Chronicle of the Syrian Uprising

Posted on April 11, 2012 in GlobeScope

By Vishakh Unnikrishnan:

What was established as a French mandate after the First World War, the modern Syria got its independence on April 1946 and established itself as a parliamentary republic. After more than 60 years of independence, the country is still unstable because of a large number of military coup attempts to de-establish the central government, which led the government to declare an emergency from 1963 to 2011, which suspended most constitutional provisions to citizens. The system of government is regarded as non-democratic.

The Syrian protest began on 26 January 2011, which included public demonstrations and nationwide uprising to demand the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad and to overthrow  his government and end the almost five decade  Ba’ath Party rule. The Syrian uprising was at first modest, and took a while to gain momentum. The uprising started when a man self-immolated himself at the capital city of Al-Hasakah which caused nationwide unrest.

There have been a lot of propositions behind the cause of the present protests. Although wide-spread unemployment and poverty is regarded as the main cause, ethnic tension is also regarded as one of the main criteria. The Alawi ethnic group has openly declared that they fear the democratization of Syria, due to the past discrimination they had to face by the Sunni sect, which constitutes about 75% of Syria. Economically Syria today faces five major issues which include unemployment, drought, monopolies, declining oil revenues, and major income inequality. Most Business practices are connected to the regime of Al-Assad, and as such small business practices have to struggle to maintain profits. Till almost the end of March of 2011, the protests had decreased its momentum until newspapers and journals across the world supported the protestors and encouraged them to continue their pressure against the government.

The protests again gained momentum during the month of April, when almost 10,000 people flooded the streets in all the major cities. The government had to resort to concessions to cope with the pressure, and declared the end of the emergency in Syria, released almost 200 political prisoners and abolished the Supreme State Security Court. These concessions were proved surreptitious, when just days after the declaration of the end of the emergency Assad sent tanks into restive cities and demanded the security forces to open fire on demonstrators. The protests although did not decrease in momentum. Thousands of soldiers defected and began launching attacks against the government, bringing the country to what the United Nations in December called the verge of civil war.

While most western governments including the United States have condemned Assad’s response to the opposition declaring it as overly heavy-handed and violent, the United States is also worried that terrorist groups have involved themselves with parts of the opposition as they try to take advantage of the unrest. China and Russia have overtly supported they Syrian government against international sanctions, Russia declaring the presence of terrorists within the ranks of the opposition. The Arab League, The European league and the secretary general of the United Nations condemned the violence and the Syrian government’s response to the protests, and many expressed support for the protesters’ right to exercise free speech. Assad, under all kinds of international pressure has decided to accept and implement Kofi Annan’s six-point peace plan which lays out a framework for a cease-fire that does not involve the president leaving power. This has been the first glimmer of hope for the opposition as the political uprising deepens itself within Syria. With the hope that President Bashar Al-Assad would soon step down, and democratic elections to take place soon, it will be very interesting to know where the uprising would take Syria, and whether it would be lucky enough to gain the result they hope for.