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Last Updated: 08/05/2011
News from Syria
Harout Akdedian

On the 4th of July, on my way to Syria, I was reading a book entitled Between Equal Rights by China Miéville. The book was a Marxian perspective on international law and the title was borrowed from Marx’s famous quote: “Between equal rights, force decides”. As I was passing across the cities of Hama and Homs, I was thinking to myself that if between equal rights force decides, what decides between equal forces? Furthermore, what is it that decides between very similar forces that are equally brutal and violent? I felt like a spectator of a chess game where both opponents are playing the same color. Have you ever seen a chess game where both opponents are playing the same color and the pieces on the board are all white or all black?

After two visits in a month, that’s my impression of the events in Syria.

I had seen some of the TV channels and some of the clips on Youtube showing brutal images on Syria, and at the same time friends and family from Syria were saying something completely different. I decided to come and see it myself. I came to Syria on the 4th of July, I stayed for some 10 days in Aleppo. I saw nothing close to what was being reported on the news. After going back to Lebanon the situation was reported to be getting worse. I came back on the 2nd of August and this time the situation was not as peaceful as the first time. On my way to Aleppo, tanks and soldiers were stationed left and right every few hundred meters on the road near Hama and Homs. In Aleppo, however, the second largest province of Syria after Damascus, people are still living the same way they have always been. The contradicting images that I am still receiving are characteristic of the recent confusing situation.

At first, it seemed that Syria was a follow-up on the Tunisian and Egyptian popular uprisings; it seemed that Syria was trying to do without another dictator in the region; a plausible story for most spectators. Last week, before making my second trip, I saw a clip on one of those TV channels showing a pick-up truck stacked with the bodies of dead Syrian soldiers covered with blood and being thrown by opposition forces into the Aassi river with shouts insulting the dead and glorifying god at once. The shouts glorifying god and insults to the dead were another moment capturing contradictions.

In the midst of all those contradictions, I decided to look into the history for some clarification on the issue. Interestingly, history adds to the complexities and the contradictions surrounding the events. Hama was one of the regions that was brutally suppressed after the Coup D’état orchestrated by Hafez Assad (Bashar’s father). The massacres were implemented by a guy named Ref’at Assad (Bashar’s uncle). Interestingly Ref’at’s name still echoes in my ears, as he is one of those who are currently opposing the regime and holding the banner of democracy and freedom.

As I am sitting right now in Syria writing those words I can say that the people here, just like any other place facing turmoil, are once again at a crossroads between the bad and the worst. The majority of the population is passive and a tiny minority is engaging in fights and battles that will shape the future of everyone in the country. Such options seem to be defining, as they have always been, the pattern of our individual and collective socio-political realities. I can’t see valiant freedom fighters, I see more people executing their orders and serving the functions that their circumstances have subscribed upon them. Either one of us could be amongst any of the fighting flanks had we been born and raised in their realities.

A chess game where all the pieces on board seem to be shiny white or evil black depending on the ones looking at them – what can I say about such a situation? Maybe everyone would be better off without the game, if such a thing is possible. Maybe it’s just better to engage with the ones moving the pieces rather than focusing on the minor pieces being sacrificed on the board. Or maybe sacrificed pieces are all that we can deal with.

Harout Akdedian,
Syria, Aleppo
4 August 2011

Harout Akdedian holds a Master's degree from the University for Peace.