There are Syrians who support the rebels, there are Syrians who support the regime, and there are Syrians who support neither. They all do so for a complex set of reasons, each tailored to the individual based on many factors such as social class, economic status, education, religion, etc. To blindly follow the dominant political affiliation of a nation under the false presumption of supporting “the whole nation,” is not only ignorantly unsupportive but conveniently selecting just a segment of the people. To truly support a suffering nation, one must separate themself completely from political affiliation. This exercise of supporting the political affiliation of a group, does not support the people, but a fragment of powerful leaders.
The masses can make erroneous political choices. They can be fooled and misguided by powerful demagogues. When a political leader seeks support and power by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than using rational argument, a flawed narrative arises and becomes strongly enforced. The people will start to pick and choose what suits them best and not the collective society. This happens in every country, in every conflict. As a conflict worsens and leaves behind corpses, widows, orphans, and destruction; fear and anger are masked by ignorance, hate, and violence. For decades Syria remained a secular country with Muslims, Christians, Sunni, Alawite, and Shia living a peaceful life. Today the Wahhabi-Takfiri dogma has infiltrated a society that never aligned itself to sectarian creeds.
All sides in a conflict commit atrocities and crimes and point fingers at everyone but themselves. As outsiders, we often align ourselves to what emotionally invigorates us and breaks us at the same time. Because we truly care about the innocent collective whole, we can easily be deceived by emotional propaganda. It is not to say that videos and pictures are not an accurate representation of the destruction or suffering, however, people following the war will not make a rational analysis and thus follow whatever is emotionally moving. The Syrian war has been reported by many different activists using heartbreaking videos and twitter statuses. The opposition is notoriously known for its use of the propaganda technique Emotional Appeal to invoke strong reactions in the viewers and readers. This creates an unfortunate case where the opposition loses a lot of credibility from those who are seeking to truly understand the conflict. Supporters of the regime then use these same exact videos to expose those fabrications. When the regime took over Aleppo, twitter users exploded in photos of destruction and death, many of these photos actuality of victims from different conflicts.
Acknowledgement and awareness to the atrocities committed by one side does not automatically align you with the other side. Criticism or even suggestions should be exercised freely without fear of intimidation. The ever most effective and universal intimidation exercised by the US-Gulf alliance against those who speak out against the brutality of the different rebels from the opposition has falsely accused many people of being pro-Assad.
Notable journalists such as Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley have challenged the dominant narrative and are vocal against the opposition, particularly extremist rebels. Bartlett and Beeley have traveled to Syria and conducted several interviews of different civilians, unlike Bilal Abdul Kareem whose favorite interview subjects are terrorist rebels. Bartlett and Beeley are viciously attacked over social media with vulgar terms and threats for being pro Assad. The fact is, these notable journalists are not pro-Assad and never claimed to be. They find it just as important to expose the atrocities committed by the rebels. Victims of the rebels deserve as much recognition as the victims of the regime. Patrick Cockburn, of the British The Independent, is another Western journalist who continues to challenge the dominant narrative. He is routinely attacked by the “supporters of the Syrian revolution” as an apologist of the Assad regime.
Tulsi Gabbard, U.S politician and representative of Hawaii congressional district, gained popularity for being vocal against regime change in Syria. She has spoken against U.S involvement in Syria and its funding of rebels. Gabbard described U.S involvement in the Syrian Civil War as “counterproductive regime-change war” and it’s causing people to flee the country. US-based Syrian Christian churches have always continued to speak out against the dominant Syrian narrative and call out against the crimes committed by the rebels. Such groups have sided with the regime and do so rightfully. Under Assad, Christians were not threatened with genocide and beheadings for their faith. In fact, they enjoyed freedom practiced their faith with no fear in a Muslim majority country. Regrettably, these Churches were chastised and faced ridicule, shouts, and obscenities by “experts” of Syria in D.C. There are many other journalists and organizations that bear the rage of the opposition for their stance against the revolution and opposition. Their voices are dismissed and not tolerated because they challenge what the international community is so comfortable with, which is the dominant and only accepted narrative.
No matter where the Syrian people or a portion of the nation stands, the fact that civilians on both sides of the conflict fall victims to the war. All sides of the armed conflict, from the Syrian regime to the rebels including their sponsors and supporters, have committed war crimes. That is an undeniable fact. In addition, there is no reliable data about the killing and destruction due to those who cunningly manipulate media organizations and the narrative spewed by activists. Despite the lack of credible analysis of war crimes especially of one faction of the conflict, there is still evidence of horrible crimes committed by the regime and the rebels.
The loudest voices simulating concern for the Syrian people are individuals, organizations, and regimes that have never been known for their concern for the Syrian people or for the lives of Arabs generally. The Gulf countries are the prime example. Jihad calls and fatwas poured left and right motivating the young and ill-informed to fight for the ultimate war for Islam in Syria. The catastrophic involvement of the neighboring Arab countries and the international Muslim community in Syria has caused more damage to Syria and its people. Again, this is not hiding the crimes of Assad but in fact shedding more light to how foreign fighters and governments embedded themselves into a revolution and transformed it into a sectarian battleground. The majority “rebel fighters” are foreign nationals coming from Chechnya and North Caucasus region, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, Tunisia, Libya, China, Bosnia, and the West. While the regime and Russia continue its aerial bombing campaigns, the rebels also continue to behead, enforce strict Wahhabi laws and lifestyle, block besieged cities from access to medical care and food, and cry for genocide against minorities. Atrocities committed by the regime should not overshadow the crimes committed by the Syrian rebels. To state that the regime has caused more destruction and death licenses the Syrian rebels to commit more war crimes. The regime is even labeled as responsible and the cause of over 400,000 deaths in Syria. Such statistics do not even mention whether that number includes victims of the rebels or if they are even counted.
Then there are those who are genuinely interested in the welfare of the entire Syrian population, however, neither the Syrian regime nor its enemies among the rebels care much. One side will maintain its position of power at any cost and the other side will continue to fight for power at any cost. The Western-Gulf alliance is hardly ever interested in the plight of the poor in their own countries, let alone abroad. The Western-Gulf and Israel, as well as Russian involvement in Syria is not for the Syrians, but rather their specific political interest. The U.S wants to maintain its supreme global power across the world and especially in the oil rich Middle East. The Gulf wants to maintain a Sunni dominant power and curve the rising influence of Iran in the Middle East. Israel wants to secure the Golan Heights and bring down a neighbor who is vocally anti-Israeli and an Iranian close ally. Lastly, Russia wants to secure its interest in the regime and region to counterbalance American influence.
As we stand back and read about Syria we must strive to remain neutral and attempt to educate ourselves about the country before the conflict started. A conflict does not define a nation. Syria has not always been destructive and poverty-stricken. It championed women’s rights and education, provided safety to several foreign refugees, was highly educated and remained a striving country for decades. There did exist cracks of misfortunate and societal problems, some that plague many other societies. Helping a suffering people can be done in different ways, but championing their political affiliation should not be one of them.
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