Monday, 20 January 2014

Syria: The Road to Geneva – and back again
The suspense over the holding of the Geneva II Conference on Syria appeared to have finally ended on 18 January with the decision of the principal opposition group – the Syrian National Coalition (SNCo) – to attend, but has now re-emerged with their threat to withdraw over the extension of an invitation to Iran.
However I don’t think there is as much uncertainty as is widely thought. The UN has already taken out insurance by inviting a wide range of states to participate – a total of 32 effectively turning it into an international conference on Syria, rather than a purely bilateral peace negotiation, and virtually ensuring that some sort of international deliberation on Syria will commence on 22 January.(The first day will involve all the participating delegations in preliminary discussions, with bilateral negotiations mediated by Brahimi starting on the 24th).
Moreover the US and the “Friends of Syria” are putting intense pressure on the SNCo to attend, while at the same time Russia has been doing its best to woo them,given the limitations imposed by its betrothal to the Asad regime. The hesitations of the SNCO are conditioned more by its need to reassure various forces back home than expressing any real uncertainty about its eventual participation.
So what are the intentions of the main players at Geneva II and what, if anything can we expect to emerge from it.? And how should the international movement of Solidarity with the Syrian revolution be responding?


The Godfathers – the US and Russia

The United States and Russia share a common concern to avoid instability in a complex and inter-twined region and to contain the development of international “terrorist” forces. The US’s parochial obsession with any whiff of “al-Qaeda” (9/11 casts a long and deep shadow) has prevented it from adopting a consistent strategy towards the Syrian conflict and limited its support for the anti-Asad forces to either tokenistic light weaponry or indirect assistance via partners such as Saudi Arabia. Russia, of course, has the additional motivation of wanting to support an historic ally that plays an important role in providing it with influence in an important geo-strategic region and counter-balancing US global hegemony.
What this means is that both the US and Russia have a real interest in seeing Geneva II produce  some kind of negotiated resolution of the conflict, and both are more concerned with regional order and stability than with meeting the democratic aspirations of the Syrian people.


The Regime

The Syrian regime has been pressured into this process by its Russian patrons. Throughout the course of the conflict the regime has repeatedly insisted that it will not negotiate with “terrorists” – and since it has labelled anyone who actively opposes it as a “terrorist” that has meant a refusal to negotiate with anyone except itself. It entered into the Geneva process in the hope that the opposition would refuse to participate, allowing it to present a charade of openness to peace-making while not actually having to give any ground. To try and ensure that outcome it launched a provocative intensification in the bombardment of opposition areas on the eve of a mooted peace process.
The regime’s prime tactic for the Conference is to try and refocus discussion on the issue of “combatting terrorism” rather than its own repressive record and the demands for real political change. This is an operation which may play well with some of the participants in the opening round, but is going to quickly run out of steam once serious, bi-lateral negotiations begin on 24 January.
The delegation appointed by Asad reflects this approach. It is headed by a regime hard-liner – the Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem who, along with his deputy Faisal Mikdad, has been making public pronouncements insisting that Asad will be standing for re-election in 2014. To further ensure that loyalty to the President is not overlooked in these proceedings, Asad’s notorious “Political and Media Advisor” Bouthaina Shabaan, is named as a “Deputy Head”of the delegation. The remainder are a combination of foreign ministry officials and spin doctors, with no one included who might be able to contribute to practical peace-making arrangements.
On top of that, they have hedged their bets in several ways. Muallem has sent a letter to the UN General Secretary in which he expresses reservations about the Geneva framework; and he has emphasized that anything agreed at Geneva would be subject to a referendum (presided over by the regime and its security apparatuses – whose outcome would therefore be of their choosing).


The Ghost of Geneva I

In order to understand the possible dynamic of any Geneva II negotiations we need to remind ourselves of the content of the June 2012 Geneva Communique on which they are based. This calls for:

The establishment of a transitional governing body which ... would exercise full executive powers. It could include members of the present government and the opposition and other groups and shall be formed on the basis of mutual consent.
…The public services must be preserved or restored. This includes the military forces and security services.
All parties must cooperate with the transitional governing body in ensuring the permanent cessation of violence. This includes completion of withdrawals and addressing the issue of the disarming, demobilization and reintegration of armed groups. (my emphasis)

This insistence on maintaining core regime institutions is based on supposed lessons drawn from the US occupation of Iraq, where the occupation authorities’ sweeping dismissal of Baathist military and state personnel led to political chaos and insurgency. However it is  based on false reasoning, since the structure of power in a Syria in the midst of an hypothetical “negotiated transition” would be totally different to that of Iraq in the wake of a sweeping military defeat.What this formula envisages is essentially a “Zimbabwe” solution: one in which an authoritarian regime and a democratic opposition are welded together without any modification of the underlying institutional power structures. The outcome is entirely predictable: the opposition gets an upgrade in desks and limousines; the regime gets to hang on to power.
Such an approach to the Syrian situation, far from facilitating a peaceful transition, is a piece of nonsense that guarantees the failure of Geneva II under even the most optimistic scenario.


Diplomats in Wonderland

Let’s just try and envisage for a moment how it would play out in practice. Coming out of Geneva there would be a new government drawn at best 50% from the regime, 50% from the opposition. With the Syrian Arab Army being kept in place, that would mean the Ministry of Defence going to a regime General. Perhaps it would be balanced by the Ministry of the Interior going to the opposition – with “full executive power” over Syria’s four separate intelligence agencies and 85 000 secret policemen? But as life-time Asad loyalists these professional torturers are not going to take orders from just anyone: they will create their own chain of command –to the president if Asad is left in office; to the nearest Baathist minister if he is not. The result would be an administration split down the middle on political lines, with a Baathist faction having at its disposal the repressive machinery of the state, the remnants of the Baath Party, and associated government officials; meanwhile the opposition  would be reduced to waving about bits of paper proclaiming their “full executive authority”. And in the midst of all this someone will be rushing around trying to persuade the armed opposition to surrender their weapons. With Iraq in mind, one is reminded of Marx’s aphorism that history repeats itself “first as tragedy, then as farce” – except in this case it would be both tragedy and farce.
This demonstrates why the question of removing Asad from the picture is so crucial – it’s not a matter of personalities or moral condemnation, but of realistic power politics: Asad in office means the regime in power, whatever the bits of paper may say.


Getting Real

While this package sounds very disturbing, in reality we can relax a bit – it is so full of contradictions and absurdities that it has no hope of getting off the ground. But that still leaves two big questions – how quickly will it fall apart? And who is going to be hardest hit by the fall- out when it does come crashing down?
There could be opportunities here for a cohesive opposition with skilled negotiators. The process of negotiation has its own logic, and it should be possible to exploit this Mad Hatters Tea party to win some breathing space for the Syrian people, by insisting on easing the sieges, stopping bombardments of civilian areas, and releasing detainees as essential confidence-building measures before serious talk can begin. It would be hard for the regime and its patrons to dismiss such demands out of hand without losing all credibility – and this under the intense gaze of 30+ diplomatic missions and the world press.
However the Syrian National Coalition is neither politically skilled nor cohesive, (although one interesting development in the opposition camp has been the emergence of a group of Syrian Women who seem to have a clearer focus and greater cohesion. While they are peripheral to the main process they seem to have the ear of Brahimi and may be able to have some impact even from the fringes.)

Role of the Solidarity Movement.

How then should the international solidarity movement be responding to this situation?  I think the first objective should be to focus attention on the issues I have referred to above: the sieges and bombardment of opposition areas, and release of detainees. We should be highlighting voices from within Syria who are raising these demands; If this can be synchronised with some Syrian voices at Geneva so much the better.
The second objective is to prepare for the collapse of Geneva II: this is going to be followed by a tidal wave of spin from the regime and its patrons, who will try and place the blame on the opposition – both those at Geneva and those waging the struggle back home. The regime is going to try and emerge from Geneva smelling of roses; we need to ensure that it comes out smelling of the dung heap of repression.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

The Many Faces of Agnes-Mariam of the Cross 

Two weeks ago the news broke that the Stop the War Movement had invited Asad apologist Mother Agnes-Mariam of the Cross to speak on the platform of their annual conference. The result was wave of outrage on Twitter and Facebook at this decision.
Twitter protests were sent to two of the key speakers – Owen Jones and Jeremy Scahill apprising them of this person’s role in the Syrian conflict, and they then honourably stated that they would not speak on the same platform as Agnes-Mariam. Stop the War then announced a diplomatic “withdrawal” by Agnes-Mariam.
In the aftermath there have been two sorts of responses: on the one hand there has been a series of petty allegations directed at both Jones and Scahill over their decision, and against those who mounted the protest.
On the other hand those who objected have decided to continue the debate over Stop the War’s attitude towards the Syrian conflict (How can a real Anti-war movement be oblivious to the war being waged on the Syrian people by the Asad regime) by mounting a protest outside their 30 November meeting.
The debate over this issue has been confused by the lack of awareness (or lack of concern) on the left of Agnes-Mariam’s record. For her current international tour she has donned the persona of a concerned holy sister committed to the cause of Peace and Reconciliation in Syria. Many people on the left seem to have been taken in by this performance, so I will try to provide a documented account of what role she has actually played over the past two and a half years.
Agnes as oppositionist
In her current persona, Agnes likes to present herself as a disappointed oppositionist – as she told RT:Television: 
RT: So you were helping the opposition?
Yes, what we call the internal, civilian opposition, which does not belong to any party and is not armed. We used to have only peaceful demonstrations. In our village, we helped to free people. Also, if there was a need for humanitarian help. We even had opposition meetings in our monastery.
The civilian opposition “not belonging to any party” in the early months of the revolt against the Asad regime were the young demonstrators subject to beatings, arrests and eventually shootings, by government forces. So how much sympathy did Agnes actually show them at the time?
Virtually none: throughout this whole period she made only one statement in which expressed any concern about the repressive actions of the regime – a letter to the President in November 2011 raising the accusations made by Amnesty International that injured demonstrators were not being treated properly in hospitals. But by that point she had been heaping slander onto  the civic opposition movement for more than 6 months.
Agnes as propagandist
Her first political statement came a matter of weeks after mass protests against the regime broke out. On 1 May 2011 she wrote an article for the Voltaire Network of French conspiracy theorist Thierry Meyssan (who was so enamoured of Asad that he had moved his operation to Damascus).  (English translation here )
In this article she denounced the entire Arab spring as a product of U.S. manipulation (at a point when something like half a million people were demonstrating across Egypt) and extended this narrative to Syria. She alleged that all the reports of regime abuses were manufactured, retailing a story that young oppositionists were driving around in convertibles, claiming to be security personnel, and beating people up for the camera.
As the repression in Syria became increasingly bloody, Agnes’s support for the regime was unwavering. In the coming months she wrote a number of articles in the same vein for the right-wing French publication La Plume et l’enclume (The Pen and the Anvil) and for the Voltaire Network.
In August 2011 the regime decided to try and counter the bad press it was receiving by organising an orchestrated trip by a group  of foreign journalists. This involved some professional journalists from the European press, and, for insurance, a band of fringe and right wing figures from the Meyssan fold. The serious journalists were unimpressed by what they saw, so the regime had to resort to this B team to put on an “international press conference” for Syrian state television, with people like Thierry Meyssan, Marc George(France), and Webster Tarpley (a 9/11 denier from the US.). The star of this show , however,was Agnes-Mariam of the Cross.

Agnes-Mariam’s contribution claimed to be based on visits to the main centres of unrest, including Homs. She denied that there were any peaceful demonstrations there, asserting that the opposition consisted only of “armed groups killing innocent people”. She denied that the security forces were responsible for any killings, insisting that the videos of such events were staged by the opposition shooting civilians and claiming it was the work of the army.  She quoted figures of security personnel who had been killed but made no mention of civilian deaths, despite the fact that by this point almost 3 000 civilians had been killed in the repression, 1000 of them in Homs.
In Agnes-Mariam’s tale: Homs had been invaded by foreign militants who took over neighbourhoods despite the resistance of local youth, and staged attacks on demonstrators  which were then blamed on the security services. The regime and its security apparatuses emerge from Agnes tale, as in all her subsequent accounts, as  pure as the day is long.
This is what was actually happening in Homs as Agnes-Mariam delivered her false testimony.
 Western reporters were now starting to enter the country clandestinely and reporting the real situation. One of the first was the French documentary film maker Sofia Amara who also arrived in Syria in August 2011.
Amara’s reporting told a very different story to the fantasies woven by Agnes and the regime. For some clips from her extraordinary footage look here.  and here, where she filmed peaceful demonstrators in Damascus under fire from the army (“Their determination was like a miracle.”) 
Agnes-Mariam’s response to being contradicted in this way was to unleash a torrent of abuse against Amara. Using her by now well-established method, she accused Amara of having faked her entire visit to Syria.  (and presumably all her footage).
To provide some flavour of her outburst:
The Syrian army needs no one in order to take action, especially not Hezbollah which is insignificant compared with the millions of men who form its ranks and those of the other forces of order. It is the insurgents who need assistance and who cry at the top of their voices for foreign intervention , something which has earned them the complaints of prominent hardliners in the opposition. Let me say, Madame Amara, you are malevolent when you speak of the Syrian army, which is a national army , as if it were a militia. You speak in rancour and hatred when you describe in this false and hypocritical manner the hospitals whose doctors we know well, and who devote themselves consistently to the victims whoever they may be.
We seem to have here a very different Agnes-Mariam to the one who recently visited our shores – more avenging angel than evangelist of “Reconciliation” And the final sentence seems particularily strange, given that six weeks later she was to write a letter to Asad stating “I am shocked to learn from Amnesty International that in the hospitals run by the government the wounded suffer discrimination and maltreatment because of their ideology”.
Agnes as publicist
As independent reports of events in Syria began to leak out, the Syrian regime decided to change its strategy and admit journalists, but under conditions that they could closely control. Once again Agnes-Mariam was their chosen instrument, coordinating a visit to Homs by a group of francophone journalists in January 2012, including the French tv reporter Gilles. Jacquier.
Two Swiss journalists who were among this group have provided a graphic account of how she operated:
Mother Agnes-Mariam of the cross … was the Franco-Lebanese nun organising this trip by the press. Our first surprise: we only had a visa for 4 days. Mother Agnes, very much at ease with the security services, reassured us that we would be given free rein “in order to expose western Goebbels-Atlantic propaganda”  … However the security forces were everywhere and the smallest demonstration by the revolutionaries was supressed in blood. Even figures from the regime were under surveillance and reluctant to speak. Evidence that Bashar’s system was teetering. Another problem: Mother Agnes had imposed a guard dog on Gilles in the form of a young Lebanese women who was supposed to be a translator but acted like a little Syrian soldier. All the promises made by the nun collapsed one by one. We were supposed to be free but discovered that we were expected to stay together as a group and could not move around until we received a green light from the Ministry of Information, whose officials were never available. Only the Lebanese in the group, including Mother Agnes, were able to contact them.
Jacquier was killed in Homs on the 11 of January in an unexplained incident. (Two other jounralists, Remie Olchik and Marie Colvin, dies in a separate incident in February.)
This ended Agnes’s career as a publicist and seems to changed her attitude towards the press: during a visit to Ireland she is reported to have said “The reason the media was being denied easy access to Syria currently was because in the Libyan conflict journalists placed electronic devices for Nato in rooms used at press conferences in that country, So Syria didn’t want journalists” (Irish Times 13 August 2012)
Agnes as apologist
Agnes continued to support the regime as it drove to militarise the conflict, launching an all-out bombardment of opposition areas of Homs in February 2012, taking the civilian death toll to 2700 in that city, and 6700 across the country. For a description of events in Homs at this time see this report.  and this dispatch from Mary Colvin,  killed shortly afterwards. 
In May 2012 the Syrian regime was faced with a further compromising situation, when over 100 residents of the village of Taldou near the town of Houla were ruthlessly butchered the night after an army bombardment. Local opposition activists blamed the massacre on regime paramilitaries shabiha) Once again, it was Agnes-Mariam who rushed to the rescue – not of the villagers, but the regime. She produced an account in which the Syrian army did not shell Taldou, and the massacre was perpetrated by opposition forces who transported the bodies to a mosque in Houla in order that they could claim that the regime forces were responsible (For some reason in Agnes’ stories people are always moving things around for reasons that are not always clear)

This story was briefly given credence by a western journalist from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But it suffered from a series of fatal flaws – the most crucial of which was the claim that the victims were members of the Shia sect. Subsequent investigation by three different media sources confirmed that this was untrue.  The story collapsed at this point and was definitively buried in August 2012 when the UNHuman Rights Council Commission on Syria reported that “The commission found that Government forces and shabbiha members were responsible for the killings in Al-Houla“.
But that did not satisfy Agnes. As she told an Irish audience “Most news reports from Syria were forged, with only one side emphasised, she said. This also applied to the UN, whose reports were one-sided and not worthy of that organisation.” (Irish Times 12 August 2012)

In July  2013 Agnes made a video entitled "An appeal for Peace and Reconciliation" – in it she calls calls on NGOs not to provide aid to the refugee camps outside Syria because they contain "the families of fighters" and the aid will be used to buy weapons. (see 2:00 onwards). This gives some idea of what her concept of ”Reconciliation" amounts to.
The Ghouta Tragedy
When the chemical weapons attack on the people of Ghouta took place in August 2013, the regime did not have to look far to find an apologist to muddy the waters. Agnes promptly issued a statement raising a series of objections to the video material posted by local activists (many of whom died in the effort to bring the reality to the world) and went on to put her name to a 50-page report detailing these charges, published under the auspices of an Iranian-sponsored NGO.  (Downloadable here.)
Working once more in Meyssan mode, the Report claims that the videos shot on the day of the attack are not genuine and makes the strange claim that many of the child victims are not from Ghouta but are Alawites kidnapped a few says earlier in Latakia, and transported across the country. It also relies on the hoary canard that the videos were posted on the internet before the attack – an elementary error made by people who do not understand time zones. The arguments in her report have been refuted one by one by Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch  
And the report shows just how fast and loose she plays with “facts”: she writes “East Ghouta has been under massive attack by the Syrian army since more than one year, very few people still live there, most of them are the families of the insurgents.” (p.10) Yet a bare 6 weeks later she is standing in front of tv cameras and claiming credit for the evacuation of thousands (she claims 7000) people from just one of these “empty” cities – Muadhamiya.
Since the publication of her report, Agnes has made public statements insisting that she isn’t denying that the attack took place, and isn’t accusing the rebels of staging it. So what is she saying? I suspect that not even she knows any longer.
But that hasn’t stopped her from making the outrageous demand, repeated  in the course of a recent public meeting in London, that the bodies of the Ghouta children should be exhumed and subjected to DNA tests - all in order to indulge her fantasies.
That is the real face of Agnes-Mariam.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Voices for Syria – Time to Start Listening

A major round of Syrian solidarity activities has recently taken place across Britain. Three weeks ago there was a tour of 4 cities (London, Manchester, Sheffield, Glasgow) by a group of musicians performing under the banner “Voices for Syria”. It included the well-known Syrian-American hip-hop artist Omar Effendum, and the Libyan-American rapper Khalid M.

 My wife and I went to the Manchester “Voices for Syria” event, which raised some £38 000 for Syrian humanitarian relief. It was attended by several hundred enthusiastic young people from the local Syrian and Muslim communities. For several hours they sang and chanted in unison to express their support for the struggle for freedom and democracy in Syria. The event was focused on raising funds for the support of children orphaned in the conflict, so it was not overtly political, but you can’t highlight what is happening to people in Syria without raising the issue of who is responsible for it, and these young people were certainly aware of the political issues. There were several high points to the evening: for me the best were Omar Effendum’s street rap devoted to the world’s oldest street – “Straight Street” (Damascus) – in which he cast his gaze over a millennium of Arab history and cultural achievements to a rapturous reception. Then there was the young British-Mozambiquan musician Mohammed Yahya who produced a lyrical weaving together of the experience of Palestinians and Syrians, both suffering under ruthless bombardments (making connections that I had never thought of). And, then the self-identifying Kentuckian, Khaled M., who led the audience in an enthusiastic chant of “Syria, Syria will be free.” I couldn’t help thinking – I’d love to see a couple of the advocates of “the clash of civilisations” forced to sit through these proceedings to witness what really happens when cultures coexist over a long period, giving birth to new generations – how they intertwine, enrich each other, and produce these marvellous new forms. The only disappointment of the evening was the lack of a significant presence from outside the Muslim communities – fewer than a dozen of us in total. Even more striking was the total absence of the left - not even the usual obligatory paper seller. I could only conclude that the local left was not even aware this event was taking place – and I doubt that the situation was very different in the other venues. Yet this came just a few weeks after three left organisations had issued a joint statement in support of the Syrian revolution. Unfortunately, the evidence of my eyes at this event suggest that this was little more than hot air.

This statement was issued on 30 August, the day before thousands of people marched through the streets of British cities under the slogan of “No Attack on Syria” and the day Parliament voted, under the influence of public pressure and scepticism among MPs of all parties, to reject a Government motion which would have allowed British support for retaliatory action against the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. From one point of view, this was a victory for British democracy of near historic proportions – for the first time, at least since the anti-Vietnam war movement of the late 60s, a mass popular movement managed to exercise some control on that holiest of domains of the modern state – foreign and security policy. But if 30 August represented a major gain for British democracy, we need to recognise that it is being paid for as you read these words with the blood of the Syrian people. In the two months between the parliamentary vote on 30 August and today the Syrian regime has killed a further 3000 civilians, including 650 children: most of them in the shelling and bombing of civilian settlements, but including 250 under torture, and 200 in “field executions”(i.e. shot by the roadside).

This is a debt which needs to be repaid by the organisation of active solidarity with the Syrian struggle: support for humanitarian aid, both private and official; pressure on the government to provide more support for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers; a systematic effort to educate the public on what is actually going on in Syria; and a serious discussion about what other options there are to defend the Syrian people from this murderous regime. Those in Britain who care for the cause of democracy should not confine their concern to these shores, nor is it right to leave the work of supporting our Syrian brothers and sisters to the Syrian community.
The left – which claims to have an internationalist vision - should be in the forefront of building solidarity with Syria: so far there is little sign of that, but I can continue to hope. I have commented elsewhere on the weakness of Syrian solidarity activity in this country contrasted with the much more serious response of the French left. But all is not gloom: there are several small but significant initiatives taking place in different parts of the country, which I will be highlighting in coming weeks.
In order to try and make some small contribution to these efforts, I am revamping this blog to focus on solidarity issues and news from the Syrian civil opposition (along with occasional analytic pieces on important issues). This is a work in progress – so the site may mutate subtly from week to week. I hope it will eventually become a useful tool for an emerging Syria Solidarity movement.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Declaration on Syria at World Social Forum

Solidarity with the Struggle of the Syrian People for Freedom and Dignity

The following declaration was issued at the World Social Forum, April  2013

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the millions of Syrians who have been struggling for dignity and freedom since March 2011. We call on people of the world to pressure the Syrian regime to end its oppression of and war on the Syrian people. We demand that Bashar al-Asad leave immediately without excuses so that Syria can begin a speedy recovery towards a democratic future.
Since March 2011, Asad’s regime has steadily escalated its violence against the Syrian people, launching Scud missiles, using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions, and using aerial bombardment. The regime has detained and tortured tens of thousands of people and committed untold massacres. It has refused political settlements that do not include Asad in power, and it has polarized the society through strategic acts of violence and by sowing seeds of division. The regime has also, since the early days of the uprising, sought to internationalize the crisis in order to place it within geopolitical battles that would only strengthen the regime. Staying true to the logics of an authoritarian regime, Asad could never accept the legitimate demands of the Syrian people for freedom and dignity. Thus, there is no hope for a free, unified, and independent Syria so long as his regime remains in power.
This is a revolt that was sparked by the children of Deraa and the sit-ins and demonstrations of the youth in the cities, the peasants of the rural areas, and the dispossessed and marginalized of Syria. It is they who rallied non-violently through protests and songs and chants, before the regime’s brutal crackdown. Since then, the regime has pushed for the militarization of the Syrian nonviolent movement. As a result, young men took up arms, first out of self-defense. Lately, this has resulted in attempts by some groups fighting the regime to force a climate of polarization, and negation of the Other politically, socially and culturally. These acts that are in themselves against the revolution for freedom and dignity.
Yet, the revolution for freedom and dignity remains steadfast. It is for this reason that we, the undersigned, appeal to those of you in the global civil society, not to ineffective and manipulative governments, to defend the gains of the Syrian revolutionaries, and to spread our vision: freedom from authoritarianism and support of Syrians’ revolution as an integral part of the struggles for freedom and dignity in the region and around the world.
The fight in Syria is an extension of the fight for freedom regionally and worldwide. It cannot be divorced from the struggles of the Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis, and other peoples who have revolted against oppression and authoritarianism as well as against those seeking to usurp or destroy the uprisings and divert them for their own agendas. It is connected to the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom, dignity and equality. The revolution in Syria is a fundamental part of the North African revolutions, yet, it is also an extension of the Zapatista revolt in Mexico, the landless movement in Brazil, the European and North American revolts against neoliberal exploitation, and an echo of Iranian, Russian, and Chinese movements for freedom. This is a revolution where women have also played a central role.
The Syrian revolution has confronted a world upside down, one where states that were allegedly friends of the Arabs such as Russia, China, and Iran have stood in support of the slaughter of people, while states that never supported democracy or independence, especially the US and their Gulf allies, have intervened in support of the revolutionaries. They have done so with clear cynical self interest. In fact, their intervention tried to crush and subvert the uprising, while selling illusions and deceptive lies.
Given that regional and world powers have left the Syrian people alone, we ask you to lend your support to those Syrians still fighting for justice, dignity, and freedom, and who have withstood the deafening sounds of the battle, as well as rejected the illusions sold by the enemies of freedom.
As intellectuals, academics, activists, artists, concerned citizens, and social movements we stand in solidarity with the Syrian people to emphasize the revolutionary dimension of their struggle and to prevent the geopolitical battles and proxy wars taking place in their country. We ask you to lend your support to all Syrians from all backgrounds asking for a peaceful transition of power, one where all Syrians can have a voice and decide their own fate. We also reject all attempts of any group to monopolize power, and to impose its own agenda, or to impose unitary or homogenous identities on the Syrian people. We ask you to support those people and organizations on the ground that still uphold the ideals for a free and democratic (Translation from Syria Freedom Forever)