Revolutions: Syria Revolution: Syria Chris Hrozencik/ Period 1
History of Syria • The al-Assad reign in Syria started in 1963 when the Ba’ath Party gained the majority of the legislative Branch and was able to impose an Emergency Law that suspended a majority of Constitutional rights created by the republic and placed a heavy control socially, economically, and politically on Syria. The Ba’ath kept the majority for a long time to the present day, as opposing political parties were not tolerated by the Ba’ath and the other political parties in Syria could not run for a fair election, thus giving the al-Assad’s no competition to replace them with. As the 1970s rolled around Hafez al-Assad was made president. By the 1980s when the Muslim brotherhood threatened to turn their regime over for control of Syria, they cracked down on them and banned their party from political formation. They have done this to many other political parties over the years to continue the al-Assad/ Ba’ath power. Elections remain unopposed. • The US and Syria have not had a great foreign relationship for several years. Contact was severed in 1964 but rekindled in 1970s. After cooperation within the Gulf War and placing several meetings of agreement in the Syrian government, the relationship began to lighten up. But after 9/11, Syria began distancing itself from large Counter-terrorism acts imposed by the United States. The Us refused to send over important provisions to Syria due to the possibility of weapons of mass destruction, involvement in Lebanese affairs, refusal to hand over Saddam Hussein, etc… • During all of this the people of Syria have had little control over their government to change what is happening or elect a new leader. As social groups on the internet and media are harshly criticized for their “inappropriate” content that negatively portrays the government, the public began to grow increasingly frustrated with their lack of power
Start/Build of Protests • The earliest sign of protests against the Ba’ath and Bashar al-Assad supposedly occurred on January 26th, 2011, when a man set himself on fire as claimed by witnesses to be a protest of the Syrian Government, but this is only stated by Arabic sources. • Between the month of February and March protests and gathering around Syrian Government Embassies and buildings grew in numbers and hundreds were arrested for demanding the resignation of al-Assad in mass demonstration. Actions were organized by banned social groups such as Facebook, which currently play a major role in the protests • March 15th is the date the Syrian protests were claimed an “Uprising” as several protests growing to thousands in Syria occurred on the same day. By this point the foreign and domestic media were under restrictions of broadcasting and websites as the media “distorted “ facts, though the continued amateur coverage has been most important and ongoing. • Crackdowns on protests grew stronger, with rising death tolls/arrests, great use of weaponry, and the use of tanks against protestors. Telephones, cell phones, and water lines were cut around the time of the Siege of Hama, which occurred around July-August of 2011 and has so far been one of the bloodiest in the protests, killing over 200 in the demonstration alone.
Current Situation • Foreign relations within Syria and several nations have become tense, as the United States and Israel have been unsupportive to the Syrian Government in the wake of the uprising. Iran is supportive of Syria while Turkey provides refuge for many protestors and Syrian citizens looking for a source of safety. • As of October 25th, The Syrian National Council, a new opposition group, is calling for international protection from the growing revolts of protestors in Syria, and Robert S. Ford, the US Ambassador for Syria, has left the country for the account of his own safety. Bashar al-Assad has condemned all nations that follow this group or any other opposition groups against Syria. • Protests have continued in Syria and the death toll has reached around 3,000 according to the United Nations as of October 14th 2011 • Recently, a European drafted resolution was vetoed in the United Nations, but urgencies for the city of Damascus, Syria to adopt reforms have continued to gain speed.
Similarities to Revolution • Syrian Governments have repressed freedoms of expression as the British did back the 1760s. Syria had banned face book, you tube, and other websites to prevent criticism and forming of protests against them, taking action that caused the fueling of the protests to begin with. The British repressed press reaction and arrested those who published articles condemning the British parliament. Demonstrations also led to arrests of colonists and even death, as displayed by the Boston Massacre (even though the British performed this to much less extent than preferred or even capable of) • The British parliament assumed control without a change of power or giving the people a chance to give an opinion of change. The British believed that with their economic control of ships and current political reigns over the Spanish and French entitled them to reign over the colonies with assumption of laws and the need to attain whatever they needed necessary. Bashar al-Assad immediately assumed control over Syria after his father’s passing before the population of Syria could have an emergency election, as apparently a rule was changed to have the office holding of president reduced to age 34 right around Bashar’s presidency, which some call coincidence. Plus, crack downs were performed on political groups that proposed a threat to the Ba’ath party, thus making elections flawed and pointless.
Differences in Revolution • From the perspective of repressed freedoms and control, British repression was more focus on getting the colonists to give them what they proposed or needed for British benefit. The Quartering Act of 1765 forced colonists to provide living space and housing for British soldiers on their demand without asking for colonial permission. Sugar Act of 1764 and Stamp Act of 1765 put increased taxes on sugar and forced costs on stamps to send letters out and fund for British debts of British responsibility. The Ba’ath party was more centered on eliminating its rival parties and keeping power than taking away Human Rights, though it also successfully did that. • The governments styles of the British and the Ba’ath are also different. The British were ruled by a parliament system that was made of elite property owners in Whig or Tories parties. There was a Monarchy that served as more of a figurehead but a certain amount of responsibility in law and action. The Ba’ath had a republic system of Executive, Judicial, and Legislative branches, with several American government positions similar to a democracy. But ever since 1963 when the Ba’ath party gained the majority of control in the Syrian cabinet, Syria has been under Emergency law, which suspends a large amount of constitutional actions. • The actions of the protestors have been much more prematurely guerrilla than the American revolution. In the American colonies, there were instances of brawls and fights between colonists and the British, but most differences and arguments were done through political arguments and restrictions placed by the British rather than physical and violent interactions. For months actions of violence and protests erupted in the streets before an uprising was declared.
Map of Syria • Syria is in the Middle East right above Turkey and bordering Iraq and Jordan. It has a hot, desert-like climate and flat plains. Capital: Damascus Population: Ranging around 21 million as of 2009 Religion: Sunni Muslims (74%), Alawis (12%), Christians (10%), Druze (3%) and others (Important due to the majority of Sunnis in Syria and Bashar al-Assad being Alawi Language: Arabic (official), Kurdish, Armenian, Aramaic, Circassian French, English (Can interpret for outside media) Work force (5.5 million, 2008 est.): Services (including government) 26%, agriculture 19%, industry 14%, commerce 16%, construction 15%, transportation 7%, and finance 3% Unemployment (2008 est.): 9.8% Major ethnic groups: Arabs (90%), Kurds (9%), Armenians, Circassians, Turkomans
Future of Syria • Currently the protests in Syria are still underway, and neither side has shown any sign of surrendering their freedoms or powers. Bashar al-Assad continues to condemn the United States and other international nations that show support for plans and groups against the Syrian regime, which has not settled the matter of Human Rights. Protestors are repeatedly battling tanks and bullets in the streets publicly as crack downs continue against their freedom of speech, assembly, press, and so forth. • From my opinion and what seems to be the current place of the revolts, the protestors will continue to protest the Ba’ath for months as they continue to group together in large numbers and display their passion for the rights of a democracy. The protestors however, have not greatly phased the political parties, as they are still in office and sending strong weaponry against them. Even if the protestors are outnumbered and at the possibility of waning out is distress, I feel that soon International relations like the United Nations will majorly intervene and put Syria in hot water for crimes against humanity. • Bashar al-Assad, the more active modern day version of King George III, will most likely remain in office for as long as the protests last until his resignation, death, or pressed charges of crimes against humanity. Odds are, Bashar will not give up his positions, so there is a good chance of the United Nations stepping through and removing him from his seat if they compromise a way of calming the protests and separating the abuses of the Syrian Ba’ath Party.
References • US Department of State “Syria” http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm Published: March 18th 2011, Accessed: October 26th 2011 • RaniaAbouzeid/Beirut “Syrian Military Attacks Protestors In Hama” http://fcps.blackboard.com/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_id=_2_1&url=%2fwebapps%2fblackboard%2fexecute%2flauncher%3ftype%3dCourse%26id%3d_645011_1%26url%3d Published: August 1st 2011, Accessed: October 26th 2011 • The New York Times “Syria Protests 2011” http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/syria/index.html Published: March 23rd 2011 and updated, Accessed: October 26th 2011 • American Foreign press “Obama condemns ‘outrageous’ Syrian violence, Iran Aid” http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5i0qX8ds9qgWwm4UrEaSbPSYzi5_w?docId=CNG.c2f5dc960801ff43cc91b676c7bd5469.561 Date Published: April 22nd 2011, Date Accessed: October 26th 2011
Thank You For Your Time! • FREEDOM OF SPEECH • FREEDOM OF PRESS • FREEDOM OF Assembly • HUMAN RIGHTS