Inside the Syrian uprisings and why regime change should be challenged

Events in Syria are notoriously murky and these days reliable information is scarce.

I’m often asked about my views on the uprisings against President Assad and what kind of Syria I would like to see. My book The Blogging Revolutionjust released in an updated format in India – examines the role of the internet inside Syria and how the regime is increasingly using monitoring tools to target activists and critics.

It’s hard to have much sympathy for Assad himself, a seemingly calm man on television who in fact controls a brutal police state. There’s no doubt that many Western powers, including NATO, would like to see Assad go and a more Western-friendly and pliant person installed. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t shed too many tears if Assad fell – though the views of the Syrian population as a whole are notoriously hard to hear – but we should be very wary of any intervention to unseat Assad. Foreign powers (mostly) don’t have the Syrian people’s interests at heart.

This stunning piece by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in the Guardian features him crossing the border… with the smugglers supplying weapons to… Syria‘s fighters:

After eight months of vicious crackdowns by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s revolution is sliding towards civil war. Many in the opposition who have seen their friends and family members disappeared, tortured or shot by the Syrian security forces are looking for ways to fight back.

The smugglers, sensing a business opportunity, have been quick to respond. In the south the weapons come from Lebanon. Here in the north, they are flowing in from Turkey and Iraq.

“We used to smuggle cigarettes coming from Lebanon via Syria,” a portly man told me the night before in Turkey as he channel-hopped between Egyptian chatshows. Since the Syrian uprising began new business opportunities had opened up. “Now we only do weapons,” he said. “Three shipments per day.”

After crossing the border into the north Syrian province of Idlib, we travelled to meet the revolutionary command council with Muhyo, a fighter, and Abu Salim. Abu Salim had made it his job to find weapons and ammunition for the rebels after running out of bullets during a firefight with the regime. .

“When the army came to [the town of] Benish last time, we ambushed a bus filled with security people,” he said. “I had a pistol and eight bullets, but after a few minutes of shooting I had run out. I stood there watching those dogs but had no ammunition. That’s when I decided I… would arm every man in my town.”

Now he spends his days driving through villages and deserts, meeting smugglers and weapon dealers, scavenging bullets and old rifles. Each day he comes back with a gun or two and few bags of ammunition. “The last time the army attacked Benish there were 30 Kalashnikovs in the town,” he said. “Now we have more than 600.”

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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