Editorial: Freedom and terror define Syria

January 26, 2017

From the January-February 2017 issue of News & Letters

Photo: Radosław Pilarski

Photo: Radosław Pilarski

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin on Nov. 14. The next day the Russian military intensified its brutal assault on all the revolutionary communities of Northern Syria. Within a month, Free East Aleppo had been turned into a hell on earth with hundreds of thousands of civilians mercilessly bombed day and night. Bodies of men, women and children lay buried or in the streets.

In that next month the world witnessed unprecedented scenes of genocide. Finally, Aleppo’s survivors were forced to agree to being “ethnically cleansed” from their home city by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

Refugee Lina Shamy described their situation: “Forcing the people to leave their land is a huge crime because it means blowing away their memories, their history and their lives. When we say any solution that may save people’s lives is welcomed, that doesn’t mean that this solution is going to be fair. It means this is the best among much worse options in this world of injustice.”

Many of these civilian refugees now shiver in tents in the countryside of Free Idlib, where they have been subjected to further Russian and regime bombing.

The smoke of destroyed East Aleppo, of ravaged Free Idlib, East Ghouta, Wadi Barada, and other revolutionary communities raises Trump’s fascist banner. While President Obama is no friend to the Syrian Revolution, Trump delivered: surrender or death.


It will stand as one of history’s grimmest ironies that the heroism and self-sacrifice of millions of Arab Spring revolutionaries called forth the inherent racism, avarice and intellectual sloth—the Trumpism—of our bourgeois “democracies.” More sharply etched is the way the consistent revolutionary humanism of Free Syrians, expressed thousands of times over, was met by the ideological dissolution of much of the Left into racism and apologies for genocide.

This collapse of human values is not something that can wait to be addressed. The ideological pollution expresses itself as the genocidal negation of human freedom, of humanity itself. When we shouted “Syria!” we meant this exactly. Trump’s election has placed the question of the negation of humanity at the center of debate.

Meanwhile, the supposed target of these attacks, the terrorist group ISIS, is untouched by either Russia or the Assad regime, and seizes land and weapons from them with impunity.


The genius of Syrian revolutionaries foresaw this situation. As far back as April 2013, revolutionaries in Kafranbel wrote as their weekly message to the world: “Assad terrorism has turned the world values upside down; only people’s interaction can turn the tables again.” This remains true.

The effort to connect—human-to-human—could be heard in the voices of those who had been broadcasting on social media from Free Aleppo, in the last desperate days: “We were a free people. We didn’t want anything else but freedom. You know, this world doesn’t like freedom, it seems. Don’t believe that you are free people in your countries anymore,” said schoolteacher Abdulkafi al-Hamdo.

Human-to-human connection could be seen worldwide in the thousands of grassroots rallies organized to stand with the people of Free Aleppo, as well as those in towns and villages throughout Syria. The flag of the Syrian Revolution became a symbol of humanity.

Thousands of Syrians continue to reach out via social media. New organizations are forming reminding us that the Syrian Revolution began as a part of a worldwide movement that flowed from the Arab Spring. It lives as both reality and idea. Asked if the struggle could survive the fall of Aleppo, revolutionary journalist Hadi Abdullah said, “Of course. Because the revolution is first an idea and an idea can’t be killed.”

The life of that idea is always the responsibility of revolutionaries.

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