After more than two years of vicious fighting and indiscriminate shelling, it is known to almost any objective observer that all of the belligerents involved in the Syrian conflict have become equally tenacious and dogmatic. Having spent most of my life in Damascus, I am one of those who experienced firsthand the Syrian regime’s relentless attempts to indoctrinate each and every soul in the country. Before the 2011 protests broke out, Syria, thanks to the Baathist hardliners, had been in a sociocultural coma for more than four decades. Anything that did not fit with the Baathist “resisting pan-Arab” point of view was deemed unpatriotic and heretical. Each individual who dared to deviate from the Party’s ideology was branded as a traitor or a spy. Any attempt to modernize the country was construed by the authorities -at least initially- as a form of cultural invasion. In order to further terrorize people into submission, the Syrian regime, in addition to its large state security apparatus, employed the paramilitary militiamen, better known as Shabiha. Expectedly, decades of such oppressive practices by the Baath Party were more than enough to ignite revolts and spark a “revolution.”
That being said, many of those who have worked, and are still working, for the Syrian regime were, and still are, the salt of the earth. I have personally met a great deal of decent people who work or have worked for the Syrian government. The overwhelming majority of them rejects violence and does not believe in demonization, a practice the decision-making Baathists are just too familiar with.
One ought to differentiate here between the Syrian regime and the Syrian governmental elite. The Syrian regime, in my opinion, includes everyone who is involved in the Syrian state, including those who denounce violence and otherization; whereas, the Syrian governmental elite are those who preside that regime and possess the authority to make vital decisions.
The word “regime,” at least in the current Syrian context, is very loosely defined, just like the word “opposition.” The “Syrian opposition” is a very conflicting entity, with an exceptionally problematic definition. If by “opposition” one simply alludes to those who are against the Baath and its policies, then I am not critical at all of such people. Frankly, I tend to be one of them. But if by “opposition” one means the organized political entities, such as the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, then I am highly critical -if not condemning- of them. One must recognize here that the media-sponsored West-backed Syrian opposition is just a group of political elite that are not very representative of the various Syrian populations who oppose the Assad regime. For the sake of clarity, from now on in this article, I am going to use the terms governmental elite and opposition elite to refer to the two main fighting belligerents in Syria.
The Syrian opposition elite are constantly waxing poetic over democracy, equality, and human rights. However, in reality they are not different from the autocratic regime they are trying to get rid of. Just like the Syrian governmental elite have an uncompromising spirit to silence, shame, and demonize every dissenting voice, the Syrian opposition elite have quite an appetite for such tyrannical pursuits. Just like the Syrian governmental elite denied the existence of the Shabiha, the Syrian opposition elite denied the presence of foreign terrorists and Mujahedeen in Syria, till they were forced to admit it when Al-Nusra Front publically announced its unwavering loyalty to Al-Qaeda. Just like the Syrian governmental elite, during their heydays, had an archenemy on which all of their mistakes were blamed, the Syrian opposition elite, without any serious investigations, almost immediately attribute each occurring atrocity in the Syrian civil war to the regime, as if the opposition fighters are saints and angels.
The Syrian governmental elite and the Syrian opposition elite, dubbed in the media as the “Syrian regime” and “the Syrian opposition,” are, in fact, two sides of the same coin. Both of them have plenty to eat and drink, while many Syrians are in famine. Both of them have roofs over their heads, while many Syrians are homeless. Both of them have international chaperons, while no one—apart from an extremely meager number of Syrian and foreign politicians—is interested in escorting the Syrian people through their calamity. Both of them are self-righteous, with no interest at all in any form of constructive self-criticism. Most importantly, both of them are largely made up of condescending authoritarian figures that have the same one-size-fits-all explanation for any of their misdeeds: their opponents.