The Syrians must take charge or lose their revolution

The Syrians must take charge or lose their revolution
6 min read
08 Jul, 2016
Comment: To achieve solutions that serve Syria's interests alone, its people and opposition must stop waiting for outside powers, friendly or otherwise, to do it for them, argues Burhan Ghalioun.
Victory against all odds [TNA]

The Syrian people are living today in a state of all-consuming frustration. 

Having overcome their fears, they had, over recent years, experienced the ecstasy of revolution, and the hope of liberating themselves from a brutal inhumane regime.

But today, they feel that any possibility of salvation is gone. The goals and wagers for which they made sacrifices are at risk of being lost, amid increasing danger to their country and plans to partition and fracture its ailing shell.

This frustration is reflected in their attitudes towards friends and allies who are increasingly criticised and questioned over what they have offered or can offer.

But it is also being translated into growing attacks on all factions of the Syrian opposition and rebels, almost to the point of self-negation and doubt. It calls into question whether they are indeed one unified people, capable of collective work, state building, and resurrection from the disaster that has struck their country.

In a show of cynicism, international powers are taking advantage of this sentiment. They are trying to sell Syrians the notion that is it now too late for them to re-unite as a people and co-exist.

The international powers hope to convince Syrians that the only way to reach a minimum level of peace and security is to let foreign nations determine their fate. It has even become almost the norm to circulate maps, documents and draft constitutions for Syria that Syrians have had no role in drafting.

This frustration and its implications are unfortunately masking the most important achievement of this period: The heroic deeds, steadfastness and valiancy of Syrians in their fight for freedom and dignity. 

Syrians have inflicted defeat after defeat upon the Russian-backed regime's army of conscripts, Hizballah's mercenaries and other sectarian militias, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the marauders of the Islamic State


Indeed, Syrians have inflicted defeat after defeat upon the Russian-backed regime's army of conscripts, Hizballah's mercenaries and other sectarian militias, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the marauders of the Islamic State. 

Assad's treachery and betrayal, and his insistence on burning the entire country simply to remain in power, is matched in its intensity only by the Syrian people's insistence on their right to freedom and dignity and on fighting until the end for their sake.

It is the Syrians' legendary struggle that has set an example for peoples seeking self-determination, in looking to undo the propaganda campaign and psychological war they have experienced.

For over five years, the Syrian regime, and all factions and powers opposed to the emergence of a new, free Syria, have been exploiting the events on the ground to exacerbate the complexity of the landscape and prevent the victory of the people's rebellion.

From the get-go, their goal has been to drive Syrians to despair for their future, and to turn the regime's war against them, creating the opportunity to dismantle the Syrian state and destabilise the whole region.

No doubt, the international dimension imposed on the revolution based on preventing decisive military victory - and thus allowing the bloodletting and suffering to continue unchecked, while ignoring the conditions for a sustainable political settlement - has put immense pressure on Syrian public opinion.

More and more, the supporters of the Syrian revolution are losing hope. Many are even questioning whether it was worthwhile rebelling against the regime, despite its crimes and betrayals.

More and more, the supporters of the Syrian revolution are losing hope. Many are even questioning whether it was worthwhile rebelling against the regime, despite its crimes and betrayals


Further reinforcing this trend is a shift on the part of the decision-making centre of gravity, away from the hands of Syrians, and towards the powers that support the different parties to the conflict. There is a deep feeling today that Syrians do not have the slightest influence over their fate, and have no option other than to surrender to foreign powers.

Yet perhaps the most insidious element today may be the Syrians' loss of self-confidence, and their surrender to the notion that they have no ability to resolve their problems. In doing so, they are surrendering to foreign - Arab and non-Arab - nations their decision, armed with nothing but the hope that their allies will not betray them.

This impression is unfortunately confirmed every day by the conduct of many Syrian opposition factions and leaders, who are begging for invitations from foreign states and organisations, deferring to them when it comes to taking decisions. 

Many in the Syrian opposition are not thinking about independently proposing a plan or strategy, instead waiting for other countries to decide their fate and future.

But foreign powers, the major ones included, will not resolve the Syrian issue. In fact, they are responsible for having precluded a solution and having complicated the conflict.

And even if they were to resolve it, this would not be in a manner that would serve the interests of Syria and her people. It would instead be in line with their own interests, even if that entailed partitioning Syria.

Syrians are being told they are rival tribes and sects who will never agree, and that they have nothing in common with each other. This aims to ensure that the only way forward would be to partition their country.

Such an approach, however, will never end the war. It will create more reasons to sustain conflict, albeit in a different form, proceeding to the tune of the contradictions between the foreign powers vying for Syria and their interests.

There is no hope of reaching a just and sustainable solution to the Syrian issue while preserving Syria's unity, unless Syrians regain their self-confidence and resume shouldering their responsibilities.

Syrians must place their faith in their free will and reject any decision imposed on them from outside, regardless of where it comes from. They must put an end to their wait for a solution that comes from elsewhere, and deny the foreign powers their right to shape it.

But Syrians will not be able to do so unless they cast off the spirit of self-doubt, division, and subservience that has been imposed on them for years, if not decades, by usurpers, oppressors, and now by the policies of rival foreign powers.

Syrians must awaken and rally around a patriotic leadership that can stand on an equal par with foreign powers, whose bid to bypass the Syrian people and impose a solution has failed.

This is the essence of the platform of freedom and dignity that drove millions of Syrians into the street, despite barrel bombs, starvation and siege, and for which Syrians have sacrificed blood and treasure.


Burhan Ghalioun is a Syrian professor of sociology, and the first chairman of the Syrian opposition Transitional National Council.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.