Free Syrian Translators (Originally published in Alhayat newspaper), 8 January 2012
The most prominent aspect of the Syrian revolution is the demonstration: groups between tens and hundreds of thousands of people go out to public spaces, trying to occupy certain areas for a while, while chanting slogans and holding banners condemning the Regime and calling for its fall. The demonstration represents the field component of the revolution that the world has known. This component has formed, and is still forming the source of Syrians’ dignity, and an evidence of their courage and merit of Freedom. It includes all positive and negative acts of protest, including strikes.
The Syrian Revolution has other components. First, there is the social component that is supporting field activity, i.e. the various social environments that embrace the revolution and provide protection and support to revolutionaries.
This component is quite varied. It sometimes includes entire areas and neighborhoods in some cases, but in other cases, it is consisted of support networks that participate in field activity, even though not as consistently as witnessed in Daraa, Damascus outskirts, Homs, Idlib, Deir Al Zour and some areas in Aleppo.
The common bond of this social component is the identification with the revolution as a daily cause and activity on one hand, and a complete break with the regime. Such thing may not be noticed by some politicians and intellectuals opposing the regime. They miss the fact that the case today has nothing to do with opposition to the regime, but rather with complete separation from it, and depending on the revolution as a founding event and a producer of new legitimacy.
The third component of the revolution is the military one. This component involves the thousands of soldiers and officers who have “defected” from the regular army, and in fewer cases, from the security apparatus. They all gathered under the general umbrella of the “Free Syrian Army”. Despite the fact that they are ill-equipped and few in numbers, the Free Army soldiers have succeeded in imposing a kind of deterrence in some areas that prevents the regime forces from attacking the peaceful demonstrations. In fact, many of the demonstrations which the world sees gain this slot of place and time thanks to this particular protection. Thus there is a need for a more complex analysis than the superficial talk that sets an opposition between peaceful demonstrations and armament. Taking into consideration the circumstances of Syria today, the relationship between the two elements, i.e. the peaceful demonstrations and the armament, is not a relation of contradiction; rather it is most likely a relation of complementarity.
The role of this protection on one hand, and the circumstances accompanying the defection of the Free Arm soldiers on the other hand, as well as the fact that those soldiers represent the ultimate evidence of the break with the regime; all these elements justify viewing them as an integral component of the Syrian revolution. Therefore, they deserve more than being a source of pride in that infamous paper signed between the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Committee on the last day of the past year.
The fourth component of the Syrian revolution is the political aspect. This political component includes all the organizations and blocs that embrace the cause of revolution, and work on supporting it. The Syrian National Counil has gained a significant popular legitimacy, but this legitimacy is not guaranteed all the time, and it seems today in decline due to inability of the SNC to give a positive impression of itself and its work after the conference held in Tunis some weeks ago, especially the internal problems caused by the paper mentioned above which has weakened it.
This political component has two evident features. Firstly, it is dominated by the traditional opposition, which is predominantly pre-revolutionary and non-revolutionary. It has neither made any change in its attitude after the revolution, nor has God changed anything in it. Secondly, this opposition is divided, and such division is rooted in its composition. The severity of its conflicts is proportional to the severity of the conflict with the regime, which has always provided the regime with a comfortable margin for maneuver. This division of the traditional opposition is characterized by an old, almost-constant pattern. It has been manifested recently in the disparity between the Syrian National Council and the National Coordination Committee.
The Syrian revolution has an intellectual component which includes artists and writers who joined the revolution with their various means. The announcement of forming the Syrian Writers Association recently might be an institutionalization for the writers’ defection from the regime. It is not clear yet how this association will work, or whether it will form an actual democratic framework for the interaction or the work of those who kept talking about democracy more than others. Supposedly, the structure of this association and election of who will be steering it, shall take place within three days, and this shall be the first test of “the first democratic newborn of the Syrian revolution” as one of its founders has said.
One of the notable characteristics of the Syrian revolution is that the media component is strongly integrated with the field component, as the demonstrators themselves are those who are filming their own activities. Those amateur “reporters” are not only without protection, but they are also being particularly targeted. It is likely that among the protesters, there are those who specialize in filming, recording and broadcasting, even though almost none of them is originally a media specialist.
However, some Arabic satellite channels should be included in the media component of the Syrian revolution; in particular “Al Jazeera” and “Al Arabia”, which have provided the revolution with far-reaching broadcasting platforms, and helped abort the regime’s attempts to isolate and suffocate it.
The revolution has an economic component as well, which includes “economic activists” who contribute to supporting the revolution financially. There is an impression that the contribution of this sector is important and growing. This is something unprecedented, considering that employers are the most cautious, and they themselves describe their sector as the most coward. It is the responsibility of this sector to cover a part of the huge relief efforts, which is witnessing an obvious improvement in its techniques, and which has helped in maintaining the dignity of that families and people who are the most involved in the revolution.
Understanding the Syrian revolution entails scrutinizing each of these components. However, identifying the components of the revolution is practically an important matter, as it helps in developing the appropriate policy to lead the revolution towards its sought objectives. First of all, to ensure the continuity and the expansion of field activity, for it is the substance of the revolution and the principle of its continuity. All the other components rely on it, and the revolution has no strength without it. Equally important is providing financial and political support for the social component, and the Free Syrian Army as well, through developing the relief efforts to cover all the people in need. It is necessary to build the political structures to support the revolution and carry out these tasks.
The revolution is the new Syrian spirit. Therefore, in order to bring politics back to the national core, we need to build it so that it is centered around this spirit; contrary to the rigid approach of the regime, and contrary to what opposition groups have done so far.