Robin Yassin-Kassab

Archive for February 2023

‘It can’t get any worse.’ And then the earthquake…

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(A lightly edited version of this piece was published by Dawn Mena. At the bottom of this page there is information on who to donate to.)

Syrians wanted to be known for their contributions to civilization, as they were in ancient times. Syria is part of the Fertile Crescent where agriculture began, where the first cities were built, where the first states developed. The first alphabet (Ugaritic) was thought up in Syria. The country produced Roman emperors and, under the Umayyad dynasty, became the first centre of a new ‘Islamic world’. When Syrians achieved independence in the mid 20th Century, they hoped their modern accomplishments would echo the old. As a diverse, cultured, hardworking people who valued education, and who tended to excel in business when abroad, they had good reason to hope this would be the case.

But like so many post-colonial states lacking strong institutions, modern Syria soon fell into a cycle of military coup and counter-coup, ending with the Baathist dictatorship which has tortured and plundered the country and its people since 1963 – and under the Assad family since 1970. In 2011 Syrians rose in revolution against the Assad regime, and would have liked then to be recognized for their revolution’s successes. For years they resisted the most extreme oppression, and even under the bombs managed to build hundreds of democratic local councils. They also managed to avoid falling into sectarian civil war, despite the provocations. Sunni and Alawi villages didn’t attack each other. The sectarian massacres had to be organized from on high, first by the regime, then by ISIS, the regime’s dark protégé.

But the Assad regime was rescued by Russian and Iranian imperialists, and by the West’s appeasement of these imperialists. The democratic Syrian Revolution was defeated by force of arms. Worse, it was ‘orphaned’, to use Ziad Majed’s term. Beyond Syria it was ignored or misrepresented, particularly in the West, by the Kremlin’s leftist and rightist useful idiots and a wider public prepared to believe the worst of a mainly Arab and mainly Muslim people.

So now Syrians have become known internationally not for their history, nor their modern success, but for the extremity of their suffering. Their pains under dictatorship were bad enough, culminating in the 1982 Hama massacre when at least 20,000 were murdered, but multiplied after 2011 when the full force of local, regional and international counter-revolution was deployed against them.

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Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

February 7, 2023 at 8:40 pm

Posted in Syria