By now it should be evident that the mainstream news outlets’ coverage of events in Syria is flawed, at best. Even those news outlets that are accused of being ‘sympathetic’ to the demands of the opposition only scratch the surface of what’s really happening in Syria. Headlines focus on military events, such as the seizing of government air bases by the rebels, or the recent tensions between Turkey, Russia and Syria. Basically, no matter what slant a news outlet takes, the only news stories that are reported are those that do not contradict the dominant ‘civil war’ or ‘proxy war’ narrative. Frankly, this can be very depressing for those of us on the outside.
However, there is still reason for hope. A number of events that have occurred in the last week that were not reported in mainstream news outlets, but in social media circles, show that despite everything Syria has gone through, rationality prevails, and this, more than anything, should give us hope for the future in a post-Assad Syria.
Take, for example, the recent events in Al-Qardaha. Qardaha is the hometown of the Assad family. Throughout the revolution, many sectarian statements have been made against this town, as if it is as a whole culpable for the crimes of the Assad regime. However, a few days ago, news trickled out that there was infighting in Qardaha between the Assad family and other families of the town. What happened exactly isn’t clear, but the news that was being reported widely was that Qardaha was rejecting Assad rule. What is more telling than whatever actually happened in Qardaha is the reaction by Syrian revolutionaries. Excitement spread throughout the Syrian opposition community. Many Syrian revolutionaries posted statements in solidarity with the town: “Qardaha is rising up!” “Go Qardaha go!” “Qardaha we are with you!”. Then, the town of Kafranbel in Idlib, which is famous for its clever signs, released a video of a protest they had where they declared their solidarity with Qardaha. In the video, the people of Kafranbel chant the classic Syrian revolution chant to declare solidarity with other cities undergoing repression, but, for the first time, the city being named is Qardaha: “O Qardaha, we are with you till death!”
News of the events in Qardaha and the popular excitement in reaction to it culminated on Friday, October 12th. Since the Syrian revolution began, every “Friday” has a name, such as “The Friday of the Unification of the FSA Brigades”, or “The Friday of the Revolution is for all Syrians.” The Friday of October 12th name was the first in a while that Syrians were excited about, for it was named the Friday of “The Revolutionaries of the Sahel Will Make Us Victorious.” The Sahel, literally meaning “the coast”, is the region in Syria comprised of the Lattakia and Tartus provinces. The Sahel is the historical home and center of life for the Alawite community (the coastal mountains in the Sahel in particular). Although the cities of the Sahel are mixed, and Alawites don’t constitute a majority in them, it is where they are most concentrated throughout Syria. Thus, the naming of the Friday like this, especially in reaction to the news coming out of Qardaha, is a very positive development.
Another reason there is still hope is reports of huge protests in Aleppo, where much of the military battle has been concentrated in the last few weeks. One protest caught on video shows a young boy leading protest chants for a very enthusiastic crowd in Bustan AlQasr, a poor working-class neighborhood of Aleppo. Although it seems just like any other protest, this one was worthy of mentioning due to what the boy is chanting. There has been much criticism of the actions of the armed revolutionaries in Aleppo, so much so that some people have declared they can no longer support the armed opposition after the events in Aleppo. The chants of the boy, however, show us that the people of Bustan AlQasr’s position is very nuanced. While raising revolutionary flags, and cursing Bashar, they also criticize the FSA in Aleppo who are making mistakes. This type of non-dogmatic, nuanced support for the revolution gives hope for a post-Assad Syria where reason and rationality prevail over ideology and “with-us-or-against-us” mentalities. The video is posted with translations below:
Syria, freedom or nothing!
May God make our revolution victorious
and down down with the Baath party!
And we don’t want anymore looting (referring to FSA here)
That is true!
And our brigades are fighting each other
That is true!
They stole the sugar and the tahin.
That is true!
And this guy (Bashar) is a thief!
That is true!
He even stole my dreams!
That is true!
He stole what little my family had!
That is true!
I am with this revolution!
That is true!
At the checkpoint they stripped me
That is true!
They threw me in prison
That is true!
And then they accused me of thuggery.
In addition to all this, a new statement has been released by the revolutionaries in the Sahel as an appeal to the Alawite community. I have translated the statement below:
Statement by the Battalions and Committees of the Sahel (Coast) Regarding the Events of Al-Qardaha and the Rural Sahel
In the name of God, the gracious, the merciful.
O sons of our coast, in the mountains of the Alawites:
We people of the Sahel are very aware that the Assad family has no regard for any sect or religion, and that it’s singular regard is to remain in power, even if that costs them the sons of their own sect.
And you all know the names of your sons who were killed by Hafez Al-Assad in the period that he governed in order for him to consolidate his power over the sect first, and Syria second.
It did not make a difference for Salah Jadid, Mohammad Omran, and others, that they were Alawites in the days of the father Hafez, just like it did not make a difference for the hundreds of Alawite dissidents in the days of his son, for the regime treated them with brutality and barbarism like it treats all dissidents from all sects. In this regard, all sects were treated equally; even the writers and those who were peaceful among you were not spared whenever they dissented; the story of the poet Hassan Al Khayer whose tongue was cut off by Hafez al Assad who then murdered him, and also the story of the death of the employee in Qardaha at the hands of someone from the Assad family a short time ago is the biggest evidence of this.
We realize that there are those of you who are against this regime and its crimes, and for this reason, the slogan “One, one, one…The Syrian people are one!” was one of the first slogans that was chanted by all Syrian revolutionaries, and it was the message we wanted to send to you before any other person so you could put your hands in ours to make this gang fall, but unfortunately we have not received what we aspired for, and the regime was successful in getting a lot of your sons to kill and repress us, and we hear the voices of the murderers speak in your accent and pose for pictures next to our bodies and our prisoners.
Despite all this, we still to this day believe that there are many among you who reject what this regime has been doing in your name, but our faith in you is not sufficient unless Syrians as a whole see you standing sincerely and strongly on the side of victory for your brothers.
Like we previously invited you to do, we want you to be with us to bring down this gang and disavow all the mistakes being made in your name, and hasten the withdrawal of your sons from the army and the security forces, and cleanse your villages from Shabiha and their followers. As this happens, you will see us become close to you, support you, and encourage you.
The Great Syrian revolution is advancing, God willing, towards the realization of its goals, and the day of decisiveness is approaching slowly with His help, and we think that you have begun to feel this. So it is for us, and for you, and for Syria, that we invite you to put your hands in our hands to accelerate the downfall of this regime so we can teach our sons and your sons to live in peace and to try to remove all these tensions that the the Assad family gang planted between us over the course of 40 years.
Your participation with us in bringing down this gang will protect you and protect us from the regime’s attempts to ignite sectarian strife between us, and will save a lot of blood of the sons of your homeland who are being killed every day at the hands of Shabiha who are comprised of many of your sons, unfortunately.
Our Sahel, that is decorated by the generosity of our sea, can accommodate all of us, and our history and world history will write lines about our great revolution; Could your stance in the face of these crimes of this gang be like the stance of the free men of the mountain who stood against its division in the old days [here referring to French plan to create separate Alawite state in the mountains]. Would you accept that this history records you as being with Bashar and his gang, or with those free men who will live in the memory all of Syrians, without regard for different sects?
Syria, which we all love, with its mountains and its beaches, waits for a strong stance from you. Please do not disappoint us and disappoint it with it.
Signed: Free Men of the Sahel Brigade. Hijra to Allah Bridages. Mountain of Turkmen Brigades. The Sahel Tasks Brigade. News Organization of Lattakia. We are all Anas Shughri. The Free Syrian News Network of the Sahel-Jable-Banias-Lattakia-Tartous. The Syrian Revolution Against Bashar Al Assad in Tartous.
Perhaps the statement is not 100% ideal, but it is certainly a step forward. By at least making attempts to reach out to the Alawite communities, this statement gives hope for a post-Assad Syria.
There are many things to be depressed about these days in regards to Syria. Syrians today watch the news in horror. We have all been overcome by defeatism. However, if you turn off the TV every once in a while, and just try to listen to what some are trying to tell us, there is a chance that you may catch a glimmer of something positive. And while that may not be much, and while we may be getting a little overexcited, there is a chance, however small, that it means something. And if it does mean something, then it has the capability of shaping a better post-Assad Syria. And for this reason, there is hope. For it is in our darkest hours that a glimmer of light is noticeable.