Should the West intervene in Syria? The answer is more than simply “yes” or “no.” The complex power struggles and aspirations that define the Syrian civil war almost mock those who think there is an easy solution. Direct military intervention would fundamentally change the character of the war, potentially shifting it from a democratic struggle into a war of national liberation. And what Syria would it leave behind? Would the people who intervened allow a participatory democracy to take shape? Would they stick with a republican parliament, imbued with the values of the Washington Consensus? What is the role of the old Ba’athist Party in such a future? And so on.
The European interest in this crisis has several manifestations. There is the fashionable disdain for Islamists, which are seen as the whole of the democratic bloc, that has taken on a new character with the victories of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant. Some would argue that Assad should be supported, not only because he is moving against Islamists, but also because he is a Ba’athist leader. Most others are far more critical, and seek to support democratic movements in Syria without seeing them hijacked by foreign interventionism. These actors have been very influential. Although there is a foreign presence in Syria, it is not even close to that which operated in Libya.
The following flyer, photographed in Berlin, attempts to break into these discussions by anchoring them in a core question: can the Syrian revolution survive? It seeks to illuminate that the revolt doesn’t only have to overcome the Assad regime which wants to crush it. It also has to outflank some of the people who want to save it.
For the Syrian Revolution! “We must reject any call for foreign military intervention, be it European-American, or from Russia, Iran and China. We must also reject any arguments that want to impose a religious quality to the revolution. This is a people’s revolution, and it is not, or will ever become, a confessional or religious uprising. We must denounce the opposition’s policies that reduce the revolution to liberal claims, which do not solve the problems of the people, but only of those searching for power.” (From the Syria-Statement by the left-wing forces who participated at the World Social Forum, originally in French)
Many turn away with a feeling of powerlessness and confusion when it comes to Syria. The unrelenting violence of the Assad regime, the disunity “of the” Syrian opposition and the various international actors who pursue their own interests in Syria have put Syrian people in a desperate situation. Life for most people in Syria has been hell for months: nationwide bombing of residential areas, fleeing without knowing where to go, destruction of medical infrastructure as well as livelihoods, violence and lawlessness and a world that watches on with indifference. The Assad regime uses this hell to punish the rebels, and international regional powers have, as might be expected, seen a chance to intervene and make the most out of the ongoing chaos.
Yet the hopes and demands of the revolution are still alive in Syria. The media does not do them justice, suggesting that the only choices are Assad, reactionary Islamism, or Western imperialism. This is a deeply colonialist perspective that rejects the diversity of Syrian society!
Show the people of Syria solidarity and connect directly with their resistance structures, “powerlessness and confusion” can be the answer. We did this to find out the kind of support they need. Left-wing activists were in Syria and will be going back there again in the next few weeks. The following independent projects were proposed by Syrians we met there, which we now know personally and who receive direct donations from us.
Political and humanitarian “We have to clean up the humanitarian catastrophe caused by Assad, which can only be achieved if we take care of ourselves first. That leaves us hardly enough energy to carry out political work.” (A Syrian activist)
The village of Al-Numan Maarath was partially destroyed by bombing. In this situation, it is about the survival of the remaining population and the refugees from other regions who are forced to live in holes in the ground. Bsmat Amal (“Smile of Hope”) is a group of local young activists who took the initiative to organize neighbourhood aid even before the revolution began. Now they distribute clothing, food, blankets, etc. to thousands of people. They also provide medical aid to underground auxiliary-hospitals. We also want to support a civil society group of young Syrians which is interconnected across the country. To continue their work, they require equipment for home-built Internet connections, laptops and cameras. This group combines humanitarian and neighbourhood aid with political work. They organize street cleaning campaigns, sit-ins, workshops on self-organization, graffiti campaigns and much more in order to build structures of self-organization and political participation.
Together for the independent, grassroots uprising in Syria! More information: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://s yrimedia.wordpress.com /
Translated from the German by Kit Rickard. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalt.