- Created: Friday, 07 October 2011 13:31
- Written by Bob Shepherd
The continuing protests against the Assad regime have now been going for six months despite the brutal response of the state. Human rights groups calculate that over 2,500 people have been killed in the ongoing protests; the state claims that armed terrorists have been involved and that around 500 police and security officers have been killed in the same period. There are clearly different strands to the opposition to Assad and Ba’ath Party rule. One is represented by the large protests that have taken place in many cities calling for political reforms, which have been mostly peaceful, but have been suppressed, at times brutally, by the army and security forces. Another strand is armed and associated with the Muslim Brotherhood; their actions in attacking police and security forces are the basis of Assad’s claims that armed gangs and terrorists backed by foreign interests are attempting to break up the Syrian state.
The imperialists are involved in attempting to undermine the Syrian government and co-opt the opposition in the hope that a new regime will end its alliance with Iran and its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. Following the visit at the beginning of July of the ambassadors of the US and France to the city of Hama to support anti-government protests, on 13 September the British Ambassador to Syria joined ambassadors and envoys from the US, France, Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and the representative of the EU at a memorial vigil in Daraya, Damascus for an activist, Giyath Matar, who his family said had died in custody. The British government indicated that it would continue to openly interfere in Syria’s internal politics by supporting the opposition.
After a number of different conferences in Europe and Turkey of exiled opposition groups, mainly associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, on 14 September in what seems a significant step a meeting in Istanbul announced the formation of the ‘Syrian National Council’. Around half its 140 members are said to be based in Syria. At a news conference Al Jazeera reported that its spokesperson Basma Kadmani declared that the aim of the Council was to topple Assad within six months; she opened the door for foreign military intervention by saying they were ‘in favour of international protection of civilians’.
On 17 September opposition activists inside Syria held a conference in Damascus organised by the ‘National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change’ (NCBDC). The call for the conference was centred around three demands: no to violence, no to sectarian division and no to foreign intervention.
A statement issued by a leading member of the NCBDC at the end of the conference called for: ‘the overthrow of the tyrannical and corrupt security regime and for democratic change, the peaceful revolution of the Syrian people must continue... We must end the military solution, allow peaceful protests, withdraw the army to the barracks, try those responsible for the massacre of protesters, release all political prisoners and begin reconciliation between the army and the people.’ The NCBDC was created in June and is reported to have representatives from Syrian secular movements; one of the Communist Parties and a number of Kurdish political parties; the Muslim Brotherhood is not involved and did not attend the conference.
The Syrian government is also engaged in what it calls the ‘National Dialogue’, with meetings taking place across the country in all the main towns and cities to discuss political, economic and social reforms. Whether this is too late to answer the demands of the opposition and diffuse the protests remains to be seen.
Our position is clear: we oppose any interference, whether military or economic, from British imperialism in the affairs of Syria. As the Deputy Foreign Minister of Cuba put it in a statement opposing the UN Security Council’s condemnation of Syria: ‘Cuba reiterates its confidence in the capacity of the Syrian government and people to solve their internal problems without any foreign interference and demands full respect for this Arab country’s free self-determination and sovereignty.’
Imperialist hands off Syria!
FRFI 223 October/November 2011