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I’ve always been a fan of Banksy’s work. One of the images on the right side of this blog is an image of a Banksy work. But I’m honestly just baffled by this latest video that’s supposed to be a comment on Syria. It seems devoid of any kind of substance. Either that, or all of us are missing something.

But what is clear is the imagery Banksy uses is offensive, no matter the intent. The imagery is, on the one hand, Orientalist: the buffoon-ish Arabs, savagely celebrating killing a poor animal, while one jumps atop of it and the other is kicked in the shin by a child, amidst screams of “Allahu Akbar.” On the other hand, the context of the video given the imagery is offensive as well. The audio was pulled from this video, a video of a rebel attack on a Syrian warplane in Mennegh air base, near Aleppo. In the Banksy video, you can clearly discern the words “Governorate of Aleppo” being uttered at around the 15 second mark. Mennegh air base was a base that the Syrian regime used to launch airstrikes on Aleppo, causing immense destruction and ravaging the city. So what exactly is the message? That the Syrian regime warplanes are analogous to poor flying elephants? That the rebels in Syria are a bunch of ragtag buffoons going around trying to kill even the poorest creatures?

Perhaps this wasn’t his intent. Perhaps the video is an exercise in “art for art’s sake.” But that is hard to believe given Banksy’s penchant for social commentary in his works. He’s obviously trying to say something, and unfortunately, if there’s a deeper message that we are all missing, if it does happen to be about the DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn or whatever, it is overshadowed by the very superficial picture painted on the surface.

Banksy’s previous works that focused on the Middle East weren’t as baffling. On the apartheid wall in Palestine, he drew pictures of “paradises” beyond the wall, and one of a little girl patting down an Israeli soldier. These were celebrated as witty, daring works. He even paired these works with anecdotes, such as this conversation he had with a Palestinian man while painting the wall:

Old man: You paint the wall, you make it look beautiful.
Banksy: Thanks
Old man: We don’t want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall, go home.

That’s why this latest video is so confusing to me. The video just seems to be a desperate attempt to weigh in on something for the sake of weighing in on it, and by doing so, led to this analysis that at best is ambiguous, and at worst, victimizes the Syrian regime by analogizing it to a poor cartoon animal.

Is what’s happening in Syria today a revolution, a civil war or a proxy war? Far more than just an argument over semantics, which term is used to refer to the situation in Syria today denotes a political position. Supporters of the Syrian opposition call it a revolution, while those not at all sympathetic to the opposition call it a proxy war, which is an attempt to disparage the opposition. But which of these terms is accurate?

Instead of inventing definitions from thin air, examining how each term was employed historically is helpful in this case. And the most helpful precedent that we can use is that of the Spanish Civil War. So, was what is today known as the “Spanish Civil war” a revolution, a civil war, or a proxy war?

The answer is all of the above.

The Spanish Civil war was a civil war in that it mostly consisted of people of the same country fighting against each other (although Franco had brought in some foreigners, and the Republicans had internationalists traveling from all over to help them in their struggle). The Spanish Civil war was also considered a proxy war in that each side had foreign states backing them with their own particular interests. The Soviet Union backed the Republicans while the fascist states of Germany and Italy backed Franco. The Soviet Union had its own interests in supporting the Republicans: to curb the influence of global fascism as a challenge to communism, to use Spain as a laboratory to test their weaponry and equipment, to make sure their communist party won rather than any other non-USSR aligned leftists, etc.

Despite this, the Spanish Civil War was also referred to as a revolution, and the soldiers that fought for the Republic were referred to as revolutionaries. It was a revolution because, first of all, they were trying to overthrow Franco’s fascist government that had taken power in a military coup, and replace it with another one, with a lot of popular support from the people. Secondly, it was a revolution because some of the Republican parties were revolutionizing social relations in the midst of battle.The Anarchists (CNT-FAI) and the Trotskyists (POUM), would collectivize work places and implement a number of revolutionary social measures whenever they would capture new territory, in what became known as a “revolution within a revolution.” (It is worth noting here that the USSR-allied communist parties acted in a very reactionary matter by forcefully reversing such measures under orders from the USSR).

Thus, the Spanish Civil War was simultaneously a revolution, a civil war, as well as a proxy war. What about Syria?

The situation in Syria is very similar. It is a civil war in that both sides involved are from the same country and fighting against each other (although, as in Spain, there are internationals fighting on both sides, notably, Iranians and Hezbollah militants with the Assad regime, and foreign Sunni jihadists with the opposition). It is a proxy war in that each side in the civil war has foreign state backers (Iran and Russia for Assad, the West and the GCC states for the opposition). And, finally, it is a revolution in that a large percentage of the population wishes to overthrow the regime and replace it with another. But it also is a social revolution, in that we have seen an unprecedented eruption of the “Syrian street,” whereby the elite no longer holds a monopoly on art and culture. This reclamation of the public space, exemplified by facebook pages, videos, songs, parodies, and witty signs, is in itself a revolution. And it is “popular” in that this eruption involves segments of society that were historically subaltern and excluded from the cultural and public life of Syria. Just as the Spanish revolutionaries were reclaiming their workplaces, the Syrian revolutionaries are reclaiming their voices, and this is Syria’s own “revolution within a revolution.”

So, if we look at historical precedents, Syria’s revolution, like Spain’s, is a revolution, a civil war, and a proxy war all in one. The point here is that these are not mutually exclusive categories. They are terms that can complement each other and are used to describe different aspects of a conflict. In fact, historically, there is very little precedent for any conflict in any place being only one or the other without some intersection and overlap. The Bolshevik revolution turned into the Russian Civil War. The Cuban revolution against Batista was a popular uprising against a US-backed dictator, yet the rebels later sought Soviet support, thus, Batista, and later Cuba’s revolutionaries, were also proxies, in the classical definition of the word. Yet, in leftist discourse, this was all ok, because, in Russia, Spain, and Cuba, one side was fighting a righteous struggle against another. Thus, them being involved in a civil war, or a proxy war, was not something that delegitimized their revolution.

But, in today’s usage of the term “proxy war” to refer to Syria, it is clear that people are not simply trying to state “it is a revolution with foreign state backers,” but rather, that the fact that there is a proxy war leaves no room for revolution, or even for civil war. This is exemplified by statements such as, “It is not a revolution, it is a proxy war,” or analysis that proclaims “what started out as a revolution is now a proxy war” whereby Syria is reduced to a “battleground” for foreign states.

This analysis creates the category of “proxy war” as one that is mutually exclusive and that cancels out anything and everything that preceded it. Revolutions, the argument goes, must remain “pure,” and once foreign states become involved, the situation is no longer a “revolution.” Here it is worth recalling Lenin, who, in his essay “The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up,” said: “Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is.”

Those who are claiming that Syria’s conflict is “not a revolution, but a proxy war” are misusing the term proxy war and misrepresenting what revolutions were historically. The new usage of the term by those who wish to deny that Syria is also undergoing a revolutionary process denies the history of revolutions against governments frequently being proxy wars at the same time. Instead, it is trying to draw a comparison not to the righteous struggles of the past that also just happened to be proxy wars, but to historical events such as the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1959, whereby Cuban exiles were trained by the CIA to do the the CIA’s bidding. They were sent into Cuba with no popular support base with the express purpose of overthrowing the revolutionary leftist government of Cuba, which was the objective of the US government. This is the analogy people are trying to draw when they say Syria’s situation today is a “proxy war and not a revolution.” However, this new definition of a proxy war does not apply to the Syrian case today. The Syrian rebels took up arms on their own accord, not because some other state told them to. They receive support from, but are not directed by, foreign states, for the most part. Thus, if we wish to characterize the armed opposition in Syria as a “proxy,” meaning they get support from foreign states, this is accurate. However, if by “proxy” we mean that they simply do foreign states’ bidding for them with no popular support base on the ground, this is inaccurate. Comparing Syria’s armed opposition to Cuban anti-Castro exiles or to Nicaraguan contras is a very vulgar and inaccurate slander that is meant to render invisible the popular support base for the opposition on the ground in Syria, as well as the agency of the armed Syrian opposition.

Even calling it a “proxy war” in the disparaging sense mischaracterizes the Assad regime. The Assad regime is not an Iranian/Russian proxy fighting to do the bidding of Iran and Russia in Syria. Rather, it is an entrenched junta that is fighting for its survival, with Iranian and Russian backing. Both sides, then, in Syria, are not “proxies” in the sense that they do foreign states’ bidding. They are only “proxies” if by proxy we mean that they receive foreign state backing. And yes, those foreign states that back each side do not do so out of the pureness of their hearts (which is itself a ridiculous argument, as it suggests states have acted out of the pureness of their hearts at some point in the past, which they have not), but rather for their own interests. But there is a difference between intervening with certain interests and achieving those interests (which explains the hesitancy of some of the states backing the opposition).

If we stick with the classical definition, then yes, the conflict in Syria today is a proxy war. But proxy war is not a dirty term, and does not preclude that there is also a revolution happening in Syria today.

Muaz al-Khatib was probably the most popular figure among Syrians on the ground that the outside opposition has had. He was a charismatic figure who had broad appeal among seculars and non-seculars alike (although he was not very popular with the Salafis). His brand of religiosity was seen by many as a reflection of Syrian society’s religiosity as a whole: religiously conservative, but certainly not extremist.

One of the things that made Muaz al-Khatib popular was steps he took against the rigidity of the rest of the opposition with his initiative, commonly referred to as the “Khatib Initiative.” The opposition’s policy of “No dialogue with the killer regime,” though principled, had failed to yield any results. This policy allowed the regime to portray the opposition as the “stubborn ones,” despite the fact that the regime itself has never been seriously interested in any kind of negotiations (which it continues to show to this day). Rejection of any kind of negotiation may have been principled, but it was bad politics.

The Khatib initiative, despite its strict preconditions for dialogue which included freeing political prisoners, was critically received by many in the opposition, most notably those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. However, many on the ground in Syria (including many of the Local Coordination Committees) welcomed the initiative as a step forward in that it was the first time the exile opposition had made a serious attempt to establish a tangible change on the ground that didn’t simply include asking countries for help or weapons. Personally, I didn’t think the initiative was going to yield any immediate tangible results, however, I believed it was a clever political move by Khatib as it put the regime in the tough position of having to openly reject negotiations.

The initiative ultimately made Khatib some enemies, particularly among “the hawks” of the Syrian opposition. Last week, when Ghassa Hitto was elected prime minister for the Interim Government, it was perceived by many as a move specifically meant to challenge Khatib’s authority and weaken it. Ghassan Hitto, who does not have the legitimacy that Khatib has, especially considering the fact that most Syrians had never even heard of him until he was elected, is a politically weak figure, which seems to suggest that he was not chosen based on merit or appeal on the ground (because he has none), but rather, due to the fact that some players knew that they could control him, which is something they couldn’t do with Muaz al-Khatib.

In an interview with Al-Arabiya, prominent Syrian opposition figure Michel Kilo accuses the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatari-backed forces in the Syrian opposition of propelling Hitto to power in a non-consensual manner: “Qatar wanted Hitto…and the Qatari-backed group in the National Coalition agreed on Hitto and imposed Hitto, without any political or consensual considerations that thinks of Syria in terms of a national cause…” Kilo implies that the election of Hitto was among the reasons that frustrated Muaz al-Khatib into resigning.

Since the beginning of the uprising, the Assad regime and its apologists all over the world have claimed that the entire Syrian opposition (outside and on the ground) is a group of Qatari-backed Muslim Brotherhood supporters who don’t represent Syrians. This characteristic lack of nuance on the part of the Assadist camp is now crumbling upon these latest events as the tension between the Qatari-backed camp and the rest of the Syrian opposition becomes more evident. So yes, it is true that Qatar is trying to impose its influence on the Syrian opposition. What is untrue is that they have totally succeeded in doing so and that the entire Syrian opposition has happily accepted it. To simply write off the entire Syrian opposition as a Qatari/Muslim Brotherhood front is reductive and ignores the tension and power struggle within the Syrian opposition. It also undermines and renders invisible all those in the Syrian opposition who are actively resisting Qatari influence on decision-making.

Many have claimed that Khatib’s resignation is a result of Khatib’s frustration with the international community in failing to support the Syrian opposition. Yet, the resignation clearly shows the fault lines within the official Syrian opposition. There are those Qatari-backed forces who are motivated primarily by self-interest. They are strong, cohesive, and act in concert. They don’t care about achieving consensus, nor do they care about electing figures with charisma or legitimacy. The primary motivation for their political maneuvers is simply to control as much as they can. Once Khatib challenged that control, it became evident that he was not part of this camp. So, in turn, the camp decided to challenge his authority with someone who, no matter how pure his intentions, was unknown and had relatively little legitimacy with Syrians. To the Qatari-backed forces, legitimacy on the ground is not a necessary condition to lead people on the ground, only legitimacy amongst them is. The audacity this camp had to challenge someone with such wide appeal among everyday Syrians and to opt for someone as illegitimate as Hitto shows where their interests lie. Simply put, Hitto being imposed and Khatib resigning out of frustration is bad for Syria, but good for the Qatari-backed camp in the Syrian opposition.

Death in Syria has become so normalized that 100 people being killed in a day no longer warrants any international media attention. But there are some images that are so brutal, so gruesome, so inhumane, that they shock us all, no matter how normalized we may be. Well, most of us, anyway.

The discovery of tens of corpses near the Qouaiq River in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood in Aleppo is one of those images. This image will certainly be one of the images that remain in our historical conscience, long after the Syrian revolution is over.

Bustan Al-Qasr is a neighborhood in Aleppo that is famous for its enthusiastic, critical protests (which I have written about before here). Yesterday, the residents of Bustan al-Qasr were doing this:

And today, they are doing this:

A few of the dead have been identified. Their names are:

Mohammad Dahala

Mohammad Mounir Rabhaoui

Anas Jamal

Yousef Oudba

Yousef Jalilati

Mohammad Dakki

Mohsen Ali Abd El-Qader

Ammar Sankri

Mahmoud Ramadan

Mohammad Kousa

Mohannad Hamndoush

Mohammad Kaj

Mohammad Qattan

Mohammad Kassah

Abdo Mouqresh Ibn Yahya

Mohammad Abd el-Rahman Badawi

Mohammad Yahya Najjaz

The corpses pulled out of the Qouaiq river by Bustan al-Qasr activists.

The corpses pulled out of the Qouaiq river by Bustan al-Qasr activists.

 

The rest of the 80 bodies have not yet been identified. Pictures of the unidentified martyrs have been posted online. Once seen up close, it is evident that those who were killed had undergone a lot of torture and brutal treatment before they died. Some have parts of their head missing. Others’ faces are so decomposed that they are hardly recognizable. The images recall images of corpses from the Houla Massacre, and images of corpses in general after they undergo torture by Assad’s Shabiha.

There is no shortage of crimes being committed in Syria today. Many of the armed rebels have made mistakes. Some have committed crimes against local residents. Others have looted and robbed. But despite all that, despite all their misgivings, there is only one party that is capable of such sadistic and heinous brutality and inhumanity. It is not the Free Syrian Army. It is not Jabhat al-Nusra. It is the Shabiha of Bashar al-Assad

The protesters of Hama graffiti’d in 2011: “Here, humanity stumbled.” That is not to say that other humans outside of Syria have failed Syria. That is not to say that other humans should have pressured their governments for a “humanitarian” intervention. What it means is that, in Syria, the concept of humanity was defeated. When the Shabiha step on Syrians’ faces to the point of deformity with their iron boots, they are stepping on much more than a human face. They are stepping on the concept of humanity altogether.

No, this is not another “who’s who” of the different members of the Syrian National Coalition. I won’t be explaining who Riyad al-Turk is and how he’s different from George Sabra. Rather, this is a rough guide to the different strands in the Syrian opposition that I’ve encountered over the past 2 years (because, contrary to popular belief, the Syrian opposition is not monolithic, but a diverse and multifaceted grouping of different people with a vast array of opinions). I’ve met these people through Skype, Twitter, Facebook, email, as well as in person. Some are in Syria, and some are not. These are the categories that I believe make up the Syrian people’s opposition today:

1) The Pacifist Crowd (“Jama’ait al-Silmiye”) 

The Pacifist crowd are known for their uncompromising, unrelenting commitment to the principles of nonviolence. Many were activists in the revolution very early on, and were instrumental in organizing protests and strike actions. Several of them were very active in the Local Coordination Committees.

Jama’ait al-Silmiye (Let’s call them JS for short) are very disillusioned as of late due to the increased dominance of the armed component of the revolution. They opposed the militarization of the revolution for a variety of reasons: First, because of their staunch, somewhat dogmatic commitment to nonviolence. Second, because of their fear that the rise of the armed groups will only empower the Islamists in the revolution, as many of the Jama’at al-Silmiye tend to be on the secular side. Third, because they see armed groups as “hijacking” what was once “their” revolution.

For all these reasons, many (but certainly not all) of the Jama’ait al-Silmiye have become solely focused on exposing and shedding light on the “crimes committed by the Free Syrian Army,” in a very “I-told-you-so” fashion. This has led many other opposition activists to label them traitors or accuse them of switching sides.

I have found that Jama’ait al-Silmiye usually advocate some variation of one of the following three solutions to end the Syrian crisis:

a) The Negotiated Settlement: The people of JS who argue for a negotiated settlement argue that through the use of violence, the FSA has become just as bad as the regime, and therefore no longer has the moral high ground to say “No to negotiations with the killers.” The only solution is, therefore, for “both sides” to put down their weapons and come to the negotiating table that has never even existed in the first place.

b) Intervention: The bulk of people who are still arguing for intervention belong to the JS crowd. Yes, it does seem paradoxical for people who believe in nonviolence to advocate for foreign military intervention, yet I have yet to receive a good answer from the JS Intervention crowd on how commitment to nonviolence and advocacy of military intervention can co-exist in the same moral universe. The argument for intervention by these people is that it is the quickest way to end the violence in Syria, and, if foreign powers intervene, this will prevent Islamist groups from gaining the power they would in a self-won victory. Thus, intervention kills two birds with one stone.

c) Return to Mass Protests: Perhaps the most committed to the revolution of the JS are those who advocate for a return to mass protests. They are not as disillusioned as the last two groups, they simply claim that the revolution took a “wrong turn” after the armed component became the dominant force. They believe that the way to bring down the regime and “take back” the revolution from the armed revolutionaries is to engage in mass civil disobedience, protests, and non-cooperation, until the regime can no longer survive. When these people run into trouble, however, is when they are asked what exactly is to prevent the regime from simply gunning down protests as it did when this tactic was used when the revolution started. After all, the armed component only became the dominant mode of struggle after the tactic they are advocating was so harshly repressed. To this, I have yet to receive an adequate answer, although, I will admit, I do share with this group a similar nostalgia for such tactics.

 2) The FSA-Are-Always-Right-And-Can-Do-No-Wrong Crowd

This crowd is the exact opposite of the previous crowd. They refuse to acknowledge any fault, any excess, or any wrongdoing committed by any member of a group engaged in armed struggle against the regime. This group tends to be dominated by Islamists, although there are some notable secular figures who also belong to it. They brush off any accusations of sectarianism. Anytime a minority is targeted in Syria, they declare either that the event did not happen and was regime propaganda, or that the people targeted were “probably shabiha” and “got what they deserved.” Anytime any pro-revolution activist complains about excesses by the rebels, the response of this crowd is usually the same: “Rouh sawee katibe ou sammeeha Guevara” (“If you don’t like it, go form your own brigade and call it Guevara”). Basically, this sums up the reasoning of their position: If you are not fighting on the ground, you cannot complain. The only role of civilians and non-combatants in the revolution is unconditional support and solidarity with all fighters and all the actions they commit, no matter what. The scariest part about this group is how much they remind us all of Ba’athists, at least tactically.

3) Everyone Else

The majority of activists fall somewhere in between these two typologies. There are those who are very much in favor of civil disobedience and mass protest tactics but who realize that the extent of violence utilized by the regime has no longer made that possible, and thus, begrudgingly accept the new dominance of armed partisans as the only alternative, albeit with varying degrees of caution. There are those who advocate for a scaling down of the armed resistance and for the FSA to return to its original defensive role, which, with the new capabilities of the FSA, may have the ability to re-spawn mass protests and civil disobedience. There are some who support the FSA but are aware of its flaws and excesses, and are wary of Islamist dominance, and thus, still call for an intervention that will never come. Others are totally in favor of armed resistance and do not have any fantasies about return to nonviolent tactics, yet also insist on being critical of the armed resistance so as not to simply replace one oppressive military dictatorship with another. The key in the last one is not cautious support of the FSA, but rather, to be a strong supporter while also remaining vigilant and not being scared to speak up against misconduct.

These are the various types of opposition activists that I have come across in the course of the revolution. Of course, no one person falls perfectly into one kind of typology. Think of the first two as forms of “ideal types,” and the last category as various examples of how different aspects from each of the ideal types can be combined to form an opposition activist’s “position.”

Image

Today, it is with great sadness that we learned about the death of Yusef al-Jader, whose nom-de-guerre was Abu Furat. Liwaa al-Tawhid announced that he was martyred today after leading a successful operation to liberate the Infantry School In Aleppo. Abu Furat was from Jarablus, a city on the border with Turkey in the suburbs of Aleppo.  He was a great fighter, but also a man of great principle.

In this video, Abu Furat is speaking right after the liberation of the Infantry School. In a dialogue with the cameraman, he says the following:

Cameraman: Tell us what you are feeling now Abu Furat.

Abu Furat: Honestly, I am bothered.

Cameraman: Why?

Abu Furat: I am bothered because these tanks [that we destroyed] are our tanks. The ammo is our ammo. Those fighters are our brothers. I swear to God, every time I see a person that is killed, from our side or from their side, I get sad. Because if that bastard [Bashar] had resigned, Syria would have been the best country in the world. But you clung to your throne you bastard, why? You started killing people when we were telling you we were peaceful, and you were saying it was all armed gangs. And us officers were sitting on our beds watching, when you were calling people terrorists. Honestly, we are not terrorists. You are the one who wants us to become terrorists.

Perhaps it is for this reason that he appears ecstatic in this video when he announces that over 70 soldiers from the Infantry School in Aleppo defected a few days before he was killed. Seeing soldiers have to be killed to defend Bashar’s throne would bother him, and defections meant many lives would be spared, which perhaps gave him some solace.

In this video from two days ago, Abu Furat sends a message to Bashar about sectarianism:

“We want to send a message to the regime, Bashar al-Assad. This man is our brother. This man is a Alawite. I lived in Lattakia for 22 years. Why did you plunge your own sect in a battle for you and try to make them hate Sunnis? Why? Don’t you think about how we are going to live together? Well, despite you, we are going to live together. I know Alawites are a generous and nice people. Many of them are poor too. And you use these people to achieve your own malicious goals. And these are the children of villages. Bread probably takes a year to finally make its way to their villages. They are poor, they don’t have food, they don’t have bread, if one of them gets sick, they will die because they can’t afford medicine.

But I want to ask from you my Alawite brothers–and you know me, I have sat among you and  drank matté with you before–be careful: We are not your enemies, we are your brothers, we are participants in the nation, and we lived together. And Saleh al-Ali [anti-colonial Syrian Alawi leader during French colonialism] refused to work under the French flag, and refused to separate into a Alawi state, just like his sons and grandsons will also refuse such a thing. The plans have been exposed, and our Alawite brothers will come back to us, for we are the same.”

Knowing that extraordinary characters like Abu Furat are fighting on the frontlines and leading battles in Syria gives great hope for the future of Syria, in terms of the victory against Assad, and also in terms of the prospects for a post-Assad Syria.

Rest in power ya shahid Abu Furat.

 

In the midst of reports that Christians are forming their own militias to keep the Free Syrian Army out of their neighborhoods in Aleppo, and that a brigade in Idlib has named itself after the murderous dictator Saddam Hussein (probably for sectarian reasons), a new video has emerged that challenges the sectarian narrative in Syria.

On Tuesday a video was posted to YouTube announcing the formation of a new battalion in the Free Syrian Army in the Damascus countryside composed entirely of Syrian Christians. Crosses and Free Syria flags decorate the room as the rebels read their proclamation to the camera.

After posting the video, a friend of mine was nice enough to write out the entire translation of their statement. It is posted below along with the video:

“Glory to God in the heavens, and peace on earth, and happiness to the people.

We the youth of the revolution who adhere to the Christian faith hereby proclaim the formation of the ‘Supporters of God’ Battalion in Rif Dimashq, (literally the Damascus countryside, which is one of the 14 governorates of Syria) thus becoming the loyal soldiers and defenders of our land alongside our Muslim brothers and partners, in this country that does not know division or sectarianism, except when uttered by the tongue of this corrupt regime.

This regime does not attribute to God the glory that is His, and [this regime] bears no relation to peace whatsoever. Consequently, we have taken an oath not to return to our churches that have been defiled by the regime until our land is liberated from this tyrannous gang.

We ask God to make us pure of our mistakes, and we ask the Syrian people to be loving and forgiving to each other in order for victory to be our ally. Long live Syria, free and proud!” (Chants of ‘long live Syria, free and proud!’)