World in View: Syrian Revolution: humanity on trial

September 17, 2016

From the September-October 2016 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

As the big powers push toward their desired “settlement” in Syria, the world is witnessing the most vicious war crimes of the century. The Assad regime’s patron, Russia, is carpet bombing cities and towns. Thousands of civilians are dying by conventional weapons; by crude, indiscriminate weapons like barrel bombs; and by illegal weapons like chlorine gas, white phosphorus bombs, and cluster bombs. More thousands have died under torture.

Unbearable photos of children, their skin burned off by napalm–or charred to ashes, dead–cry out to the world. The great powers–President Putin, President Obama, the UN Security Council members–pretend not to see.

UN agencies are compromised by collaboration with this genocide. The regime collects 90% of UN aid. Liberated areas receive little or nothing.

Children hospitalized after government bombing in Hama province, Syria. Photo by Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society.

Children hospitalized after government bombing in Hama province, Syria. Photo: Zaher Sahloul, Syrian American Medical Society.


The Women Now Center of Daraya, a stronghold of the Revolution, addressed a powerful call to the world:

“Our town has witnessed the worst of bombing and destruction and cruel siege for over three consecutive years…There is no food at all in Daraya. There are cases of malnutrition, and we have resorted to cooking soups made purely of spices in order to stave off hunger. There are signatories to this letter that have not eaten for at least two days–some longer. There is no baby milk and no breast milk due to malnutrition” (April 5, 2016).

The call was unheeded. In August Daraya became the latest liberated area to be emptied of people through violence. The hundreds of thousands of Free Syrians in Aleppo remain under threat.

By the hypocritical standards of big power rhetoric, Daraya did everything “right.” It was defended by “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters under the control of a civilian council. Yet Russia bombed it mercilessly, Iran supplied endless soldiers as cannon-fodder to attack it, and the U.S. and its allies held back the FSA Southern Front from coming to its aid by threatening to cut off their meager support.


The Revolution was and is about new human relations. It was never reducible to military terms, although armed self-defense became a necessity in 2011 when the Assad regime massacred peaceful demonstrators. Yet even the FSA has never been exempt from revolutionary critique by civilians.

This is still a principle that is alive among the revolutionary people. Mass demonstrations have always asserted that the particular aims of the armed factions must be subordinate to the revolutionary overthrow of Assad. If that broad view wasn’t shared by the state powers or fundamentalist organizations that were the only source of weapons, it didn’t mean those powers subsumed the Revolution. It means that has been a form of class struggle within the Revolution.

The most principled struggles against ISIS and Al Qaeda have also arisen through this grassroots dynamic.


The rulers may cut funding for schools. But they are trying to “educate” us to accept any atrocity they choose to commit. Place the phrase “there are no good guys in Syria” side by side with the reality of a napalm-scarred child and you will get their idea. They want to turn your very thoughts into death.

We have to resist this brutality. The rulers’ endgame is a lie. We must demand an end to the bombing and starvation sieges. We must demand an end to the dehumanization that allows this genocide to become accepted as “inevitable.” This is for our own sake as much as for the Syrian people.

Aleppo journalist Ali Abu Joud lost his four children to a bombing on Aug. 20. Standing in the ruins, he said, “People of the world, if you don’t protest, the same thing that was done to us may be done to you. I’m not even going to bother calling on the UN, or Arab or Western leaders. My message is to the people. Your turn will come.”



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