Today marks the 12 year anniversary of the start of the Syrian revolution. The brave men and women fought hard against the decades old grip of oppression the Assad family has had on the people. As I sit in my office I think back to how frightening and challenging those first few days must have been. There was no such thing called “rebel territory” to retreat to at that time. No one knew how it was going to play out. No one knew if their efforts would amount to anything more than imprisonment, torture, and a slow death. Yet, for many of them, they knew that the promise of Allah was true. So they protested on.
I remember hearing of the Syrian protests as I was in Egypt just as the Egyptian people were going through their own revolution as well. A news report stated that the Syrian army was on it’s way to quell the protests. I wasn’t sure how the Syrian protestors could survive. How could they resist?
As was typical of Arab leaders, the regime wasn’t interested in meeting the demands of the people and allowing them to live in dignity. Assad, who learned very well from his father, had only one response: force. The state security service, which was infamously known around the world for its torture tactics, descended upon the protestors like wolves. It was open season for them to do with the protestors as they liked. Many were killed. Many more were imprisoned for killing later. Many were starved to death. The Syrian people knew very well the potential disaster that faced them and yet, they continued on.
As the protests proved that the regime was beyond listening to it’s people, raging gun battles began to break out. It was all or nothing. Those early warriors knew that the odds of their survival were close to zero but they knew what they were doing was the right thing so they engaged the army with everything they had. Their bravery gave rise to others joining their ranks. Numbers of military personnel broke ranks and joined the opposition. Some having to sneak away at night so they wouldn’t be caught and shot by their commander, or worse, imprisoned in one of the regime’s notorious prisons and tortured and starved to death. Still in spite of it all, they continued the fight.
Fast forward 12 years later. The dreams of this revolution have yet to be realized. However, the revolution is not yet over. All of the other revolutions of the Arab spring have all died, giving victory to those who would keep the people subjugated. Egypt overthrew Mubarak, but ended up with another oppressor in former Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Yemen’s longtime president Abdullah Salih was toppled and forced into hiding. Then he was killed some time later as his country’s civil war raged. Tunisia celebrated the dethroning of their strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, only to be smothered years later with the much hated Kais Saied. Muammar Gaddafi was expected to survive as his country convulsed, but analysts proved how wrong they could be sometimes. Tracked down by his own tortured citizens, Gaddafi was beaten, sodomized, and finally killed by an angry mob. The country has never been the same since as big geopolitical players jockey to control the country’s natural resources.
Syria’s rebels still stand today. Yes, there is a lot that must be accomplished. Corruption is still rampant, torture and injustice is not exclusive to regime held territories, and the lack of true leadership continues to hamper the Syrian people’s efforts to this very day. However, today, this 15th day of March, we celebrate and honor the sacrifices that were made by those exceptionally brave men and women who started this country on its track to freedom Insha Allah. May Allah have mercy on those He has taken back. May Allah strengthen those whom are sincerely struggling for His sake and His sake only. Ameen.
Bilal Abdul Kareem