As imperialist forces appear set for another war in Iraq
In 2011, the Syrian people joined their sisters and brothers throughout the Middle East in a popular revolution for liberation from dictatorship – the Arab Spring. The regime of Bashar al-Assad responded by bombing its own people and dividing them along ethnic and sectarian lines.
Five years later this has become another international war. Hezbollah of Lebanon and Iran are supporting the regime of Assad, as is the bombing campaign by Russia. It has carpet-bombed opposition-held territory–territory held by Free Syrian Army militias and democratically elected councils. Less than 20 percent of its bombs fell on ISIS.
DURING THE cease-fire from late February, Syrian revolutionaries took advantage to return to the streets in protest on each Friday. They are waving the revolutionary flag, not the black flags of various Islamist organizations, and repeating the same chants that we heard in 2011. They are chanting, “The Syrian people are one,” and again demanding freedom and democracy.
However, the Syrian army used the limited truce to use its forces to capture Palmyra, the historic Syrian city taken by ISIS in the middle of last year.
The US is also ramping up its military presence in Iraq as it prepares for an assault on the ISIS-held northern city of Mosul. US defence secretary announced in mid-April that the US will deploy Apache attack helicopters and 217 more troops.
Meanwhile, the Syrian peace talks were near collapse as fighting rages on despite a ceasefire. Here bombing by Russian forces mean that the Assad regime is being able re-take areas that have been in rebel hands for several years.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders said that there were now more than 100,000 people trapped on the Syrian side of the Turkish border. It said that 35,000 of those had fled in mid-April from camps that had been taken over by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) or had become too close to a creeping frontline. Turkey has closed its frontier to all but the most seriously ill or wounded.
On the one hand, the situation is apocalyptically awful. Almost half a million people have died out of a pre-war population of 23 million–the vast majority killed by the Assad regime. Twelve million people–a bit more than half the population–are homeless. The majority of those people are still in Syria.
They’re living in camps near the border fences. They’re living in other people’s houses or in destroyed buildings. Sometimes they’re living on relatives’ couches and floors. Sometimes they’re just living under bushes.
On the other hand, we can be inspired by the ability of Syrians to come out to protest for democracy, freedom and dignity. The fact that those people not only survive in these destroyed Syrian cities, but also continue to struggle against the regime, the foreign powers and counterrevolutionary jihadism is a miracle.
There is still a hard core of activists and fighters and medical workers and artists and intellectuals who remain committed to the original aims of the revolution, which are non-sectarian, democratic and based on the desire for human freedom. That proves that however many people you kill, you can’t snuff out the desire for liberation.
by Drew Povey