Friday, October 05, 2012

A Letter to the Closet Shabiha (Assad Supporters)

For the past few months I've been puzzling over a unique phenomenon, what I call the closet Shabiha (a term for the para-military or criminal gangs which support Assad). On Twitter or Facebook, I am linked to strange people who are the first to gravitate around journalists and people of interest regarding the Syrian crisis, and whom, through observing their activity, I've noticed share and tweet articles in a very selective and unique way. They hide under the banner of impartiality, but their most scathing criticisms are never towards the regime. They are silent when there is a regime massacre or atrocity, or they refer to it as if an act of God to be patient with. Never do they follow the chain of causality to its ultimate conclusion. The exception, of course, is when it leads to somebody other than the regime.

Yet, in spite of all this and when challenged, they will, as a last resort, attempt that greatest of self-absolutions by declaring that they are against the regime. I found that discussing Syria with them was always like pinning jelly to a wall, and perhaps out of sheer frustration, I wrote this letter to a closet Shabih in my mind. It's not directed against any one individual, and if you are a friend of mine who thinks this is addressed to you, rest assured that it is not, but perhaps it would do you good to ponder over its contents.

I thought I would use closet Shabih to denote somebody whose actions belie their words with regards to Assad and his regime. Here is what I have to say to them:

Dear Friend,

I think it best to put in words the concerns and worries that have nagged me over the past eighteen months. In putting thoughts on paper, I find that it helps me articulate better what it is I'm trying to say. Who knows? Perhaps whilst writing this letter some obstacle in my subconscious might be removed, and I'll be able to get to the bottom of what has been puzzling me for the past eighteen months.

If you haven't guessed already, the object of my bewilderment is you. As you know by now, because you're my friend, I wear my heart on my sleeve and what I think I usually say. My position on things is always quite clear, and even two years ago, when it was so frightening to take a position on the events that have overtaken us all, I put my own worries and fear aside to say something against what I perceived to be an injustice. I didn't deal with the injustice as some obscure and isolated subject, but as something which has a cause and which will, in turn, effect its own change.

I did not see the same thing from yourself throughout the past two years. We all had a fear barrier to overcome when it came to this regime, and we all took positions. Some people we both know are no longer friends to one or either of us. Those who took a position with the regime did so for their own reasons, and those who took a position with the revolution, they did so for their own reasons too. My position was always clear, I was against the killing, and as it was the regime doing so, then I automatically became opposed to the regime.

The source of my puzzlement is that your position is not clear. These are modern times, so I can see your Facebook comments and Tweets. I see the things you "Like", and the shares you "Share" or re-tweet. You don't ever openly condemn the regime, nor do you demand that the dictator steps down. When somebody tells you that the regime has killed such and such a person, you nod sympathetically and then tell them that "both sides" are doing horrible things, and that only dialogue can resolve this. You were silent when the Houla and Bayada massacres took place, but not one article that is critical of the oppositions slips your Likes and Re-Tweets. If somebody tells you about a massacre perpetrated by the regime, you nod your head despairingly and speak of it like an act of God that is to be borne patiently as if it is something that will pass. 

The loudest I hear your voice is when you want to criticize the outside interference in the country. It's only then that you condemn and get angry; that you feel passionate and patriotic. At best you tut-tut people who call for foreign military intervention, arguing that even more Syrian lives will sadly be lost. Yet you seem to take an almost perverse delight in sharing whatever doomsday scenario is predicted for the country if it doesn't involve the regime staying in power. It is almost as if, my friend, that the only position you will take regarding events in Syria is one of no position and the only politics you will countenance, without the regime staying in power, is the politics of despair.

I feel that I can't talk to you about this, because our discussions go in circles. I won't bring out a specific list of grievances because I'm not that kind of person. What I do want is to get past that infuriating persona you wear. I want to get past that emotionless intellect which invokes hollow responses each time somebody criticizes the regime in front of you, or which sulks in silence when faced with irrefutable arguments. I want to know what you really think, to speak to the real you. Stop hiding behind somebody else's answers, and stop pretending like you don't know what I'm talking about. Are you still frightened? We're all frightened. Do you support the regime because you benefit from it? Fine, say so. Don't insult my intelligence for goodness' sake. All I ask for is intellectual honesty.



AEB said...

Reminds me of all my friends on pro-Palestinian groups with whom I've gotten into countless fights about this. I may not be Syrian but I think it's the responsibility of every Arab, or purported friend of Arabs, to remain consistent about condemning injustice and criminality.

IK said...

Wow. This is exactly how I feel around certain Syrian friends ans well as others who hide behind the facade of answers of their political/religious leaders feed them. And because there is no distinction between the two roles, I cannot speak my truth without insulting their religious beliefs. And therefore the "discussion" goes no. where.