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Alan Levy


By Alan Levy, March 22, 2011

It has been reported that popular protests against Syria’s 48 years of emergency law entered its third day this past Sunday. Authorities sought to appease the movement by promising to free schoolchildren who had been arrested for scrawling anti-regime graffiti. This is another brutal dictatorial government that has for years attacked its own people to ensure the Bath Party, ( yes the same Bath Party that the Americans overthrew in Iraq) will stay in power. For example, Jawabra, who is from a prominent family, was campaigning for the release of the 15 schoolchildren from her home city. Another prominent woman from Deraa, physician Aisha Aba Zeid, was arrested three weeks ago for airing a political opinion on the internet.

During the decade reign of Hafez al-Assad, Syria was a harsh and stagnant dictatorship, reviled in the West for its support of terrorist groups and generally isolated even from more moderate Arab countries. Mr. Assad's son, Basher al-Assad, who became president after his father's death in 2000, has from time to time made gestures toward a more open and mild regime. He has not done enough and the secret police run the state by terror and fear.
The New York times reported on March 20, 2011:
Police officers fired live ammunition into the crowds, killing at least one and wounding scores of others! ..... Syria, a police state known for its brutal suppression of any public protests, seemed immune to the wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world until the past week, when demonstrations took place in several cities.
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Right,  which all countries who are members of the UN are required to live up to. Within the preamble of this document it states
“Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”

Yet, here we are in 2011 still debating the issue of whether the government of Syria can continue to act like the government of Libya. We have the same duty here to do that which is right.

As the famous political philosophiser Edmund Burke has stated: Nobody made a greater mistake than the person who did nothing because the person could only do a little.

I would add this also applies to all western countries concerning the people in Arab countries attempting to obtain democratic freedom.

When Muammar Qaddafi began to re-conquer Libya it briefly appeared that only the moderate and nominally “pro-American” dictatorships in the Middle East were at risk, but the hard and violent anti-American regimes aren’t yet in the clear. The region-wide revolt is now hitting Syria and will almost certainly grow.

In the southern city of Daraa, along the border with Jordan, regime opponents set fire to the local Baath Party headquarters, a courthouse, and two government-run phone company offices. Police officers fired live rounds into crowds of demonstrators, but Bashar al-Assad also dispatched government officials in the hopes of making some kind of amends.

Alan Levy BA, MIR, LLM is Associate Professor ofHuman Resources, Labour Relations & Dispute Resolution Department of Business Administration, Faculty of Arts Brandon University


Editor’s note: Readers may be interested in a March 21, 2011 article  in Commentary Magazine, “Arab Revolt Hits Syria” where Michael Trotten writes:                                              

“If Libyans are willing to stand up to the ruthlessness of Qaddafi, and if the West is willing to back them, Syria’s tyrant should be deathly afraid. And here is a country where we don’t need to worry quite so much about what might replace the regime if it falls.

“Al-Assad is not an Islamist. He’s not, in the eyes of some, even a Muslim—he’s a secular Alawite whom both Sunnis and Shias have long considered heretical infidels. This hardly makes any difference, however. He has aligned himself with Iran’s Islamic Republic, Hamas, and Hezbollah. He helped insurgents transit into Iraq to kill American soldiers. His replacement could be a bit worse, but not by a lot.

The Israelis worry that if he goes he’ll be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s certainly possible. A little more than 70 percent of Syria’s population is Sunni. Still, it’s hard to imagine a Muslim Brotherhood regime being more hostile to Israel and the West than the Arab Socialist Baath Party.

It’s also hard to imagine that Damascus could so effectively dominate Lebanon and forcibly keep it in the Iran-led resistance bloc after a thorough change at the top. Syria has a great deal of leverage inside its smaller and strategically critical neighbor, but it took decades to build the intricate web of relationships with its willing and unwilling Lebanese proxies. A new Syrian government will have to start over if the entire leadership of the Alawite state is deposed. And in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood gets precious little traction where around 90 percent of the country’s Sunnis back Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, a party with a liberal and capitalist ideology.

I have my doubts that Syria is prepared for democracy at this time, but there is enormous room for improvement. A totalitarian terrorist-sponsoring state is hardly the only illiberal option. Even if, under a worst-case scenario, Damascus under new management continues to support Hamas and Hezbollah, maintains the alliance with Iran’s Islamic Republic, continues oppressing the people of Syria, and keeps “resistance” against Israel the state’s ideological raison d’etre, the situation could not be much worse than it already is. Let us hope, then, that the Syrian people can finally be rid of him.

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