The Syrian government has has tried with great determination and dexterity to fragment the society and to exploit sectarian differences and class differences to prevent the emergence of a secular nonsectarian nationalist opposition. Michael Provence is the director of the Middle East Studies Programs at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the colonial and post-colonial Arab world, particularly popular insurgency and nationalism, and he has travelled and lived in many countries in the region including Lebanon and Syria.
Says OTW from Walls : I received the following letter sent from a dear expat friend of mine to her niece in Syria with a request to share it. In fact, this letter could have been sent from me to some of my own relatives by simply replacing “your aunt” with “your uncle, or you cousin“
To my niece with love
You are my niece and I love you and will always do. I am going to explain to you my view point. Syria has been ruled by the Assads for over 40 years. I lived under their rule as a little girl all the way up to starting a business and working at the university and for Syrian TV, thus, I really do not need anyone to explain to me what the Syrian regime is all about. I left the country 20 years ago and went back almost every year to visit. I watched Syria falling slowly into the abyss. I could see it very clearly coming from outside the country, while people inside the country were completely oblivious. They genuinely believed that Syria was getting better and moving forward, while in reality it was inching backwards. They thought that having the Internet and being allowed on limited web sites was the ultimate achievement. They figured that having some private schools meant progress in education, but they truly had no clue what progress meant or required. As time went by, the few institutions that we had in Syria were slowly disappearing under the pressure of corruption and nepotism. Syria was no longer ruled by a government, it was ruled by a mafia. You could get anything and everything done if you knew the right person, businesses could only operate if they partnered up with the right people and law and order was completely based on fear and torture. This type of government was not sustainable. The people in Syria were either becoming filthy rich or dirt poor, the middle class slowly, but surly disappeared and young people could neither find jobs nor hope for a better future. In summary, the Assads could write the book on how to destroy a nation. Today, the people said enough is enough. They watched other Arab countries get rid of their dictators and decided that it is now or never. I was not born yesterday; I know that the FSA is committing some atrocities. I know that the CIA and the MI 5 and others are roaming free in Syria. I realize that some Jihadi elements are there too, but this, to me, is the natural result of what the Assad regime did and continues to do. Forty years of persecution of free thought and speech. Forty years of the outlawing of free assembly. With that in mind, I do not understand how anyone can expect a unified opposition of any sort. We have literally not talked to each other in forty some years. How are we going to immediately make the connection and understand each other?. This is beyond normal human abilities. The demonstrations started as purely peaceful demonstrations. The regime opened fire on them killing droves of people. Yet they continued and persevered. Giath Matar, from Daraya, organized residents to meet the army with roses and bottles of water. He was arrested and tortured to death. The regime said that they are open to talk to the opposition. Every single person who showed up to those meetings was either arrested, killed or fled the country after continuous molestation. I can go on and on, but you get the picture. I spent 5 days with your father when he came to visit me. I know exactly how he feels about this whole thing. He was one of the lucky ones who had a good life that is now destroyed. He is worried about the future and rightly so. We are all worried and are under no illusions that this will take many years to stabilize. From his perspective: he was doing well and living well and he did not need this disruption at this stage in his life. I do not blame him. I would have probably felt the same way, had I been through the same experience, but the life of a nation and 23 million people cannot be decided by individual interests. It has to be decided by the will of the majority. I am an ardent supporter of this revolution and of the Free Syrian Army. I cannot wait for the bastard-in-chief to go. I want Syria to have a chance in becoming a nation of institutions. A nation where people can thrive because of their abilities, not their connections. Please remember that this regime that you are supporting is bombing Halab with planes that we, the people, paid for. They do not really care about anyone except themselves. He wants to keep his power period. They hit hospitals by tanks with straight aims. Wake up and open your eyes. This is no longer a plain and simple “difference of opinion”. At this point, you are either with the murderer or with the victim you cannot even choose to be in-between.
Your loving aunt….