British-Syrian journalist Salwa Amor says that the Stop the War movement has lost the respect of Syrians by not supporting their revolution.
Since the revolution in Syria began two and half years ago and was greeted by an oppressive regime with unprecedented force, the world seems to have been silent about the ongoing crimes that have occurred. Besides a few discussions here and there on news networks, it appears to those inside Syria that the world does not care about what is taking place in their land and whether or not their government is committing crimes against humanity.
Prior to the threat of war on Iraq Arabs felt that the West (the people not their governments) finally were beginning to understand their struggle against oppression, occupation and dictatorship. The one million march that took place on the streets of London was a landmark for the people in Iraq and the whole of the Arab world, it was the first time they were able to see a visual solidarity towards their ongoing struggles.
Fast forward to 2011 and a 26 year old man who worked as a street vendor in Tunisia set himself along with the whole of the Arab region on fire in what was to become the Arab Spring. Egypt followed suit and the anti-war movement cheered on as they witnessed yet another Arab country overthrow their tyrant dictator.
Inspired by Bouazizi, that same January a man in Syria also lit himself up, hoping that the flames that burned his body would inspire his fellow citizens to rise up against their dictator. That man’s name was Hasan Ali Akleh. His story is not as well known, in fact it has barely been documented. Perhaps because the country that he came from is not newsworthy, but it was the match that lit the hearts of at least some Syrians, as protests slowly began to gather pace in Al Raqa that same month, though they received little to no media attention.
As protests began to gather pace in March leading to large gatherings, Assad proudly proclaimed that he was the victim of an imperialist western Israeli backed conspiracy and that he would fight on come what may. And fight on he did, but unlike Tunisia or Egypt’s leaders, Assad brought out the big guns, mainly made in Russia and supplied to him free of charge. Syrians injured in hospitals would tell you about the TNT bombs that would literally put hundreds of holes in the victims’ bodies and leave them begging for the mercy of death.
Yet the anti war movement and the left watched in silence as the killing rampage continued for two and a half years fearful that the West would use this for their own interests and invade yet another country in the name of freedom. From a political stand point they were right – the West will only “spread democracy and freedom” where its interests are strong. From a human perspective, however, the left got this one very wrong.
As people of conscience those who stand for peace and justice movements have a greater responsibility towards those under oppression, and I fear that the left and anti-war movement has fallen in the eyes of Syrians everywhere. And when I say Syrians, I am not referring to the 7% Alawites who have been brainwashed into loyalty towards Assad, for there are a few of them who have joined the anti-war protests calling for “no intervention in Syria.” They have a right to their say as much as anyone, but they do not (as many in the left have suggested) represent the majority of Syrians.
Had the left stood by ordinary Syrians throughout and declared their support for their revolution as they did with Tunisia and Egypt it would not feel like a slap in the face of the revolution when today they stand outside parliament demanding no intervention in Syria. It’s not enough at this late stage in the game to simply call for no intervention. There must be support for the revolutionaries who risked their lives for 30 months to demand freedom.
If socialist and left-wingers don’t support those who are oppressed and crying out for freedom then something is very wrong. The movement has the right to ask their government not to intervene in wars abroad but at the very least they should hold placards that tell Syrians who have lost their homes, families and dignity that “we the people of Britain are with you.” Holding placards that say “No intervention and hands off Syria” appears to Syrians that you are on Russia’s side and Russia is and has been intervening since the beginning (with its war vessels in Tartous since the 5th month of the revolt and most of the weapons that have killed Syrians were a gift to Assad from Putin).
If the movements’ stance is “no intervention” then it must include Russia and Iran otherwise it really is one-sided. Perhaps the left is lenient towards Russia’s crimes because they are not committed in the name of Western imperialism, or perhaps Russia and even Assad’s socialist backgrounds and links to Marxism and Communism have blinded the left from seeing their faults.
Somehow those who are against Western imperialism have become blind in one eye, they see clearly the crimes of the West but the sight in their other eye is blocked by a belief or a hope that the world would be a better place if only capitalism was removed along with its imperialistic ideals.
Unfortunately, history teaches us that evil exists in many forms and shapes, that it is not defined by colour, religion or race but resides in everyone who is alive, as does altruism and goodness. The West cannot take the blame for Syria, not because it is not worthy of blame for much of the upheaval in the Middle East but because there are other evils in the world.
It is truly disheartening to see a movement that was built to support the oppressed so unsupportive of Syria’s revolution. It’s as though they have completely overlooked the revolt. Almost like it never happened, or that the whole crisis can be described as a Western imperialist conspiracy.
Were Syrians not oppressed and demeaned for 40 years? Was the secret police in Syria not responsible for placing intolerable fear in the hearts of the young and old alike or the cause of thousands of deaths under torture? To reduce the Syrian revolution to a Western imperialistic plot is implying that all evil in the world stems from the West. Assad was not from the West, his secret police who tortured children till they died were Syrian, born and raised in Syria, far from the watchful eye of the West.
This Saturday Stop the War will hold another protest against Western intervention. How can one argue with their logic, the West does impose its ideals on the whole world. Yet, the upcoming protest and its slogans embody an essence of white supremacy mentality; imposing their beliefs and demands on the Syrian people’s revolution. No intervention, Hands off Syria are not slogans that came from Syria, far from it, therefore one must assume that they are slogans that are being imposed on the Syrian people.
Because if one cared to read and translate just some of the placards that those in the besieged towns inside Syria proudly hold up to the glare of the world’s media they would quickly discover that the most famous and widespread of all is S.O.S! Syrians are begging for help, they cannot take the bombing, the starvation, the lack of water and spread of disease, the bodies under the rubble or the children who are buried alive in them. So who are the left in Britain to declare Hands off Syria when Syrians are calling out for help?
Stop the War is a grass-roots organisation whose work is invaluable in Britain and abroad and the Syrian revolution is no different, it is a people’s struggle that the left has pushed under the carpet for fear of Western imperialism. The irony is that the Syrians are fighting for the same thing that the Stop the War and the left are fighting for, yet the tragedy is that the left will not put its paranoia of the West on hold for long enough to hear the cries coming out of the rubble from their revolutionary Syrian counterparts.