Syria: brutal repression / FRFI 222 Aug/Sep 2011

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 222 August/September 2011

On Friday 15 July over one million Syrians took to the streets across the country in continuing protests against the government of President Bashar Al Assad, the biggest protests being in the cities of Hama and Deir Ezzor. The government’s brutal response to these demonstrations left at least 19 people dead as the security forces used live rounds to disperse demonstrators. Human rights groups estimate that over 1,400 people have been killed since the protests began in mid-March. Although 25% of the population of Syria live in poverty, the main demands of the protests remain calls for democratic reform and an end to Ba’ath Party rule. The call for the removal of Bashar Al Assad, now more prevalent on demonstrations, is still not a unanimous opposition demand.

There have been at least five conferences organised by different opposition forces but they have not yet formed a united front. All the different opposition forces say they oppose imperialist intervention in Syria, but the imperialists know that for bourgeois and even petit bourgeois forces their anti-imperialism is largely cosmetic. The imperialists intend to influence the direction of the movement; they want a weakened Syria ending its political relationship with Iran and support for Hizbullah and Hamas. In Paris on 4 July, one of the opposition conferences was attended by a number of French politicians, including the mayor of Paris and a former Foreign Secretary. On 7 July the US and French Ambassadors visited Hama to support the opposition forces there. In response both the US and French embassies in Damascus were attacked by angry Syrians.

The movement for democratic change in Syria faces difficult political decisions; it can be clear in its opposition to imperialist intervention and support for Syria’s progressive stance in the region, while organising against the brutal suppression of their protests. Thereby the opposition cannot be labelled as Zionist and imperialist agents. Or it can be co-opted by imperialism and become a tool in attempting to dismantle the Syrian state and furthering imperialist interests across the region.

Bob Shepherd