One Year Later: Exposing the al-Assad Regime’s Lies

March 16, 2012

“One year ago today, Syrians emboldened by the changing tide of history in their region stood up in the streets of Damascus to appeal for their universal rights and freedoms,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement on Thursday.

One year and more than 8,000 tragic and unnecessary civilian deaths later, the world still watches as the al-Assad regime continues to massacre the Syrian people and respond to calls for peace and freedom with violence and bloodshed.

In one dynamic year, the Syrian revolution, dubbed the “mother of all revolutions” by Wadah Khanfar, the former director of the Al Jazeera Network, has left people around the world confused about what is fact and fiction as the al-Assad regime has done a good job in feeding myths about the conflict to the media.

Myth #1

Religious minorities support the al-Assad regime.

Among the myths perpetuated throughout the Syrian revolution is that the regime has retained support from religious minorities, such as the Druze, Christians and Alawites (an offshoot of the Shia school of thought and a majority of the al-Assad regime). However, the truth is that a prominent Alawi member of the Syrian National Council stressed that many Syrian Alawites have been “vulnerable to the injustice of the Syrian regime.” Unfortunately, the Syrian government has perpetuated this myth that violence is occurring based on sectarian divisions, but the reality is that ethnic and religious minorities have been working together. With hope, they will continue to work together to meet the needs of the Syrian people.

Myth #2
The conflict in Syria only concerns Syrian interests. 

Any revolution, conflict or situation has a profound impact on the citizens of that nation; however it is naïve to think that regional geopolitical factors will not be affected. With Syria, there are a number of outside influences — namely Iran, China and Russia— that have great interests in the conflict. Russia, one of the biggest arms suppliers to Syria, and China, the world’s third largest supplier of imports to Syria, both have financial interests in maintaining their relationship with the current Syrian government. In addition, Saudi Arabia has taken a selfish interest in the conflict using divisive sectarian language to describe the suffering of the Syrian people. Comments that the conflict is between the Sunni oppressed and Alawite oppressor only serve this selfish narrative further. This type of rhetoric only strengthens Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and plays into his administration’s strategy of divide and conquer. Syria must have the same freedom of pursuing an organic revolution as other Arab Spring countries, such as Egypt and Tunisia, without the influence of outside forces.

Myth #3

Al-Qaeda and other violent radical groups are involved in the conflict and are indeed leading the opposition. 

The al-Assad administration’s leading narrative on the conflict is to frame the opposition in a way that they are being led by outside forces such as al-Qaeda and other radical entities. As long as al-Assad frames the opposition in that way, he enjoys tactical survival, according to a senior U.S. official. The Syrian revolution started and continues to be an organic movement from the Syrian people. If radical elements ever came into power, it would be through a fracture of the opposition, which would consequently create a political power vacuum.

Myth #4
The inevitable end to the conflict will be a Syrian civil war. 

Influence from outside, uninvolved parties has allowed the myth of a civil war to grow. One such instigator is an Imam from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His reckless rhetoric perpetuated the myth that the Syrian conflict is dividing people because it is a fight between Alawite Shia oppressors and Sunni freedom fighters.

The Syrian conflict can end in a manner where the calls for freedom, justice and human dignity are restored without resulting in civil war. If the international community can protect the Syrian people from the oppressive and violent al-Assad regime, the conflict does not need to result in war. Rather than outside agitators acting in a politically selfish manner, the paradigm shift should be toward engaging in humanitarian efforts for the people. When citizens of a country cannot defend themselves from their own government, the international community has a moral obligation to intervene on a humanitarian basis.

After one year, Iran, China and Russia have not yet addressed the atrocities of the al-Assad regime and the human catastrophe it has caused. Decisions cannot be based on myths. It is imperative to move forward and resolve one of the most gruesome conflicts to spring about from peaceful calls for freedom and justice.

It is time for the Muslim countries, organizations and movements to step forward and stand with the people in a call for justice and an end to violence. The people need to be given the right to self-determination without the fear of death.

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