The following piece was written in Arabic by Firas Sawah فراس السّوّاح [AR], an independent Syrian scholar (from Homs, Syria) in the field of mythology, history of religion and biblical studies. It appeared [AR] on a Facebook page [AR] dedicated to him and his writings on September 17, 2011.
The penetrated revolution
By Firas Sawah
In 1971 I went to the United States on a scholarship given to me by the International Organization, and I was then thirty years old. I arrived to the capital Washington, DC during the height of the youth revolution that has moved from Europe to America [, albeit] a bit late. It was a revolution that aspired to change the world at the time, and to undermine the political and economic structures of modern capitalism. Millions of young people who belong to families that are well-off had left their homes and their well being and started to roam around the country to demonstrate, sing and dance, not for the sake of any living needs they had, but in order to undermine the false American democracy and to be in the pursuit of justice in the world. The beginning of their favorite song was: Power for the people. I marched with them and demonstrated against the Vietnam War. I attended their meetings and shared with them their evening sessions in front of their tents that they put up on the bank[s] of the Potomac River. I cannot forget that week during which demonstrators flocked to the capital from all over the country and surrounded the White House and the Capitol and other federal government institutions, and filled the city, which remained under their control for several days.
Those scenes remained etched in my memory for a long time, and I wondered whether we were going to have a similar revolution in the Arab world. But the revolution was delayed and the memories and the hopes had faded, all until they were brought back again forty years later. That was when the movement of young intellectuals in Syria broke out. It was a movement that assured me that the vitality that defined the Syrian people throughout their history had not died out, but was more like a smoldering ember under the ash, and which was about to produce flames. I dreamt of a country-wide youth movement that would re-create political opposition, starting from the street, and not from meetings of the educated political elites. But it soon became apparent to me that this movement (or revolution, as its people prefer to call it), and which snapped the first spark for the protests in the streets, demanding political and economic reform, this movement was born penetrated. This penetration came from several groups that followed the educated young people to the streets, working under the cover of their demands.The first penetration was by Islamic fundamentalisms, which are known from their history not to have any tool in politics other than violence. And as violence inherently induces counter-violence, I appealed to the youth, in my first call to them on Facebook, to isolate themselves from this group. That's because the feet of both warring parties would crush and abort their noble movement. That was also because a misleading team from that group began to raise slogans inciting sectarian strife, which soon broke out in a number of neighborhoods and cities, and which turned into violent confrontations between the sons of the same country.The second penetration came from a movement of protests with demands related to daily living needs. Members of that movement did not care about a new law for elections or a new parties law, as much as they were interested in solving their economic problems. And since they belong to the least educated segments of society, they were easily amenable to the calls for violence that emanated from suspicious parties. So, they bore arms, and citizens of the nation faced each other in a war that has no winner.The third penetration was by the culture of revenge that is rooted in Arab psychology. In any confrontations between protesters and law enforcement forces, and during which adrenaline reaches its highest levels in the blood, there will be casualties on both sides. And those casualties increase with the excessive use of force by security forces. This in turn leads to boiling in the street, with the only motive being revenge. The greater the number of casualties was on the civilian side the greater was the desire for revenge, and it became difficult to break that vicious cycle.The fourth penetration came from a spontaneous movement by groups of teenagers who were thrown outside the educational system for a variety of reasons, and who were also thrown outside the weak labor market. They found in the street movement a venue to vent their anger and their explosive energies of adolescence, and they organized themselves in gangs that threw rocks at security forces and assaulted public and private property.The fifth penetration was by the so-called external opposition, whose representatives (whom you see on television screens) had left the homeland several decades ago, and have integrated in their new societies [abroad]. They acquired the nationalities [of the countries they settled in] and gave birth to children who grew up to become young adults who do not know Arabic and who feel embarrassed in front of their peers of their oriental [i.e. Middle Eastern] origins. And while I do not deny those expatriates the right to be concerned about issues in the motherland, or even the right to organize demonstrations that express their opinion abroad, I do reject their organized institutional work, that aims to steal the toil, the effort and the blood of the Syrian street, particularly since their opposition had grown up under the auspices of the Ottomans in Anatlya, and under the care of a Zionist forum in Paris, and the care of the State Department in Washington. And here they are finally asserting their identity and their belongingness by choosing Doha as a place for their meeting, before heading to the [Ottoman] Sublime Porte in Istanbul. The result was that this opposition gave birth to a mouse they called the Syrian National Council, whose goal, and which will be announced soon, won’t be anything but to seek foreign protection, or in other words: military intervention that aims to destroy the Syrian army on Israel's behalf.
The sixth and the most dangerous of these penetrations came from that phantom party that issues names to label the Fridays [of protests in Syria]. I do not have sufficient information about this party to qualify me to describe it and to [further] characterize it. But I ask you: who gave the ninth day of September the name “the Friday to seek international protection”? If you do not know the answer, and you won't know, then it is time to reconsider, and to search for realistic solutions that would heal the bleeding wounds of the homeland and that would protect it from an impending disaster.Reprinted from the: Baladna "magazine"