A real, disturbing picture emerged today for DCFR members about the state of Syria and its prospects. Syrian human rights pro-democracy activist and Founder and Director of Tharwa Foundation Ammar Abdulhamid has been speaking out for Syria since his exile in 2005. (It really began earlier than that when he voted against the Assad regime in the late 1990s, with only 290 or so other Syrians courageously saying, “No.”) In his comments this morning, he noted that there was a window of opportunity between March 2011 and August, where the international community could have aided the Syrian people by influencing the Assad regime and thereby deterring the shattering of Syria as we now know it. The scattered opposition parties, though little helped, are surviving on a heartbeat and an idea for a new Syria.
Abdulhamid believes the best solution now (obviously aside from stopping Assad’s air strikes on its citizens) is a political solution, which includes all stakeholder groups coming together with proper representation. Syria is a multicultural state, and minorities need assurances that they will be treated and represented fairly in a new Syrian order. Organized parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood need counterweights to reflect the diversity of Syria and the region’s ethnic groupings.
Importantly, the opposition needs the help of the U.S. and the international community to halt the violence and disintegration of Syria. If Syria devolves further, it will leave opportunities for more chaos and extremism, which was already allowed carte blanche by earlier lack of support and neglect. According to Abdulhamid, Syrian’s want what others in civil society’s have—development, education, peace and a properly governed country.
Importantly, the strife in Syria has spread to every country it borders—Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and more—allowing for opportunistic uprisings by those who wish to destabilize other countries through extremist means. Even Iraq has been a proxy for Iran, trying to keep Syria’s Assad as an ally for their ambitions and regional power play. Solving Syria gets a long way toward paving a path for Middle East stability.
The New York Times recognized Mr. Abdulhamid as “one of the important voices articulating the rising generation’s disenchantment” with the current Syrian Regime, while Newsweek magazine named him as one of the “most influential personalities” in the contemporary Arab World. See his blog about real time events in Syria.