In the last months a surge for dignity, freedom and respect has unfolded in the Middle East. I remember how my friend Amjad Baiazy left on that note to his homeland Syria. He seriously thought he could make a difference in Syria for the better. Now the Syrian plight for dignity is getting stuck in an impasse that manifests itself in a battle between government and opposition. Symbolically our friend Amjad has been imprisoned for almost a month now by the Syrian secret service. Little more is known about his fate.
In the meanwhile my facebook page shows a mix of messages from friends with both the oppositional camp’s strong revolutionary rhetoric and the propagandistic messages of the pro-government camp. And so, like two ghosts rolling their muscles in mirror image of each other, the two camps are heading for collision.
Other then hope for the future, the revolutions in Syria and the rest of the Middle East have a lack of a thorough plan and lack of a concrete productive attitude in common. When coming from the government plans have proven hollow promises and the opposition seems to lack the vision to formulate a focused perspective as well. Meanwhile the government as much as the opposition hides more and more in their deeply rooted sectarian and religious camps.
The chance the revolts will lead from bad to worse becomes larger with the day. The call for a better future for his country of my friend Amjad of one-and-a-half month ago now dies away in the dungeons of the Syrian secret service. The call for freedom heard at Tahrir square is deteriorating into a state of anarchy in which armed gangs kill policemen, after having done the same to innocent alawites, the sect which president Bashar al-Assad originates from.
The impossibility of the flight forward seems to be as impossible as the situation Syrians were trying to escape from. The revolts seem to get stuck in two devilish dilemma’s. The first devilish dilemma manifests itself in time: Syria is stuck between a problematic recent history that did not bring any significant change for the better for most, and an insecure future, that will possibly lead to a civil war similar to the ones raging in Lebanon and Iraq in the last decades.
The second dilemma is one of choice between the two camps, between the government and the opposition. A choice that is hard to make for the generally neutral Syrian population as much as it is for the international community. The problem is in the fact that government as well as opposition are basically not to be trusted. The government is lead by deeply embedded interests of the secret and security services and the people around them, often alawite. The opposition is feared to be hijacked by armed resistance groups with unclear but likely not only good plans with Syrian minorities.
The whirlwind that is moving through Syria and the wider Middle East is in this sense an explosive expression of the negative spiral of economic stagnation, a stagnated juristic system and a society which is corrupted through and through. A situation that originates not only from a government which is authoritarian to the bone, but as much in a society that never learned to co-exist in a peaceful manner and resigns now to a primal eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth.
The same dilemma’s echo in the hollow phrases and actions of government and opposition. For the government the lack of a solution expresses itself in a desperate attempt to torture the problems away of which our friend Amjad Baiazy is most probably the victim now. President Bashar al-Assad is lost between the necessity to hold on to his power cost-what-costs, while his political life also depends on the necessity for him to make sure that the until not too long ago still neutral majority will not abandon him completely.
Some oppositional groups try to break through today’s impasse by killing anyone associated to the government they can lay hands on, may they be policemen or alawites. Other peaceful people like my friend Amjad Baiazy are now locked up in a cell of the Syrian muhabarat because they thought this was their chance to really change something in their country through peaceful means.
As president Bashar al-Assad is getting stuck in his own web of power, our friend Amjad Baiazy got stuck in his own web of impossible hopes. This way the not long ago still proud Syrian people are falling victim to the tragedies unfolding. The international community and with them me, are left in tango, and despair for our friends.
Ruben Elsinga is holder of a MSc. in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He has lived in Damascus, Syria for one and a half years, where he worked at the Netherlands Institute of Academic Studies. Also check out Ruben’s personal blog www.rubenelsinga.wordpress.com