Syria has a dream in the spirit of King and Gandhi

Syrians must draw courage, inspiration and intelligent resistance from greats such as Gandhi, King and Mandela.

Idlib Syria
Thursday marks the first anniversary of the start of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria [Al Jazeera]

Exeter, United Kingdom – In politics there are possibilities and rarely inevitabilities.

The qualified exception is the inevitability of the fall of Assad dynasty.

This inevitability today gains momentum in the build-up of global solidarity with the heroic Syrian people, especially those terrorised by their own government’s army in places like Homs, Idlib, Alzabadani and other places.

This global solidarity must draw courage, inspiration and intelligent resistance from greats such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela.

 Free Syrian Army withdraws from Idlib

International diplomacy has collectively eased global public opinion into thinking that in the foreseeable future, there is little or nothing that can be done to help the Syrians.

The Friends of Tunis summit, attended by Hillary Clinton in February, lowered expectations. The Tunisian Foreign Minister said as much. Admission of failure or diplomatic manoeuvring is too academic to bother pondering.

It is an affront to decency and humanity when fellow human beings are left to their own devices to face the machinery of a criminal regime.

There’s widespread agreement that military intervention is out of the question in Syria. NATO and the US intervened in Libya not based on a calculus of power solely fixated on oil. Gaddafi’s top brass was recruited before the start of hostilities, improving the chances of military success.

The Arab League, Kofi Annan, Clinton, EU passivity, the Security Council – and in particular, China and Russia’s veto last month – all more or less tempt a narrative of “complicity”.

Those who are engaging with the issue with more zest have vested interests: defeating Iran by corroding the weakest link in the chain tying Tehran to Damascus and southern Beirut. There is also a sectarian dimension to Saudi manoeuvring. It is not championing rights for the sake of rights. Had that been the case, Bahrainis would have ended up with more rights for its down-trodden citizens, both Sunni and Shi’a, not with a “Pax-Arabiana” to protect an unresponsive ruling house.

Iran is no different. The Islamic Republic turns a blind eye to brutalities that Islam forbids and that no legal canons of the Imamate would countenance: the systematic rape of women, the indiscriminate killing of the weak and indifference to all kinds of sacrilege.

The Baath Party and the regime’s slogan “Allah, Syria, Bashar” is no match, especially by the standards of religious morality, for the Syrian civil society’s slogan “Allah, Syria, and freedom”! Today, Ahmadinejad and his supporters are being embarrassed by a mounting chorus of disapproval of unconditional support for the Assads, despite meetings Tehran had with the Syrian opposition.

Iran supplies finances and this is where Iran must come clean: does the internal wing of Al-Quds Forces, tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, partake directly in the suppression of the Syrian revolution? The juggling of moral double standards is hurting the Islamic Republic and providing ammunition to those keen to sectarianise relations with Iran. The early theses from Tehran linked the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Fine. However, in Syria the thesis is changed to the classic polarity, falsely and historically deployed by many doctors of Islam, between discord or fitnah on the one hand and genuine political activism on the other.

Then there is Iraq, which dissolved its own Baath Party with good reason – regardless of the soundness of that policy. Nouri al-Maliki’s Iraq is both a ring that encircles the Syrian people’s genuine political activism for freedom and a space that relieves Syria from sanctions.

Low politics, global civil society

The bar now must be raised by globally concerted action to defeat injustice. In this day and age, after the lessons of inertia and indecision in international conflicts and the benefit of hindsight from Rwanda and Bosnia, indifference is not an option.

 Syrian torture victim speaks to Al Jazeera

There are so many ways of representing “Syria”, many a narrative and the victim in each will every time be economy of truth and subjectivity.

One narrative of Syria can be portrayed by the numbers: so far there have been close to 10,000 fatalities, of whom nearly 400 are children and 300 women; more than 50,000 missing; more than 200 victims of torture; unknown numbers of systematic rape victims; and nearly 20,000 refugees, half of them in Turkey. Trauma and loss are immeasurable, and there is a new generation of children who will grow up hating the regime that destroyed their homes and families.

Each generation and age constructs their own dreams, and in the pursuit of them arise beacons of hope. I can’t think of any examples better than Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela. They should inspire how those concerned with combating the Syrian dictatorship can dream of freedom, better futures, possibilities of existence and identity without injustice and fear.

The Syrian National Council and other groups arrayed against the regime must change tack: they must now learn about Gandhi’s peaceful struggles, King’s civil disobedience and Mandela’s defiance and forgiveness.

As the international community of states is failing the Syrian people, those spearheading the struggle to see the light of freedom must now take the fight, peacefully, to the global arena. They can learn how to mobilise trade unions, students and civil societies to starve the Syrian regime of oxygen for survival.

Burhan Ghalyoun and his comrades must now tour European capitals not only for audiences and receptions with officialdom, but also must lobby trade unions to bring Bashar’s republic of fear to its knees.

From Exeter, United Kingdom, to Saskatoon, Canada, the moral flame is alive. The students at the University of Exeter are baking cakes, eating, dancing, making speeches and crying freedom in solidarity with the Syrian people. They are marking the first anniversary of the Syrian Revolution this Thursday, March 15, painting their faces with the Syrian flag and wearing red as a sign of alarm at the spilling of blood in Homs, Hama, and elsewhere in Syria.

Martin Luther King’s words ring as true today as they did on August 28, 1963. Like King’s black America, at the time enslaved and de-humanised, Syria yearns for “a joyous daybreak to end the long night of… captivity”. And in its pursuit, Syrians “will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”.

Dr Larbi Sadiki is a Senior Lecturer in Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter, and author of Arab Democratization: Elections without Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2009) and The Search for Arab Democracy: Discourses and Counter-Discourses (Columbia University Press, 2004).