By Pradyut Hande:
As Egypt attempts to recover from the scars of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s draconian thirty year old regime, coming to grips with the steep parabola of emotions they have experienced over the past twenty days; the “ripple ramifications” of its uprising are being felt far and wide across the Arab world. The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings have become a source of inspiration… a beacon of hope for the millions who continue to languish in the throes of oppressive regimes; their voices of discontent muffled out with surgical precision.
However, barely a few days after the dramatic events that transpired in Egypt; protests have broken out in pockets of Algeria and Yemen. The mood of the people is evident to one and all; their pulse throbs with the hope for liberation… for a better and brighter future. In this article, I have turned my attention to the Syrian Arab Republic, the mood of its denizens and the attitude of the prevalent reprehensible regime; particularly in the light of the events in Tunisia and Egypt.
Syria — A Glorious History… A Not-so-Glorious Recent Past:
The Syrian Arab Republic is located in West Asia and counts the vital states of Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and Iraq as its neighbors. Boasting of a rich socio-cultural heritage, its capital Damascus is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Modern day Syria attained independence in the April of 1946. The tortuous path towards achieving socio-economic and political reconstruction as a parliamentary republic in the years following its Independence was fraught with numerous developmental impediments and power struggles involving the military between the periods of 1949-70.
The continual periods of political instability has ensured that the state has remained under Emergency Law since 1962. Ergo, reaffirming the credentials of its government as a non-democratic autocracy. Yes, the government has anesthetized the population with the veneer of democracy and false promises; but for the large part Syria has remained under a totalitarian regime. The state has been governed by the highly influential Baath Party since 1963. Its current President Bashar Assad is the son of former President Hafez Assad who served whopping thirty year tenure until his death in 2000. President Bashar Assad has remained in power for over ten years now and during his tenure has reaffirmed and strengthened the Baathist regime; proving to be a suave, wily leader (read autocrat) proficient in the machinations involved in propelling an authoritarian establishment.
Syria — The Present Day:
The Syrian Arab Republic is a vital cog in the “Arab wheel” and is of paramount significance to its stability in the long run. The recent spate of events in Tunisia and Egypt and the prevalent conditions — poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, poor standards of living, burgeoning population, sectarian unrest, suspended constitutional rights and subjection to continual governmental oppression — make Syria “ripe for revolt”. However, President Assad has realized that his nation is not immune to the “ripple ramifications” and hence, is pulling out all the stops to ensure that Syria does not transform into another Egypt; once again underlining his credentials as a no-nonsense, calibrating leader.
The Syrian state’s secret police, the mukhabarat, are vigilance personified and have stepped up their redoubtable efforts to prevent even the smallest of public gatherings like those in Egypt; snuffing out a potential bugbear from snowballing into something major. They have continued to act with alacrity and arrest and imprison protestors of any sort with impunity. “Human Rights” is a term that does not exist in their lexicon and has been conveniently ignored for subjugation. President Assad has also struck an ace by striking up partnerships with some of the key leaders of the minority Shia and Alawite sects. Syria’s population is primarily dominated by Sunni Muslims. By taking key leaders of the minority sects and communities into confidence and by skillfully lining their wallets with the “fruits of economic liberalization” in exchange for loyalty; President Assad has done himself no harm. There do not appear to be any internecine cracks or malignant elements taking root, threatening his reign in the near future.
President Assad has also excelled at planting the inculpated seeds of continual suspicion and unrest in the various existing sects in Syria; courtesy an efficient state propaganda disseminating machine. Consequently, these sects remain at constant loggerheads, their efforts aimed at attenuating and undermining each other instead of collectively collating against the Baathist regime. Any attempt at forming an opposition faction of any note is clamped down upon with fearful repercussions. For instance, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood that once enjoyed a semblance of support is a banned organization; clinically decapitated by an omni-vigilant government. Syria’s jails house many a political dissident imprisoned without trial… their only crime — summoning up the courage to raise his voice against a brutally oppressive establishment.
Unfortunately, Syria today; force-fed on the comestible of skewed Baathist propaganda and enmeshed in omnipresent fear of a repressive government has been depoliticized… step by excruciating step. The voices of dissidence barely make a whisper; whimpering in the knowledge of the consequences of their purportedly “subversive” actions. Moreover, by adopting an aggressive stance against the West, President Assad has succeeded in guarding himself against insinuations of him being a factotum of the West.
However, with the passage of time, public discontent is likely to escalate and it is in the best interests of the Assad government (read Regime) to realize the harsh reality and ascertain for themselves what requires to be done to assuage its people. A phased transition to a more open and liberal economy would be a long overdue step in the right direction. It is high time that the people’s needs, wants and aspirations are give credence by a generally recalcitrant government. However, only time will tell which way Syria’s pendulum will swing.