Facts on the ground the only narrative that matters in Syria
by Hassan Hassan
Yet outside Syria, a narrative taking root suggests that the Syrian uprising is somehow less worthy than the other Arab pro-democracy revolts that swept the region last year. The Syrian uprising, according to this narrative, is a foreign conspiracy promoted by biased media and instigated by extremists. The position is maintained largely by the Arab left, pan-Arabists and anti-imperialists, as if the only way to resist imperialism or an Israeli threat is for the Syrian people to endure living under Baathism.
Mohamed Hassanein Haykal, a veteran Egyptian journalist and a former adviser to the late Gamal Abdel Nasser, dismissed the Syrian uprising late last year as one spurred by foreign intelligence. He said the cities that revolted against the regime were border cities - proof, he said, it was not a real revolution. Only if Damascus and Aleppo rose up, he argued, could the uprising be considered a legitimate revolution. Since the two main cities rose up, however, he has remained deafeningly silent. (It's worth reminding Haykal that all Syrian cities, except Hama and Suweida, are border cities).
Others have jumped from denying the existence of a popular uprising to labelling it a civil war. When Abdul Razzaq Tlass defected in June last year, for example, Asad Abu Khalil, an influential Lebanese-American pundit known for his criticism of Israel, posted this comment on his blog: "Western and Arab (Saudi and Qatari) media are so desperate for any news that is damaging to the Syrian regime that they play up the 'news' of YouTube-based defection of individual soldiers or officers. That is really not news worthy."
Not long after that comment was made, the lieutenant became a nightmare for the regime, battling with a group of military defectors for 28 days in Baba Amr.
The Syrian opposition has undeniably committed several human rights violations. But it is one thing to highlight these violations, quite another to undermine the sacrifices of people who seek nothing but freedom from a brutal regime. Syrian activists, via social media, highlight and criticise abuses more often than any human rights organisation. In March, when Human Rights Watch issued an open letter to the Syrian opposition about human rights violations, Syrian activists issued a letter that unequivocally acknowledged the importance of constructive criticism and called on the organisation to continue to highlight violations.
But regardless of how the uprising is being portrayed by regional governments, or their affiliated media, the only narrative that matters for Syria is the fact on the ground. The regime is suffering everywhere in the country, from Idlib to Damascus to Deir Ezzor. Generals continue to defect, others are killed in battle and officials at the regime's helm continue to defect.