The hopeful wave of enlightenment flowing through the Arab world, moving from Arabic spring into winter has unavoidable phases in a process of change that are unsettling, extremely painful destructive and upsetting to say the least. Citizens from East and West share the same feelings of frustration not being able to turn the wheel in a positive direction in order to prevent history from repeating itself.
Looking at Syria it seems necessary to explain the complexity of the situation once more.
Why is the case Syria so complicated?
Because (geo)politics are at play at three levels: local, regional and international.
Many famous writers have reported their brilliant insights into Syria over the past years.
In case you want to refresh your mind to mention a few of them like Patrick Cockburn or a recent European publication ECFR, , Fouad Ajami, Robert Fisk, Thomas Friedman.
1. Local: Assad Government versus a diverse Syrian opposition. Syrians like many Arabs in the region want reformation, want to participate in their governance, want a change for a better future. One of the anchor women of the Syrian Revolution is Razan Zeitouneh.
2. Regional: Sunni versus Shia – compare with the European Catholic vs. Protestant divide. Saudi Arabia and Qatar both Sunni states are fighting the ruling Shia government in Syria (Alawites are Shiites) and their Shiite partners Hezbollah and Iran. The fact that the majority of the Syrians are Sunni gave the regional Sunnites the legitimation to start interfering and trying to over throw the Syrian Shia government, bringing in fundamentalist factions like Jabhet al Nusra. Their presence acts like a magnet for other fundamentalist fighters from all over the world.
3. International: USA, Europe and Turkey want to break Iran’s power and therefore support Saudi-Arabia and Qatar delivering weapons via the NATO to the opposition. In reality fundamentalistic fighters lay their hands on the weapons. On the other side of the international spectrum there are Russia and China who are still supporting Syria, Iran and Hezbollah. They are testing their weaponry and radarsystems over the back of the Syrian people.
Apart from fights between the Government Army versus Free Syrian Army, many factions are fighting each other. For example villagers at the Euphrates River like Racqqa are now fighting the establishment of Jabhet Al Nusra there. Liberal Syrians are thrown back into the middle ages and women have to cover up completely. ‘This is not Syria but Saudi Arabia here, are they the ones to bring democracy here?!’ Syrians are crying out loud. Meanwhile the Saudi Arabians buy young Syrian ‘brides’ in the refugee camps like Zaatari in Jordan.
Syria is a like trying to sail a ship with too many captains on it or as they say here: Kullon rous ma sh’Allah. The great Syrian mosaic of people, Muslims both Sunni and Shiia, Christians, Druze, Bedouins and many other groups pay the highest price imaginable. The world is watching while the tragedy unfolds.
Painting the Syrian picture in more than black and white. In the midst of all the pain and power struggles, it remains equally important to keep shedding light on promising developments. Governments, companies and local communities inside and outside of Syria are taking hopefull initiatives to counterbalance the strategic political processes working from different starting points at different levels.
A hopeful development within Syria itself is how the residents of the Syrian town Yabroud have established an independent government that manages everything from schools, the court and emergency services to humanitarian aid and defense. It is remarkably efficient – as long as they can keep al-Qaeda out. And they do! This is something that is important to shed light upon. It is part of a larger movement within Syria under the name of Khalil Noe, the Mussalah-Reconciliation movement. Syrians of different backgrounds and religions have put their weapons down.
In fact more than 4,5 miljon Syrians within Syria are finding refuge in the homes of other Syrians. This is a story of hospitality and solidarity.
It is important to keep watering the seeds of these peaceful movements with water and light in order for more tulips to start growing in the Syrian desert.
Esseline van de Sande