struggle of the Arab Spring will only server to install even more violent and corrupt rulers and destabilize the region even further.

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