Syrian Civil War, dictatorship and sectarianism

1 year, 11 months, 3 weeks and 5 days. That is how long the Syrian Civil War is now ongoing. The main fighters in this brutal civil war are the government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Free Syrian Army. Also Islamic militants of the Al-Nusra Front and Syrian Islamic Front fight against the Syrian secular government. What started as peaceful protests against a 40 year old dictatorship ended in a brutal civil war that has killed 70.000 people. The man responsible for the civil war is Bashar Al-Assad, who orderd his police, army and secret police to shoot at demonstrators who demanded reforms and his removal from power! 

''The Ba'ath Party government came to power in 1964 after a successful coup d'état. In 1966, another coup overthrew the traditional leaders of the party, Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din al-Bitar. In 1970, the Defense Minister Hafez al-Assad seized power and declared himself President, a position he would hold until his death in 2000. Since then, the secular Ba'ath Party has remained the dominant political authority in a virtual single-party state in Syria, and Syrian citizens may only approve the President by referendum and – until the government-controlled multi-party 2012 parliamentary election – could not vote in multi-party elections for the legislature'' 

This is how Wikipedia tells the story that led to the civil war in the first place. The Syrian Arab Republic was once part of the Federation of Arab Republic until 1977. Then it became a single party state under the absolute rule of Hafez Al-Assad, the father of today's president Bashar Al-Assad. 

Syria showed many similar elements with Stalinist East Germany. It is very likely that Hafez Al-Assad used many aspects of East Germany in his Syrian Arab Republic. Just like the German Democratic Republic, Syria has one great front that united all allowed political parties. This National Progressive Front is dominated by the Arab-Socialist Ba'ath Party, just like the National Front in the GDR, that was dominated by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. Both Syria and the GDR had a planned economy and some revolutionary socialists gave Syria the title deformed workers state!

Opposition outside the National Progressive Front was not allowed. Political parties were only permitted if they accepted Ba'ath domination. Also parties who supported free market capitalism were completely banned, because all parties had to support Arab-socialism and Arab-nationalism. The Communist Party of Syria was legalized in 1972, but forced to accept Ba'ath Party rule!

Syria was also effected by the Arab Revolutions of 2011. But unlike Egypt and Libya, the protests in Syria were moderate and small compare to other Arab states. Some said that the Arabs in Syria remained silent because of the almighty Syrian secret police who kept the people in line. But on March 15, the first signs of rebellion appeared. People started to demonstrated for reforms and democratic rights. It started with young people who started to spray anti-government signs on walls. As they were arrested other started to demonstrate against this injustice!

Five days later the people's anger towards the government erupted as a local Ba'ath Party building was attacked and burned. This forced the government to strike back. Soon police forces started to shoot at demonstrations killing many innocents. On June 4, the police was attacked by protesters, who burned a police station and took its weapons  Armed now, the first classes started killing eight police officers. Many towns rebelled against the government forcing  Bashar Al-Assad to deploy the army! 

Soldiers from the Syrian Armed Forces were told to shoot at demonstrations and all who opposed the government. Some soldiers were not able to shoot at unarmed people who only wanted reforms and democratic rights. The order to shoot at people led to the desertion of many soldiers who formed the Free Syrian Army ( FSA ). Leader of this rebels military group became Riad Mousa al-Asaad, a former colonel in the Syrian Armed Forces!  

In early 2012, the Free Syrian Army was armed with only light weapons. They had to fight a guerrilla war against 160.000 troops of the Syrian Armed Forces ( SAF ). Around May, the FSA was made up of 40.000 troops. This rebel army was a mixture of young volunteers and defected soldiers. But they were able to hit the Syrian Army hard, attacking many government soldiers and tanks!

The reaction of the Syrian government was brutal. They used their air force to bomb rebel towns and even used a criminal gang called the Shabiha. These Shabiha committed many crimes, such as child killing, raping of woman and attacking peaceful demonstrations. This fueled more soldiers to defected from the Syrian Armed Forces to the FSA. Soon the small skirmishes evolved into massive conflict, as the Syrian Armed Forces battles the FSA in almost all towns and major cities!

Supporters of Islamic fundamentalism such as Al-Qeada, formed their own rebel movements against Bashar Al-Assad. The Al-Nusra Front is made up of Muslims who want to create a Islamic Syria based on strict Sharia law. Al-Nusra was founded on January 23 of 2012 and it has about 10.000 fighters. Unlike the FSA the Al-Nusra is called a terrorist group by western governments for its attacks on government supporters. Also the Al-Nusra Front has committed war crimes, such as killing captured SAF soldiers and the torture of people who work for the government for information!

Although the Islamic and secular rebels have committed war crimes, the bulk of crimes against innocent people are committed by the Syrian government and its militia's. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a close supporter of Bashar Al-Assad. Although the Syrian Government is secular, the tribe of Al-Assad is based on the Shia Islamic religion. The Islamic Republic of Iran is also a Shia Islamic nation. This while the rest of the Islamic world believe in the Sunni Islamic religion. We talk here about two different Islamic ideologies who oppose each other. That is why the Islamic Republic of Iran is not supported by many Sunni Muslims who oppose Shia Islamism! 

When it comes to killing the SAF is a star. Each day they shoot and kill people in towns and cities. This is why the Arab League as suspended Syria as a member and almost all western governments have recognized the Syrian National Council as representative of the Syrian people. This angered many supporters of the Al-Assad government who fear the Al-Nusra Front and other Islamic rebel groups. Supporters of the president claim that the rebels are terrorists and that they will impose Sharia law on Syria after the fall of Al-Assad!

Sectarianism has grow to a high level. Christians and secular Syrians genuinely fear the Al-Nusra Front and the Syrian Islamic Front, who talk about a Islamic Emirate of Syria and complete Sharia rule. The terrorist attacks by some rebels against government supporters has led many revolutionary leftists to support Al-Assad. With revolutionary leftists we mean people who come from the Stalinist tendency. Like the supporters of the Communist Party of Great Britain - Marxist Leninist, who also supported Gaddafi and his Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The CPGB-ML claims that the Syrian rebels are tools of global imperialism!

But not only Stalinist leftists support Al-Assad. Some secularists in the western world choose side for Bashar Al-Assad. After the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terrorism by the USA, the fear of Islamism has blinded many for the crimes committed by the Syrian government. But does that mean that revolutionary socialists should support the FSA?

No, we believe that the FSA also is infected by bourgeois sectarianism. Class conscious workers and socialists cannot support any side of this reactionary war; neither the doomed -Al-Assad regime or the militias run by religious extremists or who otherwise subordinate themselves to Western imperialism and the reactionary Arab states that sponsor Syria’s rebels.  

Because this is also true. The reactionary monarchies in Saudi-Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, support the FSA. They are Sunni Muslim and oppose the Shia Muslim dominated Syrian government. For them this war is just a fight to remove Shia Muslims from power and replaced them with Sunni Muslims, pure sectarianism. Also the secular rebels have no political agenda. So it is unsure what they will do once Bashar Al-Assad is gone. The FSA in March 2013 has 70.000 soldiers, the SAF lost about 30% of its soldiers to the FSA!

On March 3, Al-Nusra Front fighters and FSA rebels attacked the city of Al-Raqqah. After three days of fighting, the city was captured. This was the first provincial capital captured by rebels forces. In the city they captured two high government officials. As the SAF retreated from Al-Raqqah, rebels torn down a huge statue of Hafez Al-Assad. This statue stood in the center of the city and was the face of the dictatorial regime for many years. With great joy the Islamic rebels torn the statue down. Yet it is not sure if the rebels are able to hold the city in the long term!  

Also in the news, females are joining the government militia's. Since the SAF has lost many male soldiers to combat and defections, the Syrian government is now turning towards woman. These woman are brainwashed into believing that it is their patriotic duty to defend the Syrian Arab Republic against the Islamic and secular rebels. Years of brainwashing has done its work it seems. Some 500 females have joined a new government militia!

In the long run it seems that Bashar Al-Assad is losing. Even with new females in his army, he is facing international isolation. His government is no longer recognized by western governments and Syrian money in western banks has been frozen. Russia, Iran and China as the last true supporters of Al-Assad. But even with their support it seems unlikely he will win this civil war. The FSA has grown to 70.000 soldiers and the Al-Nusra Front owns 10.000 fighters. His own SAF is down to 120.000 troops. Also on the side of the rebels are the Kurdish rebels fighting in the north of Syria. The Kurdish Popular Protection Units defend Syrian Kurdish towns, against both the government and the Al-Nusra Front. Because the secular Kurdish rebels have no love for the Islamic rebels of Al-Nusra! 

Some Syrians asked for western aid against Al-Assad. But unlike Libya there is no oil in Syria for western imperialism to own. There is little to gain for helping the rebels. Also the western world fears a Islamic victory and the rule of Sharia law. The western world does not care about Syrians, even if they would aid them.  Western imperialism only serves capitalism and if capitalism finds no profits in Syria they will keep out! 

Only the Syrian working class can bring genuine change. Workers must unite to protect their homes against the SAF, but also against criminal FSA and Al-Nusra rebels. They must oppose sectarianism and see that the true enemy is capitalism!  

The flag on the left is the flag of the Syrian Arab Republic
this flag is used by the Syrian government and its supporters.
The right flag was used between 1932 and 1958, 
now in use by the Syrian rebels!

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism

Struggle, Solidarity, Socialism