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The real Syria: constitutional, non-sectarian, resistant

If any country, including the U.S., had armed terrorists embedded in neighborhoods, and holding civilians hostage for years, and targeting unarmed civilians constantly, it too would be using its own military and security forces to fight the terrorists in order to liberate the captive civilians.

by Steven Sahiounie

Part 3 - Sectarian, constitutional, and dedicated to resistance

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is approaching the end of 18 years in office. His father President Hafez al-Assad died in summer 2000, and the transition was made to his son taking over as the leader of Syria through a constitutional procedure. At the time of the death of Hafez al-Assad, the Syrian Constitution stated there was one legal and recognized political party: the Ba’ath Party, which has a secular and socialist party platform and is committed to the political ideology of the resistance to the occupation of Palestine.

However, during the Syrian crisis in 2012, a new Constitution was drafted and ratified by popular vote. That new document abolished the old one-party system, and allowed for multiple registered parties, with the exception of any sectarian parties.

Bashar al-Assad is the president of the only secular country in the Middle East.

Certainly, there is a Syrian opposition. They fall into many different groups: some advocate armed struggle, and others do not. Some of these various groups are strictly following Radical Islam, which is a political ideology and is not a religion or sect. Some of the groups are secular and democratic.

Assad will be remembered by some as the man who ordered the bombing of Syrian neighborhoods. However, if any country, including the U.S., had armed terrorists embedded in neighborhoods, and holding civilians hostage for years, and targeting unarmed civilians constantly, it too would be using its own military and security forces to fight the terrorists in order to liberate the captive civilians. Indeed, a situation occurred in the U.S. in which an armed revolutionary group was dealt with in the same way.

People living a life of safety thousands of miles away could not possibly understand what life is like while living for five years underground while being held captive in your neighborhood. The only way to really understand this is to speak directly to the civilians freed from East Aleppo in December 2016 and East Ghouta in April 2018. If you can’t speak to them personally, at least look for their own videos online, or perhaps their own words incorporated into news articles. Those people were praying for the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) to advance and free them. One woman stated, “We heard the bombs coming our way, and we were happy knowing we might finally be free.

Of course, not everyone gets to freedom. Many innocent civilians were killed in the battles by both sides. In war, the innocent always suffer.

The president of Syria is not a Sunni; however, his wife is. The majority of the officials in the Syrian government are Sunni, as well as the majority of those who hold Parliamentary seats. The media-mantra of “Alawite Ruling Elite” simply is not accurate.

Syria is a mosaic of 18 different sects. It is inaccurate to portray Syria as a Sunni population, like Saudi Arabia for example. The Syrian culture has been tolerant of all three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There was always a mixture of religions and sects across Syria. Public schools were mixed, as well as neighborhoods. Syrians lived next to each other, studied at the desk next to each other, and worked side by side with each other. Sectarian conflict was not part of Syria’s culture: just the opposite was true.

The typical Syrian will tell you they say “Happy Holiday” to their neighbors, even if that was not their own holiday. The majority Sunni population in Syria have kept the government in power, and prevented the collapse of the al-Assad administration. In June 2014 the first multiparty Presidential election took place. It was constitutionally scheduled, even though the conflict was raging in many areas. Assad took about 88 percent of the votes cast out of a field of three candidates, two of whom were Sunni. Many people have said the reason Sunni citizens voted for him was because they felt he was the best person to take the nation through the war successfully. They saw him as a stabilizing force in Syria, and the person best suited to finishing the war.

The political ideology of resistance to the occupation of Palestine runs deep in the Syrian culture and, after 40 years of that ideology being taught in schools as well as various political and social groups, the average Syrian, regardless of religion or sect, feels strongly about this subject. Because of that ideology, it was easy to understand the alliances between Syria, Iran and Hezbollah who all share the resistance ideology. Many analysts feel that Syria was attacked by the U.S.-NATO alliance because of its steadfast resistance ideology and shared friendship with Iran and Hezbollah.

The Syrian conflict is coming to an end, though we can’t predict its last day. Assad has remained through seven years of armed conflict. The next presidential election is June 2021. Syrians who have suffered through the conflict are dreaming of a peaceful future. Refugees abroad may be dreaming of returning home to peace. The enemies of Syria are losing. The Syrian people have resisted regime change for the benefit of the U.S.-NATO war machine, which used Libya as the field-test for the Syrian conflict. Syria, however, is different.

***

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