Seven Syrian myths
KORAY ÇALIŞKANSyria has been turned into a domestic policy debate. There are such low comments as: “Kılıçdaroğlu is supporting Bashar al-Assad because he is also an Alevi.” There are caricatures drawn, like: “A tiny Alevi minority is exerting genocide on Sunnis.” These inappropriate comments are fed by myths created on Syria. These myths are the following:
1 - Alevis are oppressing the Sunnis: It is true that the Nusayris are powerful political elite in Syria, even though they are a minority. However, the majority of Syria’s political and economic elite are Sunni. Most of the bourgeoisie and the upper middle class are made up of Sunnis supporting the regime. There is also Sunni domination among the middle class. Just to make it clear, it is the product of some people’s imagination to say: “Alevis are oppressing the poor, victimized Sunnis.”
2 - Bashar al-Assad is like Slobodan Milosevic: He is not. This opinion, which is based on an intellectual laziness similar to the leftist tendency to regard every authoritarianism as “fascism,” confuses firing against armed opponents and people with genocide. Bashar al-Assad is a dictator, but he is not a genocide-maker. He is not any worse than Mubarak or George Bush. Actually, Bush caused more deaths.
3 - The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is the only option: It is also a myth that the FSA will bring democracy. You may decide for yourself whether or not to believe that an army with the financial and military support of Saudi Arabia (the biggest enemy of the human rights struggle in the region and in the Middle Eastern revolutions, and which like Israel is an authoritarian theocratic regime), and also with all kinds of acrobatics from the CIA, is going to bring democracy.
4 - Military opposition is the only chance: It is not. It has not been from the beginning. The FSA, which was hastily organized outside Syria, which smeared the revolution with violence intentionally and willfully, and which disregards the unarmed opposition, is actually not even the last chance. It is a problem created at the beginning, whereas it should have been a symptom that emerged as a result. There is a civilian opposition in Syria. There are dozens of groups and opposition organizations who do not distinguish between the outrage of al-Assad and the atrocities of the FSA, maintaining a distance to both. These groups have true democratic reflexes, and believe in civilian will, administration and opposition, and who are afraid that their country will become like Iraq. Three days ago, 20 of these organizations gathered in Damascus and explicitly told the FSA to stop clashes. Take a note of the emphasis.
5 - A buffer zone is a must: Those who shouted: “Our door is open. Run away from al-Assad and come to us,” those who did not let national deputies inside those camps, are now saying: “We cannot manage this crisis anymore; the United Nations should take over.” Before even having tended the wounds of Van, we are flirting with giant mirrors in pursuit of becoming a little United States. We miss that declaring new zones, be it a buffer zone or a no-fly zone, is a similar construction activity that happened to Iraq 10 years ago. Why are people running away from al-Assad? Because that militia named “free” is attacking the al-Assad army. Al-Assad then attacks them, and also, indeed, the people caught in between. The civilians then run away, and so you step in to protect the civilians. Does that sound familiar?
6 - It will not affect the Kurdish issue: After the capture of Öcalan, the most serious shift in the issue, of course, came with the Syrian crisis. Actually, Turkey became Syria’s domestic problem. Young Kurds are now distancing themselves from the logical solution that could be summarized thus: “We want education in our mother tongue and we should be able to call Diyarbakýr ‘Amed.’” Time is running out. The state is losing the Osman Baydemir generation with each passing day. On the one hand, it says it is against the independence of Kurds, while on the other hand it serves the de facto formation of a Kurdish state with every step it takes. Then it hopes that “Barzani will manage our Kurdish issue.”
7 - Our Syrian policy is good: I wonder if there is need for an explanation of this. Some things are definitely not going right. If we cannot do anything at a time when the country we have the longest border with, Syria, is being dragged into chaos with an undetermined end, like Iraq, we at least need to revise our 2023 dreams.
Koray Çalışkan is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece was published August 31. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.