Friday, August 10, 2012

Nobody Above Criticism

By Maysaloon

Friday, August 10, 2012

"It is one thing to speak the language of freedom and yearn for democracy, but another when it comes to actually applying such principles into practice. Recently I had a discussion with several people on Twitter about the Free Syrian Army and whether or not it was prudent to criticize them when they do something wrong. Surprisingly, a lot of people were of the view that either the FSA was above reproach because they were critical for the revolution, or that this was not the time to kick up a fuss.

I think all of these views are wrong, and if we don't hold the FSA accountable for its behaviour now, then later down the line the whole country is going to suffer for this. I think the FSA have been remarkably brave, courageous and resilient in their defence of the Syrian people, but they have also carried out actions that amount to war crimes. Extra-judicial killings, threats, and heavy handedness have been reported, and this is not to give any credence to the Syrian regime's hysterical propaganda.

The FSA are made up of volunteers as well as defected soldiers, and amongst them are people who might be just as morally bankrupt or ruthless as the regime's henchmen. To demand that the FSA cleans up its act now means that they will take immediate action against such people, and history has shown us the dangers of what bad people in institutions are capable of.

Baathism has been in control of Syria since 1963, and the way that it took control of the country and its institutions was through the army. Hafez Assad then took control of all these institutions to turn the country into the private property of him and his cronies, and corruption itself became institutionalized. Yet, we must not forget that he and his party, as well as the Syrian army, were considered by some to be the darlings of Arabism, anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism up until last year. He may or may not have had good intentions at the outset, but the atrocities and corruption of his regime speak for themselves. Accountability, transparency and freedom of speech and opinion were not tolerated, and because of that our country has become a living nightmare today.

Are we going to make the same mistake and blindly hand over our fates once more to well-intentioned soldiers, however sincere they might be today? Are we going to do the same thing that Assad forced us to do for forty years, to stay quiet for the sake of "unity" in the face of an external threat?
What if the FSA, in the interest of safeguarding Syria and the revolution, decide that all free speech and human rights are to be suppressed until the danger has passed? Shall we wait another forty years and undergo another bloodbath to be rid of them too?

The time to demand that those who fight for us, or claim to speak for us, adhere to human rights and respect the rights of all Syrians is now, and it's incumbent upon each and every one of us to speak up if somebody else is being bullied for voicing their doubts or asking questions. We need a cultural and social shift away from shouting each other down, and have to start realising that debate and questioning are not a threat but a strength. Syria does not need more politicians, soldiers or leaders. What we do need is more people who will stand up and point their finger at something that is wrong.

If the FSA have stepped up to the burden of protecting the Syrian people, then that burden also includes doing the job the right way. The Syrian revolution has come this far, let's not have it fall at the first hurdle just because somebody is courageous enough to point out shortcomings."

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