It has been five years since the revolution began. Every year, when Independence Day comes, it forces people to rethink and reconsider the concepts of independence and freedom.
For many years, on April 17th, Syria has celebrated its proclamation of full independence, the end of the French mandate, and the evacuation of the last French soldier in 1947 [1946?]. The celebration typically included a huge military parade in Shukri al-Quwwatli Street in Damascus, sport shows, and many other activities. Independence Day was also a celebration of a freedom that Syrians spent decades fighting for in order to build a modern state in which different political parties would have equal chances and in which freedom of speech is guaranteed. The celebration embodied Syrian’s dream of a free country, a pluralistic society, and a national army.
However, a few slogans calling for freedom and written by kids on the walls of their schools infuriated the supposedly nationalist Syrian regime, and it responded with bullets, aircraft attacks, explosive barrels, chemical weapons, torture, and forced displacement.
Between Syrian independence in 1947, and the current regime, Syria has witnessed many short-lived governments and coups led by generals and heads of governments. And it has also witnessed president Shukri al-Quwwatli stepping down in order to make way for people’s dream of Arab unity.
This was the political scene in Syria, until Hafez Assad rose to power, but neither he nor his family, nor his sect or community had any history or involvement in the nationalist struggle.
Assad began as military pilot and became a minister of defense, led a coup d’état in 1970, and then became president of the Syrian Arab Republic from 1971 until the date of his death in 2000.
During his rule, Assad killed some of his closest colleagues, like Salah Jdid and Muhammad Omran, who had joined him in his coup d’état, and he exiled others, like Ibrahim Makhous. He replaced the leaders of the Alawite sect with new ones that were cultivated by his own regime. He supported businessmen and powerful families in various sects, and created an exploitative monopolistic class that gradually corrupted the whole country. He suffocated all unions and popular movements that called for freedom, or opposed the repression and the corruption of the ruling class. In other words, he turned Syria from a free and independent country working on improving its constitution, and on finding mechanisms to establish justice, to a private farm ruled by one man and his own supporters of thieves, war criminals, and thugs.
It is unfortunate to see that the country, whose people of all sects, religions, and ethnicities had one day united to get rid of a foreign occupier, turned into the private property of one person, who tortured, killed, and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people, and managed to tear its social structure apart, although it had been coherent for seven thousand years.
It is sad that the country’s principles changed from “carry your hoe and follow me”, to “gather your thugs and follow me.”
It has become clear to everybody that Assad the son presents himself to the West and to the world as a democratic president, while he is no more than a leader appointed by a group of corrupt men to fill the gap after his father’s death.
It took the fabricated Syrian parliament, which claims to represent all Syrians, only fifteen minutes to appoint him as a president, while Syrian people themselves have been struggling for five years to achieve their freedom. One million houses have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and imprisoned, and the social fabric has been torn apart. How long will this continue?
There is no doubt that we are waiting for an international decision in order to get rid of him one way or another. It is clear that his presence is still desirable for some international players. However, the real bet is on the unity of Syrian people, who are currently confused and scattered. Everythong depends on those who believe in their cause and in their great country. Those are the ones that will help Syria heal, despite all the pain.
The big challenge is for all shades of Syrians to stick together and rally behind a nationalist project. Are we able to face and overcome this challenge?