What can ‘National Dialogue’ possibly mean after the blowing up of Syria’s sense of nationhood? – Rana Kabbani
As I write, Syria’s unarmed revolution continues to be met with live ammunition and with massive fire power from land, air and sea on the orders of the vainglorious and murderous Bashar Assad. Syria’s population centres continue to be beseiged by his sectarian army units, who use electricity and water cuts — in the 40 degree heat of summer — as communal punishment. Syrians by the thousands overnight have been turned into bewildered refugees, fleeing intolerable violence, having seen their fields burnt and their livestock slaughtered in a scorched earth policy reminiscent of the cruelest conquerers; their loved ones taken prisoners or killed. Tanks led by murderous generals — apparently loyal to nothing more than the Assad clan — storm the narrow streets of our towns and cities, with their follow-up security troops behind them, savagely rounding up hundreds of men and women, to add more innocent victims to the 12,000 and counting who are already being held in arbitrary detention in unspeakable conditions.
When those murdered by Assad’s men are taken for burial, their funeral processions are fired upon too, in lurid illustration of the vampiric nature of this regime, that simply cannot get enough fresh blood to sustain it in its dying moment. Shabbiha snipers, who have been trained to see other Syrians as enemies, not countrymen, cavalierly shoot protesters in cold blood, as they also do those seeking desperately to film the protests and post them to the world. These depraved gangs — which long have been linked to the ruling family mafia — are raping and looting their way across the country. They are bussed in to different parts of it on an hourly basis by order of the Assad brothers, seeking to terrify Syria’s citizens and break their will. Their reward is war booty, from what they steal from people’s homes and shops, exactly as in the bitter times of Hulegu’s Mongol invasion.
Yet in spite of these outrages, Assad’s two-faced regime had no compunction about hosting a ‘national dialogue’ — a PR exercise if ever there was one — hoping thereby to contain some of the damage from its war against the Syrian people. One of Bashar Assad’s Vice Presidents — for he keeps two, as an arrogant indication of just how meaningless this position has been rendered — opened the proceedings. Fidgeting in his seat and with a dour expression, Vice-President No 1 Farouk al-Shara’ assured his audience that a decision had been taken from on high to allow those in opposition to travel outside the country if they so wished (presumably, without being stopped at the airport and having their passports confiscated, as has been standard practise for decades), and allow those outside the country to return to it without being molested by the regime’s Hydra-headed Security enforcers.
What al-Shara’ did not say, however, is this: that he himself is utterly powerless to obtain the freedom of even one member of his OWN extended family, incarcerated in his hometown of Der’a, who were involved in the mass protests there. Nor to guarantee the safety of his own nephew — who monitors human rights abuses from abroad — were he to decide to return home today. This is because Vice President No 1 has far less clout — for all his fine words — than the lowliest security goon or the most debased Shabbiha gang member in the hierarchy of the Assad regime. Small wonder then that al-Shara’ was spat upon when he was sent as an emissary to Der’a after the regime’s massacre of civilians there, and was told to scuttle back to his masters. The only truly moral position open to him then was to side with the protestors in his besieged city, and resign at once and publicly from the regime, which was busy filling mass graves in the vicinity with women and babies as well as with men as it later transpired. It was a position that al-Shara’ chose not to take, and so his ringing speech sounded hollow to the ear.
The spontanious opposition that has formed in Syria — in its streets, over a period of four months — was certainly not represented in this starched gathering of those ‘opponents’ hand-picked by the Assads to attend, who were to a great extent regime loyalists, scurrying now to leave the sinking ship before it is too late. The young protestors were not there. They were in prison or being shot at as the meeting convened. Old men droning old saws were there, looking like the has-beens they have become. Most Syrians saw this meeting clearly for what it was: a pathetic attempt to buy more time for a discredited and dysfunctional ruling family, thoroughly hated and despised for its manifold crimes.
A National dialogue can only begin in Syria when the Syrian people retrieve their sense of being one nation. This sense has been blown up by the Assads, who have gone to war against the majority population, foolishly choosing to set themselves — along with a swathe of their community — apart from the rest of the country. The ‘armed gangs’ they have sought to spook the world with belong to them, and to them alone. They are the only ones responsible for what sectarian strife appears in our country. They have played a dirty role in many of the civilian killings in Iraq, and have seen fit to hand Syria over as a cheap gift to a repressive and expansionist Iran.
A regime that has no qualm in ripping out the fingernails of young boys; that maims and castrates their corpses once it has tortured and murdered them; that then forces their grief-crazed parents — at gunpoint — to bury their sons in secret, or to recant their accusation on its propaganda television station, is obviously not a regime that any sane person can ever trust again, let alone have meaningful dialogue with. In any event, and to Syria’s great relief after 41 years, its ugly days now appear to be numbered.
Source : SouriaHouria – Rana Kabbani
Date : 11/07/2011