Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Syrian National Council is Formed: A Hopeful Day for Syria

The formation of the Syrian National Council is a milestone in the Syrian uprising.  That it took six months to put together may have frustrated many Syrians but it is understandable given that the regime has never allowed any opposition activity within Syrian and imprisoned many of the most influential dissidents. The Council's formation is critical in many respects other than the obvious one: that it represents one united effort to change the regime.  Since the beginning of the uprising and with the media blackout imposed by the regime, there was never a defined face of the opposition. The regime stuck to its narrative of armed gangs, jihadists and outsiders fomenting the uprising.  If the outside world did not buy these fabrications, many Syrians, fearing chaos  instability or worse, never questioned this narrative.  This is especially true of Syrian Christians, who were, to a degree, justifiably fearful having seen the fate of their co-religionists in Iraq.  With the formation of a Council whose motto is "One people, one nation, one council",  and composed of people representing the Syrian ideological, religious and ethnic spectrum, the regime will have a harder time peddling their lies.  I am hoping that as a consequence, many Syrians who have sided with the regime will start seeing the light.

Call me sentimental, but I am completely taken by the symbolism of the Council's poster. I am too old to be naive but still hope that the members of the council stay true to their motto and work on behalf of all Syrians. In fact every Syrian must hold them to that. But truly what this poster conveys in ideas, as simple as they might appear, is a radical departure not only  for Syria but for the whole Middle East. Since the countries of the Middle East gained their independence now some sixty to seventy years ago, two political ideologies dominated: pan-Arabism and to a lesser extent pan-Islamism.  Both ideologies sought to homogenize and forcibly conform the diverse countries of the region into a single mold; one ignored the rich ethnic diversity of the region and the other, its rich religious diversity. Both ignored the cultural and historical differences between Arab countries spanning the Arabian gulf to the Atlantic coast of Africa. In this paradigm, the interests of the citizens of a particular country and even those of the country itself were always superseded by the interests of a somewhat mythical whole.  That is why the notion of  inclusiveness, "one people, one nation", the notion that each citizen counts, seems so radical, even if it is long overdue.  

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