Propaganda by The Syrian Regime

“Eid passes .. and with it passes the democracy of a bloody spring.”

This is how Gheda’ Mardini began her Eid op-ed in the pro-Assad Tishreen newspaper. The delusion that characterizes Mardini’s op-ed is not surprising, nor is it accidental. It is reflective of the sentiments that the regime is trying to forcefully impose upon its denizens, and it is part of a failed strategy to embellish efforts to fight what they call “neo-Islamists.” It is not entirely clear whether Mardini actually believes in the opinion that she has presented in her op-ed. However, regardless of whether these are indeed Mardini’s thoughts or not, it is clear that the regime wants Syrians to believe that what she is saying is true.

The regime wants Syrians to believe that it is righteous. Since the very beginning of the revolution, Assad’s rhetoric has been that of defiance. From his perspective, he is the legitimate ruler of the Syrian republic. He has the support of the majority of the population, and those who seek to unseat him from his position are nothing more than Islamist extremists funded by Qatar and Saudi Arabia; the same “extremists” that his father Hafiz Assad and uncle Rifa’at Assad massacred in Hama in 1982.

However, the birth of the revolution did not come from Hama, nor was it supported by any Islamists. In fact, the leading anti-Assad Islamist activist and Salafi preacher Adnan Al-Aroor, was known for his adamant opposition to any effort to change the Syrian regime. From his perspective, which was shared by thousands of his followers, this effort is against his version of Islamic Sharia. Regardless of whether the ruler is evil or just, the fact remains that he is the ruler and he should be obeyed. Efforts should be made to give him wise advice and to try to change his ways internally. Protesting against him publically in the streets and neighborhoods of Dera’a and Hama was something should be rejected.

Surely the opinion of one Salafi preacher does not reflect the sentiments of all Islamists. However, it is a good indication that the general direction of the Islamist movement was accepting the status quo and attempting change from within the system through what they call el-maw’etha el-hasana (the good advice).

The reality is that the beginning of the revolution was characterized by peacefulness and calls for reform. Protesters chanted slogans like Silmeyye Silmeyye (peaceful peaceful), and they were not interested in removing Assad. Despite the fact that the Assad regime had over four decades to implement reforms and enhance the livelihood of Syrians, Syrian activists were still willing to give the regime another chance to implement reforms.

The direct response of the Assad regime was brutal and violent suppression of dissenters. Instead of listening to the demands of the protesters, demonstrating political flexibility and implementing economic, social and democratic reforms, he began to arrest, torture and kill protesters. What began as the rose revolution, marked with peaceful and unarmed demonstrations, quickly transformed into a bloody rebellion that was exploited by people seeking personal political interests.

The anti-Islamist rhetoric continues till today. Assad maintains that there is not a good alternative to his rule. And he might be right. The current opposition is fractured and infighting is seeping into its ranks. The Salafi jihadist ideology is becoming more acceptable and the only viable way of fighting Assad’s brutal forces. Young men and women, jobless and disenfranchised, are easily affected by the Salafi rhetoric. And this is not surprising. What the Western media refer to as the moderate opposition is in complete isolation in Turkey, squabbling over secondary issues like salaries and political positions, and seem completely disinterested in the general population that they claim to represent. There barely are any operations to improve the livelihood of Syrians who have lost their houses and lands, and most of their conversations are directed to Western leaders in London, Paris and Washington.

“Syria .. the land of glory and perseverance, has stood and continues to stand, with its strength and pride, against the winds of the fiercest cosmic and global challenges that aim to shake its stability and security.”

The immaculate use of Arabic linguistic tools to diffuse emotions into the Syrian psyche must be understood within the context of the media propaganda that surrounds the Syrian uprising. Regardless of whether the regime is right in the way it is handling the uprising or not, from its perspective, there are global forces that are actively planning to destabilize the only nation that continues to harbour and assist resistance forces. Its adamant refusal to open up to Europe, the United States and other countries is seen a point of strength that must be eliminated at any cost. Anybody who participates in any effort to remove the current regime is viewed as a supporter of the imperialist forces of the West.

This means that when the current leader of the Free Syria Army, Salim Idris, agrees to meet with Republican Senator John McCain and other politicians in Washingtons, then he is actively scheming and conspiring against the Syrian nation as a whole. Regardless of whether Idris’s strategy is sound or not, the fact remains that all the regime is interested in is how to use this information to cause further damage to an already divided opposition.

The op-ed goes on to carve out claims that the regime is at the forefront of fighting global terrorism. From the author’s perspective, slogans that call for human rights and democracy are merely pretexts for a foreign invasion. The aim is to colonize the land and empty it from its Arab nationalistic spirit. She, however, deliberately omits that fact that the regime is actively targeting Syrian civilians with state-of-the-art weaponry imported from Russia and Iran, rendering cities like Aleppo and Homs unlivable ghost towns befitting of a Zombie movie. What type of terrorism is the regime fighting? Is she referring to the Salafi violence that is slowly seeping into the fabric of the Syrian society, or is she talking about the tens of thousands of Syrians citizens who were on the other end of Scud missiles fired by the the Syrian military forces?

Mardini finishes her op-ed with a hint of unrealistic optimism: “the people of Syria, its army and its people are the one who will create the new calendar of Syria’s modern history. The future is coming with victory.” Again the delusion is astounding. After two years of destruction and civil infighting, the Syrian regime has caused damage and carnage that the requires immense stability to fix, and billions of dollars to finance. Most of Syrian cities are unlivable and the number of refugees is estimated to reach 3 million by the end of year. Assad no longer has an exit strategy, Russian faith in the viability of the regime is gradually diminishing, the Iran’s leaders are slowly reassessing their level of involvement in Syria. The “moderate” opposition has made an astoundingly large number of mistakes and their handling of the situation is beyond dismal.

Undeniably, the people of Syria will face unprecedented turmoil that will take at least two decades to undo. However, on a more optimistic note, Mardini is correct in one regard: “the people of Syria will never kneel, for they are the the symbol of legendary steadfastness, and the confrontation continues.”


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