Is Dividing Syria the Problem or the Solution?
There is a somewhat “wishful consensus” joining the regime with the opposition, on rejecting the division of Syria. Furthermore, this consensus is shared and supported, at least on the surface, by a regional and international consensus against the possible division.
This apparent consensus contradicts, on the one hand, the ongoing work on the ground. On the other hand, it hides the desire of most parties to achieve a crashing victory against their opponents, and force conditions upon them after turning those conditions into reality.
The debate on the division of Syria grew louder over the last two years of the revolution, in parallel with unofficial talk from the regime and its allies about a “useful Syria”; this was followed by the Kurds announcing self-administration under Saleh Muslim, along with his party [the Democratic Union Party, PYD] and militias; then the American talk of a plan B that hints at division in case the political solution at hand in Geneva fails to fall through; then the Russian testing of the waters came through the deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, suggesting a Syrian federal union akin to the Russian one; then, lately, the CIA John Brennan, who announced his prognosis about the division of Syria into 3 main areas mainly between the Sunnis, the Kurds and the ʿAlawis.
The discourse on division with all the fears and fear-mongering it implies, and regardless of its local or international sources, poses a fake problem, and attempts to replace the original problem Syrians have with their fascist regime, and all the little fascist “regimes” that have sprung out of its long coercive stay after Syrians revolted against it. It is a debate that hides truer problems in Syria, and omits what is a more urgent to end the suffering of Syrians today. It misleads the political discussions away from the first goal of the Syrian revolution, toppling the tyrant, in an attempt to justify his perpetuation and even “split the shares” with him if possible.
Division in Syria is not the problem . For Syrians do not have the luxury of choosing their political system now, because of the ongoing war, the political void and the lack of normal political conditions To the contrary, any political system that emerges under the current conditions will not be a representative system, but a forcefully imposed one, even if it is concurred upon between influential countries.
Syrians also do not have the luxury of choosing the shape of the state, united and centralized or federal and decentralized, or completely divided along sectarian, regional or nationalistic lines. As long as the shape of the state is being drawn out by pure force of arms and determined from the outside, we will not be facing a country, nor countries, that enjoy legitimacy and sovereignty.
On the contrary, it will be a mere repetition of the post-Sykes-Picot era, when national borders were drawn by imperialistic accords. That postcolonial state has proven its utter failure and lack of internal legitimacy, and its constant reliance on external legitimacies that do not concern the population nor care about their choices. It is well known by now that those sorts of legitimacies function for nothing further than oppressing local voices and crushing and preventing politics, to place themselves as the guardian of the local “under-developed” populations that protects them from each other. As well as the protector of the “external source of legitimacy” from the worrying turbulences of local conflicts. That is precisely what had been done under the Asads and what goes on to be repeated by the likes of al-Baghdadi and Saleh Muslim, and a few others who have not emerged with a comprehensive project yet.
But the lack of fear of division is not befitting unless the main target and motivator is the Syrian people, not the land, not the history, nor the language, nor the resources. It is a logic that does not attune to many of the anti-imperialist Left, nor the Arab nationalists, nor the classical communists, nor the supporters of the Islamic Ummah [Nation] or Khilafa [Caliphate]. But if we look at those humans who form what is abstractly called “the Syrian people”, we will see that their plight continues, regardless of whether Syria is remains united or not.
The vast majority of the Syrian nation live the tragedies of war in different forms and to differing degrees, , from regime-held to Islamic State-held territories, to the various areas that have been liberated by the Free Syrian Army [FSA] or by other Islamic factions. Tragedies also differ outside of Syria, inside refugee camps and outside of them, in nearby countries or in Europe. But what binds everyone in a single loop is the greater tragedy whose main cause and fuel continues to reside in his palace in Damascus. Maintained by his infamous stupidity, he protects his direct and indirect role in the international game, which toys with him, with Syria and with the Syrian people. It’s a game which turns everyone, including himself, into a victim or a scapegoat that will eventually be discarded once it expires, and the threads of balance and accord among regional and international players mature.
If dividing Syria is not the problem, it is also not the solution. The solution needs to stem from the nature of the problem, instead of being external to its genre. The problem of Syrians was not that they were unable to coexist before the war, but the lack of freedom of expression and the fact that they could not benefit from their country’s resources. Their problem was with a mafia regime that forced them to live throughout its long rule under the mercy of a state of emergency and its martial laws, and a political party that is “leader of the state and the society”. Their problem was also with a Pan-Arab regime that deprived a quarter million Kurds of their Syrian nationality [well over 200.000 according to Kurdish sources mentioned by Human Rights Watch], and their “nationalistic” regime that occupied Lebanon and participated in occupying Iraq, only to finally hand the country over to Iran. The preliminary solution, not the comprehensive one, for these problems must start with removing this regime and destroying its immortality, forever.
The problem of Syria is not about having a single flag or multiple ones, a single language or various ones. The problem is in the route, not the target. If the road to a unified flag will come by the rule of the sword, al-Baghdadi-style, or by chemical weapons, Bashar-style, it will not be a patriotic flag, and it will fail to build a livable homeland. If the multiple languages will emerge through miniscule “ultra-state” entities, PYD’s so-called “Rojava”, they will be nothing more than occupation entities against their own people, and will create nothing but a hostile environment around them.
Consequently, the efforts need to focus on the path to the forthcoming Syria, through politics as a constraint against war, accord as a constraint against exclusion, and acknowledgment as a constraint against differences. If the loudest voice today is that of gunfire, we must not forget that this sound will be muted if it does not make us all deaf. Those Syrians who raised their voices will not be silenced again by another fascism, be it secular, religious or ethno-nationalistic.
The writer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect SyriaUntold’s views.
[Main image: Some graffiti from the 3rd Syrian Street Festival within the Freedom Is a Must campaign, in collaboration with the ʿIsh (Live) campaign. The sprayed phrase in the photo reads “Freedom is a Must” – Kafranbel – Idlib (SyriaUntold)].