Human and civil rights need to be restored in Syria. To accomplish this, Bashar Al-Assad and his regime need to go. The regime’s replacements must be dignified, honest, just, and completely in contrast to the “leaders” Syria has seen in decades past. The destruction needs to end, and in its wake shall be a new era of Syrian history, a new body of Syrian pride that refuses to mirror any element of previous oppressive rules.
This much is clear. The sane and the rational agree on this end. But so many questions remain. What about the means? How do we get there? Is U.S intervention — historically problematic and guided by self-interest — the ultimate solution? Will Israeli air strikes on Syrian territory — an affront to Syria’s national autonomy regardless of what the targets may be — bring the end to within our reach? Should we just wait it out — death tolls climbing and all — and pray the opposition continues its slow but certain advance against regime strongholds?
And how about when we cover it, do we keep calling it a revolution or do we call it a civil war? Can it be both? At this point in time, considering the number of fallen civilians, of new refugees, of destroyed relics, is it both?
What about the crimes? The crimes. The ones Syrians wake up to on a daily basis. Do we neglect them if they were committed by the rebels for the sake of carrying forward the opposition’s momentum? Do we excuse them as a consequence of war? Do we compare them to the crimes committed by the regime and then move on? Or do we emphasize these documented instances of human rights abuses to hold the new leaders to a higher standard, one that the Assad regime cared nothing about?
These are a fraction of the questions many people ask themselves every day, myself in particular. We know what we want to see — a free Syria, of course — but we do not know how to get there. So we must willingly defer to the judgment of the Syrians we stand with, for this is an example of solidarity. To shift the power dynamic in favor of the victims in order to pull the plug on the oppressive Assad regime, we must play a supporting role. We must take direction from those directly involved.
Once again, this much is clear. But we are still left with unanswered questions, and so to fill the void, we develop theories and present hypotheticals. This is expected, and it is also expected that they range from the most informed to the least informed. Yet, another question is raised: Why are these the cause of so much division?
The situation in Syria is an especially interesting case because of how it has manifested here in the U.S., specifically but not exclusively in Chicago. I have yet to meet a regime loyalist or even a regime apologist. Maybe I am not looking well enough, or maybe the regime’s crimes make Assad entirely indefensible. Yes, the latter, I hope. But the rift is there, it is clear, and it grows wider. It has become a common thing to point at someone who believes in the same outcome — a restoration of rights, an end to the regime — and to characterize him or her as an Assad apologist. In many instances, the “with us or against us” paradigm has been taken to such a discouragingly awful degree that even those “with us” are alleged to really not be with us.
There is so much tension that it is tearing the fabric of our community apart. Solidarity has become politicized and rude. Non-Syrians are condescendingly told they don’t have the right to an opinion on Syria. Syrians are condescendingly told they shouldn’t have the right to an opinion on Syria if they keep adding to this mess. Everyone is a philosopher and expert political pundit on Syria and everyone is not. Some groups refuse to endorse certain rallies and campaigns. Others refuse to advertise their rallies and campaigns to select groups. It is intimidating to even approach the issue. Suspicion is rampant. People are afraid of being labeled or mischaracterized or misunderstood. There is little patience. It is understandable under such awful circumstances. But this is not solidarity and it is certainly not unity.
So much has already been lost in Syria. What can we do to keep even more from being lost?