Monday, May 16, 2011

Personal Reflection on the Events in Syria

As an outsider to Syria, I have never felt it my place to encourage the protests or call for the fall of any government. Instead, I placed myself in a position that was solely against government brutality and killing. Yet it seems that there is no room for such a position. Syrian society remains deeply divided over what is happening there and this is something which is sadly becoming worse over time. I myself have been removed from Facebook by many friends and relatives who either disagree with what I have to say, or fear trouble from the security services. This is astonishing because I do not belong to, nor do I support, any of the idiotic Syrian political parties, either in government or in exile, and am very clear in my independent position. In the same way that I refuse to have somebody from the Muslim Brotherhood try insult my intelligence or co-opt me, I rejected the lies and stupidity coming to me from regime apologists.

I have been to a few of the protests that took place in front of the Syrian embassy, and  that were taking place against the brutal treatment of the civilian protestors. It is now confirmed to me that everybody at the demonstration has been filmed and identified by the Syrian security services, not that this concerns me in the slightest as a British citizen within the United Kingdom, but I could see that some people were quite visibly nervous and insisted on covering their faces. This is a tragic state of affairs and puts very large question marks over the Syrian government's claims to be only targeting 'Salafist' saboteurs or that it is open to discussion. At the protests, what I also found were pitiful opposition figures who haggled and argued with one another over who gets to speak to the press, set against thuggish pro-government protestors - one of whom verbally abused me and behaved threateningly towards me simply for standing next to some people who were having a discussion with pro-government protestors.

The pro-camp was clearly a minority here, but they were vociferous in their criticism and menacing against anybody who was not with them. I was also distraught to see one so-called Iraqi journalist in the "anti" camp go on a diatribe against Iran and Hezbullah, and praising the work Hariri did for Lebanon. I told him exactly what I thought about Hariri but there was no use getting into the debate with the fool. Another doddering old man I had seen previously give an interview on the Mustakillah channel was also there, and he was very keen to get seen on television.

On another point, the pro-Syrian camp were already heavily assisting the Bahraini protests taking place across the square where we were. This was where I was verbally abused by a pro-government thug who tried to push me away. The crowd were visibly uncomfortable with people from the protest camp joining them, and one man came and asked a friend of mine why we were supporting them. I picked up a distinctly sectarian atmosphere and we were not made to feel very welcome. We quickly left, but the episode left me with much to think about.

In conclusion, things are going to get extremely nasty for many people, especially those who have burnt their bridges or are only away from Syria on a temporary basis. The regime and its apologists no longer pretend to be open to dialogue and discussion. They simply cut away anybody who disagrees. When it comes to an opposition then those who feel that what is happening in Syria is intolerable find this opposition movement to be severely lacking in every manner. Not only that, but there is a very real danger that opportunists can take advantage of what is happening and redirect the whole thing politically.

This is not over by any stretch, and whilst the regime remains firmly in control, it is apparent to me each day that the barrier of fear has been broken. It is simply impossible that things will ever return to the iron-fisted rule of the eighties. Instead normal people who are not benefitting from the regime are saying what is on their mind and loudly condemning the stupidity of the state security services. The state television propaganda is idiotic and panicked, doing far more harm than good to the government. Everybody is being forced to decide between one side or another, there is no ground for discussion, no rational debate, no intelligence. Only a vicious propaganda war and bullets, plenty and plenty of bullets. I feel sad for this beautiful country.

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