Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 30th, 2011

How many ways to get engaged in Syria’s problems?

The latest news is the arrival to Syria of a few dozen “on the field” Arab observers:  The ultimate purpose of the observers is still not clear, on the ground that any resolution of the situation in Syria has been frozen for a couple of months, until Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia, France, and Israel… get their plans together of “what the next regime should look like, to the benefit in stability of every major regional State…”

The quick coming to power of the Moslem Brotherhood and the strong show of force of the extremist Salafist Moslems in the voting booth are giving serious worries to every State, even the most obscurantist Wahhabi Saudi Arabia monarchy

Do you feel like getting engaged in current Syria turmoil?

Why should you? If the only news you are getting are from one side of the equation?

Are you ready to invest time to understanding both sides in the upheaval, or you think that you are not into a “legal situation” and one killing of an “unarmed” civilian is fair enough to destitute an entire political regime?

Would 4,000 deaths be considered a valid cut-off number to start the process of comprehending “what’s going on in Syria”?

There are many groups of western hackers supporting the internal “revolutionaries” in exporting their photos, videos, stories in a way to bypass the Syrian “sophisticated” counter-digital insurgencies

That is very commendable. Do the hackers ask the insurgents or opposition groups: “what are your political program after the demise of the regime?  Have you been engaging in dialogue and discussion with the “neutral” communities, the minority communities, the “silent majority” who prefer Law and Order above any kinds of reforms, biased election laws, skewed democratic processes…”

The strategic importance of Syria in this volatile region, the unity of its large army, and the many effective ways that Syria can disturb the political state of affairs in the entire Middle East are not to be taken lightly.

International military action without an agreement with Russia, and full coordination with Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq is nearly impossible to bear any fruit, except more social disturbances and political instabilities in every regional State.

Do strategic values supersede any inaction on the ground?

And would that means staying cool and witnessing the “senseless slaughter” of thousands of civilians?

A new term has been put forward: “civilian diplomacy”, channel the power of citizens around the world to pressure State governments from sending arms to both parties and blocking infiltration of foreign elements to Syria…

There are a variety of civil disobedience alternatives in order to built a unifying pragmatic programs for before and after the fall of the regime.

Many people wrote on social platforms on the ways to support the opposition movement. For example:

1. Support forums for civil resistance planning and evaluation: Any strategic plan for a transition government should ideally be drafted by Syrians living inside Syria.  Such a plan could be generated through an iterative process involving inside and outside activists. There are NGOs already working with Syrian exile members to help them think through civil resistance options.  Tight coordination with Local Coordination Committees (LCCs)/activist youth on the inside (via secure communications), and their feedback in the evaluate and execution processes has to be worked out first thing first.

2. Encourage the internal opposition movements to consider unity “shock tactics”: Christians and Alawi religious sects and minorities may not like the regime, but they prefer an unsatisfactory status quo to an uncertain and potentially hostile future. They need reassurances that go beyond words. Potentially powerful symbolic actions include:

One: a Friday “protest” whose theme is unity and involves repairing Christian churches and picking up trash in mixed communities;

Two: candlelight vigils in Damascus and Aleppo organized by a cross-confessional group of Syrian women to commemorate all victims of the uprising;

Three: strong, well-publicized denunciations of violence targeting minorities by influential Sunni leaders.  So far, the external transitional government, and appointed externally,has not demonstrated any willingness to condemn atrocious activities by its members that are not within the human rights programs and behaviors…

Four: letters hand-delivered to Christian leaders requesting their participation in the Arab League monitoring mission.

3. Encourage inside opposition to strengthen parallel structures and institutions: In an environment where street protests and labor strikes are risky, the opposition should be encouraged to continue to strengthen autonomous local institutions. It is difficult for the regime to target large numbers of people who stop supporting state-run schools and clinics and instead set up their own parallel systems – but the message of non-cooperation with the regime would be clear.  The diaspora and business community should be involved in supporting private clinics and charities to help build local autonomy, possibly under the LCCs’ organizational umbrella.

4. Connect/train Syrian opposition in crowd-sourcing technology: Crowd-sourcing technology can help the Syrian opposition plan and execute protests, monitor security force movements, collect and document evidence of human rights abuses and atrocities…

There are teams that follow and help apply all the technology tools (Martus, Mobile Accord, Frontline SMS, Ushahidi, Cognitive Edge) that could provide the Syrian opposition a very useful parallel communication structure.

5. Help the nonviolent opposition publicize successes: Syrians need to see that civil resistance is working to discourage them from giving up, taking up arms, or waiting for outside military intervention.  Every regime concession (e.g. release of prisoners, allowing in monitors, etc.) and concrete sign of regime isolation needs to be credited to the courageous nonviolent resistance.  Embassies should publicly credit the nonviolent opposition for successes and help them publicize victories over the TV, radio and other channels of communication.

6. Encourage the opposition to negotiate unified programs in any kind of elections:  It is unclear how the regime will approach upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, but the opposition should at least have a plan for whether and how to participate in elections. Boycotting might seem like the obvious thing to do unless the opposition could take advantage of any political space opened up by elections.

Although it is likely that Assad would rig the elections, this course of action is fraught with risk, particularly if the opposition is prepared to show the fraud and mobilize around it.  Training Syrian youth in election monitoring and parallel vote tabulation (ideally by an Arab NGO) could be very helpful down the road.

7. Help the opposition think through strikes and boycotts: There are dozens of different types of strikes, boycotts, and “go slow” tactics available to nonviolent activists. These dispersed actions could allow more Syrians to participate in the opposition while minimizing the risk of regime repression. Syrian activists and sympathetic businessmen should be encouraged to first analyze which businesses (in Syria and outside) would be most vulnerable to consumer boycotts, which industries would be most susceptible to worker strikes or collective “underperformance”, and then develop a plan to target those businesses and industries.

The oil sector, pro-regime businesses, and companies whose workers are unhappy with pay or working conditions would be obvious candidates.  Syrian exile communities could be encouraged to develop campaigns targeting pro-regime businesses on the outside using well-publicized boycotts, sit-ins, and pickets.

8. Encourage diaspora and business community to develop a solidarity/strike fund: Striking Syrians need to know that there is funding available to support themselves and their families, particularly in the event that they lose their jobs or other sources of income. Bank accounts could be set up in Lebanon, Dubai, Turkey or elsewhere for that purpose (and other Embassies in Damascus could help distribute quick response funds to needy families). This is currently being done piece meal, but greater coordination would help the nonviolent protestors.

9. Tap into celebrities and famous Syrian diaspora: There are a number of famous Syrians (actors, singers, comics, etc.) in the exile community whose popularity transcends sect, ethnicity or confession. These are the figures whose star power could help spread support for the opposition, make special appeals to minorities, and focus media attention on the nonviolent resistance. We should encourage the Syrian opposition to tap into this potentially huge resource.

Ideally, famous Alawi and Christian Syrians who sympathize with the opposition should lead outreach efforts to prominent Christian leaders.

10. Encourage the opposition to embrace tactical negotiations: By demonstrating openness to negotiations, the opposition reinforces its image as a force of moderation rather than a bunch of extremists. The perception of moderation, in the case of Syria, could help sell the opposition to minority members and fence-sitters.

More importantly, being open to informal negotiations with members of the regime’s remaining pillars (security forces, bureaucracy, business elite), whose loyalties might be wavering, allows the opposition to communicate their intentions related to a post-Assad Syria – i.e. that these individuals have a future in it.

The opposition risks losing the street if their representatives in the negotiating table is not acceptable by the vast majority of opponents, especially internal groups.  The representatives must be able to explain the purpose and parameters of the negotiations to the resisting population and maintain transparency. Most importantly, opposition movements who choose to negotiate should never lose the ability to mobilize the masses and target the regime with nonviolent sanctions.

11. Dealing with the armed opposition: It is unlikely that the “Free Syrian Army” and other armed groups will disappear. The nonviolent opposition should maintain informal but regular communication with the armed groups.

Ideally, defectors will be kept busy in neighboring countries and limit their armed attacks inside the country. Also, defectors could be involved in nonviolent forms of sabotage that obstruct the regime’s killing machine but do not result in injuries or deaths.  To the extent possible, defectors should be exposed to civil resistance materials, training, and also face trials for activities outside human rights limits.

12. A special legal department must be appointed to condemn all activities and speeches by the opposition members who emulate the regime speeches and actions against freedom of opinion, discussion, and human rights behaviors…




December 2011

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