Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My family's dilemma over Syria

I understand my mother's suspicion of foreign interference in the Arab world, but I still believe in the need for Assad to go

Sharif Nashashibi
(Chairman and co-founder of Arab Media Watch, an independent, non-profit watchdog set up in 2000 to strive for objective coverage of Arab issues in the British media.), Wednesday 15 August 2012

"....My mother's concerns stem from a deep-seated suspicion of foreign (particularly western) interference in the Arab world – a suspicion validated by history – and the fact that her family belongs to two of Syria's numerous minorities: Christians and Armenians.

I grew up on heartwarming stories of my mother being raised in a tolerant, secular society, where people of all faiths intermingled freely and happily. She speaks with nostalgia of helping her Jewish neighbour in Aleppo during the Sabbath, and of her marriage to my late father – a Muslim – during which religion was never an issue between them, or their families. These fond memories, and the increasingly sectarian nature of the conflict, shape her views......

Despite all that, though, I still firmly believe in the need for Bashar al-Assad and his regime to go. There is simply no feasible or acceptable scenario whereby he and his party can continue their decades-old, repressive, totalitarian rule.

Bashar may be secular but, like his late Iraqi counterpart Saddam Hussein, he is an equal opportunities oppressor, and the rich history of coexistence in both countries was not created by the Ba'ath parties. Indeed, my mother's inclusive childhood predates the Assad dynasty.

If a post-Assad Syria is to avoid the abyss of civil war, under no circumstances should minority rights be hindered. However, while it must be acknowledged that support for Assad is not limited to minorities, and opposition to him does not come solely from the Sunni Muslim majority, there are those who resent what they see as minorities' complicity or silence regarding his crackdown.

At the same time, one cannot ensure minority rights by repressing the majority (as has happened to Syria's Sunnis) – that, too, is a sure way to civil war. So it is incumbent on the opposition to reassure the minorities, and incumbent on minorities to stand with their revolutionary compatriots. Basically, the rights of all should be considered, respected, and treated as equal......"

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