Syria: An Uprising, Not a Revolution, By Yazan Badran

Syria: An Uprising, Not a Revolution

By Yazan Badran for Syria Comment

It has been four months, give or take, since the beginning of the protest movement in Syria. Many pages have been written about the nature of this conflict, from many points of view–pro and contra. Aside from the propaganda being hailed from every side, there has been precious little investigative or analytical work being done. And even then, it inevitably wanders down the sectarian narrative as if that’s the only possible explanation for the uprising, and the subsequent stalemate. I personally believe that while the sectarian issue is of great importance to the discussion, it should not be the dominant line of discourse.

This is one attempt to explore a different facet to the conflict. It is by no means a comprehensive analysis, but an attempt to highlight an area that has not been sufficiently discussed with regards to its importance to the developments on the ground.

Narratives and struggles

Since the very beginnings of the uprising, its most delicate task was how to define itself to the rest of the country. And in that regard, it has failed miserably. The uprising completely forfeited the ground and left the discourse to be run by everybody else; the regime, the opposition and the outside players. It is a catastrophic failure, even for a decentralized, disorganized popular movement.

There are three main facets to the struggle, and they represent the three main narratives:

Class struggle

It is what I believe the true propagator and the most essential element in the fomenting and even the survival of the uprising. It is also the most evident. But, ironically, it is the least-highlighted and discussed.

The overwhelming majority of those protesting represent the most alienated, impoverished and, indeed, humiliated populations in Syria. They are those who have been completely and utterly starved out by the last 10 years. Their humiliation and dehumanization does not happen in the political sphere but rather on the level of their daily bread. Their struggle is against the cruelest realities of the “modernization era” of Syria.

This is a narrative, and indeed, a struggle, that should’ve been actively carried over by the truly revolutionary elements in the uprising. A vanguard of sorts, the responsibility of which, would have been to propagate this line of discourse so as to better represent, defend and define the uprising. To establish a consciousness of this struggle as a class-struggle that involves the impoverished and the alienated regardless of religion or sect. The lack of such vanguard meant that those demonstrating, those who make up the physical component in the uprising were left with no voice of their own. One need only to observe how successful and important the role of such vanguard was in the Egyptian revolution, to know what catastrophic effect its lacking had on the Syrian uprising. (Union activists in Egypt had a great role in mobilizing the working class, and keeping them mobilized even after the fall of Mubarak. The demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere greatly benefited from the simultaneous strikes that took place all over the country, where in many parts the workers took over their factories.)

Sectarian struggle

The sectarian narrative has been a very useful propaganda tool for both sides. The Syrian regime has stuck to this narrative since the very early days of the uprising. It advertised sectarian vengeance and hatred, both indirectly, and indeed sometimes in less-ambiguous terms, as the main catalyst behind the protests. While only a small, negligible minority in the uprising (or the correspondent elements in the opposition) have attempted to directly invoke sectarian language, other elements in the opposition as well, inadvertently or otherwise, still managed to succumb to this narrative. In their attempt to expose what they viewed as a sectarian element to the regime’s crackdown, they have exposed their own narrow-minded and simplistic understanding of the nature of this uprising.

The main consequence of the dominance of this narrative is to pit the natural allies within the proletariat against each other, and to let them disintegrate into petty sectarian fights, instead of focusing on their real enemy. It is not unusual, nor is it original. In fact, throughout history, this has been the most effective tool in preempting and responding to any revolutionary intent.

Political struggle

It is the middle ground that the established opposition feels more comfortable with. Frightened by the disastrous consequences and possibilities resulting from the regime’s reliance on a sectarian discourse, and unwilling, or incapable, of leading the uprising in truly revolutionary fashion, the opposition has also struggled to propagate a political discourse that they, as representatives of the middle class, are more familiar with. (regardless of how “leftist” the Syrian opposition may seem, their narrative represents the interests of the middle-class/petite­bourgeoisie).

A Personal Perspective

I come from two distinct backgrounds. My maternal and paternal families, albeit being both Alawis, are quite different in how they came about. In fact, I would go further and say that both families represent a certain arch-type within Alawi society, and between these two lies the overwhelming majority of Alawis. I, myself, was consciously shielded from both families by my parents. Which is why I can attempt to look at it from an objective perspective, and why I find myself outside of both.

My mother’s is a small landowning family that used to reside in the area around Jisr al-Shughour. They were forcibly resettled in the west (Mashqita) during the Safarbarlek (World War I), and later moved to Latakia. In Latakia, they were a poor urban family supported by my grandfather, a conscript in the Army of the Levant, under the French mandate. Their development, in one generation (that of the 60s~70s) into one of high social standard, wealth and impeccable education, is a story that, while remarkable, could also be found in many other Alawi (and other minority sects as well) families of that era. They represent a once burgeoning and becoming middle class of professionals educated between western and eastern Europe.

My father’s side, on the other hand, was a family of great religious prestige but little wealth. My grandfather, his father, and especially my grandmother’s father were renowned Sheikhs in their locales. Throughout the same period, they advanced in a very different way to my maternal family. They now represent a class of low-income government clerks, army personnel and such. I won’t go into the reasons of why two families with the same opportunities could develop so differently, but what I want to say is that they both represent a larger phenomenon seen throughout Alawi society, and indeed within other sects as well.

Needless to say, secular values are stronger in the former and more traditional tribal ones are stronger in the latter.

Apart from individual sympathizers, both families stand firmly against the uprising. And while my mother’s family moves slowly towards a coherent defense of their best interests, siding with a political discourse, my father’s family, bizarrely, slides to an extreme and sometimes violent posture against the protesters and all their demands.

This is the sectarian narrative in its utmost success. A family struggling with economic realities of alienation and dehumanization defends its status-quo with all means possible. This is where the uprising fails. This is true not only for Alawis, mind you, but for many other sects within this struggle. The specific dynamics of how this works for Alawis were discussed in an excellent piece on this very blog a few weeks ago.


As I said, this is not an attempt at a comprehensive analysis of the crisis, but one that tries to shed light on parts of it that are drowned by the propaganda machine of both sides and a sensationalist media that only amplifies this propaganda.

As it should be obvious by now, and as I have mentioned before on this blog, I personally would’ve wanted to be part of a truly revolutionary change. Destructive as it may be on the short term, it has always been the catalyst of real progress. And while a revolution is still brewing in the country, this isn’t one yet. As it stands, with the failure of the proletariat to realize itself and the vicious sectarian out-pour, it seems that the political struggle is the only valid ticket out of this crisis. This will turn the uprising into a bourgeoisie revolution, akin to the revolutions that brought democracy to Europe. Nevertheless, the problems afflicting the working class, which were at the core of this uprising, will not be solved, and with the economy being the worst hit, they will most probably deteriorate further. Thus, there is a greater need today to reorganize these classes for the betterment of their conditions and to avoid the dangers of sectarian intra­struggles that have threatened and will threaten to tear them and the nation apart.
Posted by Camille Otrakji

Comments (85)

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51. Yazan said:


The definition of a political party, a group of people that are united under a certain ideology and are working to advance certain political goals, does not apply to the Baath anymore. It is a monolith of citizens who were herded as members. I daresay most of which never even read the Baath constitution, or went to more than 2-3 meetings. So I really can’t give you an answer to that one.

Also, you have to keep in mind that many Alawis were born in period where there was no politics at all in the country. These are either inclined to follow their parents, or, and for the most part, are completely apolitical.

As for the rest.

The SSNP never really had a wide base among Alawis to start with. The membership, or at least the sympathy for the party runs in family lines for the most part. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say no more than 5%.

Communists, I think are the majority of politicized Alawis. In my own class of 36 kids (middle school), there was at least 6-7 kids whose parents, or uncles served prison time for their communist political affiliations. (Hizb al-Amal, Maktab Siyassi). I’d say at least 10-20% of Alawis would join a communist or very leftist part.

New parties, especially those either center left (democratic socialists), or center right (liberal conservative), will have a vast amount of untapped, apolitical supporters-in-waiting to convert. These will be the most successful in the short or mid-term future.

The state, and its affiliated media (Dunia, Sham FM, etc.) did promote a sectarian angle.
Sham FM (and before you tell me it’s a private radio station, I’ll tell you that I know the owner personally, and his family and I know how far their connection to the regime goes), more than once said that tanks were moving from al-Zahra (a conservative Alawi neighborhood in Homs), to crush the demonstrators (or the terrorists as they called them) in Bab al-Sebaa (A conservative Sunni neighborhood). My whole extended family lives in al-Zahra, and they told me that not a single soldier did move. One wonders, why be so specific about the neighborhoods? And then why lie about it?
Syrian TV, as well as al-Dunia, in characterizing all those demonstrating as Salafists out to get the minorities of Syria, and in constantly spreading deadly rumors (like the one about the Israeli flag in Bab al-Sebaa) were also inflaming a sectarian issue.

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July 6th, 2011, 12:55 am


52. Syrian Commando said:

>While only a small, negligible minority in the uprising (or the correspondent elements in the opposition) have attempted to directly invoke sectarian language

Oh please, we hear what the MB uprising in Hama is chanting.

Government on the other hand, has been wise enough to censor any direct references to any minorities from its broadcasts. Who is using the “sectarian card”?

As for this being a class struggle… no. See, I used to be a socialist too, but this little tautology is nonsensical. Every uprising can be interpreted as a class struggle. You cannot get rid of class, Egalitarianism is bullshit.

Even so, I do support the SSNP and communist party in principle.

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July 6th, 2011, 12:55 am


53. Syrian Commando said:


Hahahaha… Turkey’s reaction. Hahahahaha, meanwhile they’re bombing PKK position. That’s really rich, thanks for that laugh.

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July 6th, 2011, 12:59 am


54. Abughassan said:

Here is my take on political affiliations of alawis using personal contacts and some relatives accounts ( though i was not asked 🙂 ):
The wild card is whether army personnel will be permitted to join political parties,the intention is to keep the army apolitical but that did not win approval of Baathists who have much to lose.albaath still have support among those employed by the state,poor farmers and some hard-core loyalists. The SSNP has decent support among educated alawis and that support is likely to grow at the expense of other parties including the communist parties. A hybrid party that combines a secular philosophy with a socialist mindset would win the support of most alawis.Baathists on my alawi relatives side are over 50% but most are casual baathis and could not care less about the party today.
Less than 10% of my Sunni relatives are baathis with more than 80% not rooting for any particular party and less than 10% belonging to other movments. None of my relatives as far as I know is a member of the MB (not that I expect them to announce it)
Percentage of alawis who are deeply religious is less than 10%
Percentage on my Sunni side : more than 30%
this is not by any mean a true description of both sects.

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July 6th, 2011, 1:24 am


55. Zenobia said:

A really excellent and insightful piece Yazan. You are shining a light where it should be shined. Thanks so much for contributing it.

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July 6th, 2011, 1:58 am


56. Simon said:

A good analysis of the uprising but we have to remember that the positive outcome is already sweeping Syria,reforms are on the way and change is imminent,MB will have to reassess their old grudges attitude and provide a 21 century vision to able Syria to move forwards.
the Government has achieved a lot for the last four months and the army is supporting it and it will carry on.
Minorities will never accept Hourias style of living,they will leave this to Saudi and Afghanistan to enjoy it,it is about time to address the sexual frustration of MB.
Sectarianism always existed in Syria and there were always hidden rules to follow to able them to live in harmony and tolerance. sexual and religious discrimination always existed in a very subtle form but it was controlled.
It is nice to dream and hope for a perfect,harmonious and fair society,but this is non existent.
Although Syrians don’t lack the sense of patriotism,but the last 4 months were a big challenge to its strength and if anything it made them more tenacious.

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July 6th, 2011, 2:06 am


57. SYR.Expat said:

Thank you Yazan for your input and clarifications, especially in regards to the role of the state media and its affiliates in promoting a “sectarian angle.”

“The state, and its affiliated media (Dunia, Sham FM, etc.) did promote a sectarian angle.”

Promoting a sectarian angle is a double-edged sword. People should stop playing this ugly card.

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July 6th, 2011, 2:26 am


58. Syrian Commando said:

Like I said, this assertion is rubbish and its quite likely he either did not listen to the media he listed or misinterpreted everything FIGHTING sectarianism as promoting sectarianism.

If anything the listed media promoted unity.

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July 6th, 2011, 2:46 am


59. OFF THE WALL said:

Dear Yazan
This article, appearing in today’s Alquds Alarabi, posits similar concerns as yours, albeit it goes a little more into possible options. I would like to hear your opinion :

أيها الشباب أنتم وقود الثورة وأنتم قادتها فعلى ماذا نختلف!!!
خولة دنيا


منذ عدة أيام وفي حديث مع شاب وفتاة من الفاعلين في دمشق، دخلنا في موضوع الشخصيات السورية المعروفة وأهميتها، ونوع الحراك الذي تقوم به، وأشكال الفعل السياسي التي انضوت في ظلها، تاركة مساحة ما ربما للشباب كي يأتوا متى شاؤوا، ودعّموا كلامهم بأن مكان الشباب محفوظ لأنهم هم الحراك اليوم وهم الذين قاموا بالثورة…لفت نظري قليلاً ربما أن ثقة هذين الشابين الرائعين كانت كبيرة عند الحديث في الحراك والعمل في الشارع وعلى الأرض وبين الناس، وكانا يمتلكان رؤية واضحة فيما يتعلق به، أما في الحديث عن السياسة فكان الشك يتلبس كلماتهم ويعتبرون أنهم يجب أن يستفيدوا من خبرة الكبار وذوي التجربة.
هذه الحالة هي من مئات الحالات والتي صادفت الكثير منها خلال الأشهر السابقة:
أي فاعلية كبيرة في الحراك، وفاعلية منخفضة في السياسة!!
كان الجواب الأول الذي خطر على بالي في الرد عليهما هو: في الثمانينات كان الكثير من الأحزاب التي ترونها قائمة حتى اليوم تصارع العزلة والموت، تعتمد على جيل شاب وكنت ترى ببساطة شاباً لم يتجاوز الثلاثين من العمر في منصب عضو لجنة مركزية أو منطقية، فبماذا تختلف عنه أنت؟
من أروع ما أنتجته هذه الثورة الرائعة هي عودة السياسة إلى الشباب السوري، السياسة التي غابت لعقود، والتي كانت تعتبر أمراً ثانوياً مقارنة بالجامعة والسفر وتعلم اللغات والكمبيوتر وغيره….
هذه العودة أعطت نضجاً كبيراً على صعيد الحراك اليومي، لم تترجم فعلاً سياسياً ومواقفاً وقيادات لهذا الحراك.
وإن كنت على ثقة بأن هذا الأمر لن يطول إلا أن الخوض به قليلاً لا يضر لصالح هؤلاء الشباب الذين نعول عليهم في المرحلة المقبلة من مستقبل سورية، ونريدهم هم أن يبنوه لا تلك الأحزاب الهرمة بشخصياتها ذات العقول الهرمة كذلك.

هناك مجموعة من النقاط يجب ملاحظتها في هذا الموضوع من قبل الشباب خاصة:
أولاً: هذا الحراك من أوقده واستمر بإيقاده هم الشباب ويجب أن يستمروا في المحافظة عليه وعلى النتائج التي ستتحقق وهي نتائج بالتأكيد لصالح كل فئات الشعب السوري وشرائحه.
ثانياً: صدقوني لستم أقل نضجاً ممن تقولون أنهم أصحاب خبرة، فلو كانوا كذلك لحققوا خلال سنوات عمل بالسياسة تتجاوز العشرين والثلاثين وحتى الأربعين عند البعض، ما استطعتم أنتم تحقيقه في شهور.
ثالثاً: مانوع الخبرة التي تنتظروها من هؤلاء؟ إن كانت خبرة:
-”””بالعمل الميداني’فأنتم أكثر خبرة، وإن كانت خبرة
-”””بالعمل التنظيمي، فانظروا إلى أحزابهم وعددها ونوع التظاهرات التي أخرجوها إلى الشارع (وهي مخجلة بحقهم أولاً)، وإن كانت خبرة
-”””بالعمل السياسي’فهم أثبتوا فشلهم، وأنتم وهم تتعلمون أبجدية السياسة من جديد مع الظرف الجديد والمعطيات الجديدة.
‘إن الكثير من الشخصيات التي تظهر اليوم وبعد اكثر من ثلاثة أشهر من الثورة لتقود الثورة، هي التي كانت تصارع النظام في السابق، ولكن يجب أن نعي أنها قد لا تصلح لا لقيادة الثورة الآن ولا لمرحلة مابعد الثورة، فهي ماتزال تتحدث بنفس اللغة السابقة، وتحاور بنفس الآليات، وتقصي المخالف لها بالرأي.
هذه الشخصيات يجب استبدالها بعقول جديدة لا تحمل لا ثارات الماضي ولا لغة الماضي الاقصائية.
صحيح أنها شخصيات جريئة، وساهمت لعقود في مقارعة النظام وتبيان نقائصه، ولكنها لم ولن تتخلص من آفاتها السابقة إن كان في العلاقة مع النظام، أو مع المعارضة الأخرى، أو مع الشباب والحراك الجديد.
‘عندما نتحدث عن تغيير النظام، فمن المهم أن نعلم أن هذا لا يعني تطهير المناصب من رموز النظام السابق فحسب، المطلوب تطهير المناصب ممن يفكرون بمنطق النظام السابق، حتى لو كانوا في موقع المعارضين له.
‘هناك نقطة مهمة أخرى تتعلق أن بعض الشخصيات وإن كانت هرمة ولكن تحمل عقل شباب وطريقة تفكير الشباب وهؤلاء يمكن الاعتماد عليهم وعلى نصائحهم وخبرتهم حين الحاجة إليها.

‘إن النصيحة الأهم التي أراها ضرورية للشباب في تعاملهم مع جيل الأحزاب الهرمة:
عليكم أنتم أن تقودوا الحراك لا هم
عليكم أنتم أن تحددوا شكل الاستفادة منهم لا هم من يحدد شكل مشاركتكم معهم كما يأملون.

ضعوا خطة عملكم، وإن احتجتم لنصائح فتوجهوا إلى من تروه مناسباً لتأخذوها منه، ولكن من موقع قوة ومن موقع القائد لا من موقع التابع أو الضعيف.
لديكم من نقاط القوة مالاتعرفوه فتذكروا:
-””’ أنتم من أحيا العروق الهرمة لديهم
-””’ وأنتم من حرك ركود سنينهم وأفكارهم وهزائمهم السابقة.
-””’ وأنتم من أعاد الأمل بالتغيير لفقدانهم الأمل
-””’ أنتم الأقوى وأنتم من يجب أن يعطي النصائح لا أن يأخذها
لدينا أمل كبير بكم وبما تقومون به وبقدراتكم على الفعل… وبأنكم لم ولن تكونوا عاجزين في أي لحظة من لحظات الثورة هذه ولا في المرحلة التي تليها..
فتمسكوا بنقاط قوتكم، وبقدرتكم على إنتاج خطابكم السياسي كما أنتجتم حراككم هذا وقدتموه
ايها الشباب: حان الوقت لتقودوا ثورتكم
ولتذهب الأحزاب الهرمة مع النظام الذي قارعته

‘ كاتبة سورية

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July 6th, 2011, 4:32 am


60. Tara said:


I am in it for political freedom ie freedom and dignity, the rule of law, democracy and all these nice things. I agree with your overall assessment but would like to know your opinion in regard to the percentage make up of the “uprising” in term of class struggle vs political struggle.

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July 6th, 2011, 5:51 am


61. Yazan said:

Interesting article, I will comment more later.

As far as I know, and correct me if I’m wrong, you did not go down to the street and demonstrate. Me, and you, don’t make the cut. We’re still the silent majority.

I’d say at least 80-90% of the demonstrations are because of social and economic injustices. But if you asked them, they wouldn’t tell you that. They’d tell you a word, “Hurriyeh”, that they can not explain, and when they do, the snobs, the racists, and the class-prejudiced will tell you, “look at them, they don’t even know what they want.” This is, in Marxist terms, the class-consciousness that is lacking. They know what they want, they want freedom from their humiliation and dehumanization, and they experience that in their economic reality. So it is a class-struggle, but it is being fought by a disorganized class that is unable to realize itself and its power.

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July 6th, 2011, 6:34 am


62. 873 said:

Is this Syria Comment’s ‘Yazan Badran’ who billed himself in one of his earlier posts as being Japanese? The name and look is pure Israeli. Another Mista’aravim speaking as an “Arab” expert?

Is he any relation to Tony Badran of neocon, WINEP/AIPAC-American repute?

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July 6th, 2011, 6:37 am


63. Yazan said:

Why am I not surprised that your knowledge of the Arabic language is just as acute and shrewd as your political awareness? But, I’m a nice a guy, I’ll give a little lesson for free.

Yazan (يزن) means the valley in old Arabic. It’s a Yemeni name, and it’s famous as a part of the legend of Saif bin thi Yazan (سيف بن ذي يزن) or Saif, the son of the king of the valley. It’s a very famous folk tale about a Yemeni king. Read more about it here ( or in English if you don’t understand Arabic

Badran (بدران), well that’s just a family name, it’s muthanna for Badr.

No, I’m not a relative of Tony Badran. Badran is the name of several families in many Arab countries including Lebanon and Jordan. They’re not related. Most famous of Badrans, is a former Prime Minister of Jordan.

Moving on. I am Syrian, I’m not Israeli. I’m living in Japan, I’m not Japanese. And I’ve been blogging for 6 years. But I’m also not surprised you haven’t been to my blog (hint, click on my name), I usually blog for readers with a better IQ.

One more thing, perhaps next time you could use Very useful. (I wish that was still online, but alas)

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July 6th, 2011, 7:08 am


64. Tara said:


Isn’t social and economic injustice the other face of lack of hurriah and political freedom?

Wouldn’t social and economic justice be established with hurriah? Aren’t we all not talking about the same things ( class struggle and political struggle) but perhaps using different terms?

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July 6th, 2011, 7:10 am


65. Yazan said:

No, these are two different struggles. They overlap at many places but they are different struggles.

India for example, is the world’s largest democracy, but it is also one of the most socially and economically unjust places on earth.

Conversely, there are many examples of dictatorships (brutal ones for that matter) that brought about unparalleled economic prosperity (Spain, Taiwan and South Korea come to mind)

On the other hand, many argue that economic emancipation will eventually bring about an inevitable political and social emancipation. That’s true for many places (South Korea again), but the advancement is very slow. Look at the gulf (and by that I mean the really prosperous countries, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain..)

Class-struggles, still exist even in the most prosperous countries. Even in those with unparalleled even distribution of wealth (Japan, Sweden). Marxist theory holds that class-struggle is one for post-democratic world. An unrealistic ideal, it may be. But I don’t see the point of living for realistic ideals.

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July 6th, 2011, 7:21 am


66. Tara said:


Good answer. I like it. Thank you.

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July 6th, 2011, 7:49 am


67. Sheila said:

Dear Yazan,
I am sorry if I offended you in any way. That was not my goal. It is true that I do not know you, but I do have certain respect for you. This respect stems from the fact that you are attempting to think this problem through and trying to be as objective as you can. However, I think the fact that I do not know you, should make you more interested in hearing how I felt when I read your article. I truly feel that you are struggling with this. Your famliy supports the regime, but you are unable to forgive all the atrocities.
You also did not address all the points that I raised, specifically, my challenge to your claim that this is a poor man’s uprising. I completely disagree. This is everybody getting sick and tired of this mafia ruling the country. The people in Aleppo and Damascus have been trying very hard to join in, but what people do not know is that the security presence in these cities is above and beyond belief. This is not an uprising of the poor.
I hope that there are more people like you Yazan, who are willing to think independently and face the issues at hand, but please keep an open mind about comments like mine. I really did try to convey to you what I truly felt.

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July 6th, 2011, 9:36 am


68. N.Z. said:

Yazan, thanks for the time and effort, both, in writing about your personal life,thoughts, and responding.

Your Alawites family are but a representation of the majority of `syrian families and not sect related, in terms of pro and contra, ……

Your answer to Tara is very telling of your upbringing, a sound analysis in regards to the protesters. We are all together in this struggle against the Assad mafia, who in no shape or form are representative of the Syrian Alawites, they are power hungry trying to salvage their status quo, on the expense of our future.

A just word in front of an abusive dictator, we, collectively are guilty and responsible at once, for allowing this self serving family to rule us for so long, out of fear. Their brutality is legendary. Any security service can apprehend anyone, but only one, either the father or son, has the power to release them.

These brave men and women who took to the streets are the most patriotic, peace loving and selfless citizens the world had ever known. We have no choice but to give them full credit.

Everyone on this blog wants change, but we, all, are cowards, sitting in the comfort of our homes and criticizing the young and old for their bravery, labelling them one time as Salafist and the next time as MB. Hypocrites.

It is your likes, Yazan, those with a sense of social justice and equality for all, your likes who have the courage to be proud of their respective background, can take us and the country to a safe landing.

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July 6th, 2011, 9:46 am


69. William Scott Scherk said:

Abu Ghassan, at #36:

The only way to assure Syrians who are afraid of a regime change is for the opposition to unite under the goal of secular democracy,and I see little chance of this happening now.

Little chance? See the statements from the Kilo get-together, see the statements for the Haitham Malla/Dalila get-together ( — looks like this group cannot get approval to meet together from the government, which I do not understand!).

I mean only to point out that these attempts at pulling together opposition voices and forces are explicit in the bottom line for a civil/secular Syria, even though public dissemination is being resisted by the government, if not repressed.

The Kilo conference, documents, and statements are slightly more particular about the precise elements of civil state that are necessary in law.

To my eyes, at least, the bottom line on these foundation documents is a civil Syria, and worthy of your full support, Abu Ghassan.

If the government could allow them to meet together, and to publish their views freely and to speak frankly to state media . . . but for some reason Syria must wait until an 80-article restrictive media legal framework is decreed some months down the road.

How can there be a free and open debate, consensus, unification if the state actors may still arrest and detain anyone arbitrarily for unauthorized gatherings and publications and statements?

(this is not to mention folks awaiting a release for ‘political crimes’ and those such as my contacts within official Syrian media who are afraid to honestly report, not to mention those among the 10,000 detainess who may be guilty of nothing more than opinion. This is why the precondition for opposition attendance at a a regime-sponsored dialogue is that repression of political opinion be lifted and detainees to released. If only Assad could issue a political amnesty decree . . . )

People are also watching Egypt where the revolution is being “stolen” and sold to the islamists who ,in Syria and Egypt alike,could not care less about women and minorities but may be willing to make tactical statements that satisfy the US and pacify those who want to trust them,I do not …

The Ikhwan in Egypt and their new party are having an in-the-open testing of their acts, policies and statements. So far the MB has fissured and disfellowshipped groups formerly within. The old guard now faces the fact of 5 former MB political formations — which reject any authoritarian internal structure (

Interesting times indeed for the MB and allies/former allies in Egypt, Abu Ghassan — but all is not simple, nor unexposed, nor unresisted or unremarked. Egypt has the benefit over Syria of a much more robust media and a now-open political space.

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July 6th, 2011, 10:00 am


70. vlad-the-syrian said:


“So far the MB has fissured and disfellowshipped groups formerly within”

i dont think it is serious

disseminating is the MB’s strategy in Egypt

anyway it is too soon to draw out a correct analysis

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July 6th, 2011, 10:31 am


71. William Scott Scherk said:

To the transylvania impaler in #69 —

I see a list of actions in Egypt involving the Ikhwan there. You can dispute my interpretation, you can tell SC readers what you think of the facts if you like, but do acknowledge my report of fissure and disfellowship is true. Here is what Ikhwan did and have had done to it, in order:

– ‘reformed’ its guidance bureau to remove reformists
– ordered youth to abstain from Egyptian demonstrations
– got in the game and joined demos later
– announced its party would be Freedom and Justice
– announced Ikhwan members could only join one party (guess which party?)
– youth group announced conference
– leadership of youth group conference disfellowshipped
– some in youth group support other emerging party
– more disfellowships
– former Ikhwan guidance dude says will run for Prez
– disfellowshipped
– other Ikhwan dude in youth adheres to newer party
– bye bye youth dude
– (and a few more details familiar to anyone watching Egyptian politics lately)

Ikhwan in Egypt is discovering you get what you pay for. They paid for freedom of speech and opinion, and are confronted with the reality that folks do not think in lockstep or wish to be herded into camps of obedient sheep. I make no predictions of electoral strength, just point out the possibilities, since the liberal wing of the Ikhwan-flavoured are also in the game and playing hard.

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July 6th, 2011, 10:48 am


72. N.Z. said:

200 tanks moved to Hama, after Fridays peaceful protests!

Another massacre is taking place in Hama, and yet they are spectators cheering this dictator and his sadist turned men

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July 6th, 2011, 11:02 am


73. 873 said:

62. Yazan said:
Why am I not surprised that your knowledge of the Arabic language is just as acute and shrewd as your political awareness? But, I’m a nice a guy, I’ll give a little lesson for free.

If your blog is as mediocre as your posts- glad I skipped it, I havent missed a thing. You have zero new to add, just more of the usual cliches on this subject that I suppose you think are original and insightful LOLOL.

“The conflict comprises: 1. Class issues 2. Sectarian infighting 3. Political struggle” DUH! This has been covered ad infinitum here by EVERYONE! Wow, I’m dumbstruck at your new revelations!!

If I want the regurgitated obvious, I’ll stick to US state media, not some third rate nobody w/ affectations to ‘journalism’ or professional analysis. More intellectual ‘products’ from a bureaucratic mind.

Dont know what you mean by “arch type” but if you’re quoting Carl Jung the word is Archetype and the concept has nothing to do with any thing you have presented. My arabic is far from fluent, but your english could also use a Dr.

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July 6th, 2011, 11:34 am


74. Abughassan said:

I said what I said because I know that the popularity of islamists and conservative Muslims in Syria is higher than what many people here are willing to admit. The answer is not to cave in and reverse secular measures to pacify these groups,like the return of teachers who cover every inch of their body before they go to public schools to teach our kids about the “diverse” world we live in. The regime has only itself to blame when it imprisoned people like Kilo and Dalila and weakened secular opposition to the point that we are mostly left with militant islamists who are hungry to take over and retaliate against everybody who does not share their twisted version of Islam. It is a matter of national security that those seculars be left free to assemble and organize so they can pursue what we called “the third option”. Until this is done,this uprising will be largely a battle between security apparatus and militant Muslims who managed to keep Syria in a state of confusion and tension waiting for their opponents to make more mistakes that will surely inflame the streets.

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July 6th, 2011, 11:39 am


75. vlad-the-syrian said:

WSS @70

you seem very disturbed and angry about what i’ve said in comment #69

“disseminating is the MB’s strategy in Egypt”

hence i can only assume that i’m right and that this is te truth

all these people (your friends) are and remain Ikhwan

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July 6th, 2011, 11:40 am


76. William Scott Scherk said:

Vlad, please forgive, I did not mean my tone to appear angry, but factual. I will of course read your analysis of the splits and personages and parties derivative of the Egyptian MB (not to mention the salafists!) and look forward to your dissection of all of the varied islamist currents in Syria also. Please note that I condemn the sectarian hate preached by the offshore cleric Aroun.

Abu Ghassan, I surely respect you — the things I mention are meant only to broaden discussion, not to reject your findings or opinions. What you say about Kilo and Dalila rings true to reality to me from my far away vantage in Vancouver. I do point out that the MB situation in Egypt (and Nadha in Tunisia) is fully in the open now, in contest, under frank and open discussion and legal struggle between elements.

Surely, in Syria it cannot be too much for anyone to ask that the most well-known dissidents can have a platform now? Why does everything wait until the month after tomorrow? If Assad can decree various amnesties, surely he can decree a suspension of existing punishments and curbs and repressions on media/opinion/expression. Surely folks can do the preparatory discussions for forming future parties without facing detention or investigation and secret punishments or suppression.

The road ahead is long, as in Tunisia and Egypt. The free opinion space there came first — they have a long way to go before elections for parliaments, for a new constitution, for executive elections.

It is my hope that the regime in Syria will give some policy directives today, immediately, to open the civil discourse space. I cannot imagine what they are waiting for. Will there be no free speech and assembly and publication until some yon distant day when all the dialoque has been marshalled? What about now?

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July 6th, 2011, 12:06 pm


77. 873 said:

Dear Moderator,

Please ask Syrian Ambassador to the US to give some information from their side of the story- specifically, their claims that outside agitators have been infiltrated into Syria. Who? Where? How?
Even many of the MSM have alluded to this as fact, but of course it is not in the interests of their bosses to further investigate this angle. It is referrenced in 1-2 sentences only, then quickly passed over. A full, honest investigation into evidence for its validity or non-validity- THAT would be unique material.

SC has had the anti-Assad Ausama “Chalabi” group from London on here, the US student w/ his long supposed “fair” article (that ended up making Syria look bad), and the Gay Girl Damascene via American intel agent Britta MacMaster & Co. (Presented by Landis who is on the board of an anti-Syria NGO)

Why not an unequivocal piece from the other side? Please give the pro-Syria camp a platform too so that S Commando doesnt have to be the lone vehement voice for that side!

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July 6th, 2011, 12:27 pm


78. Abughassan said:

It does not look like the coming meeting on july10th will add much to efforts to provide a solution to this crisis because many prominent opposition figures are not happy with the regime’s sluggish response to basic demands like a preliminary position on the abolishment of article-8,a commitment to free elections and,most importantly,the release of all political prisoners. We just have to wait for another month or so before we can take a deep breath,assuming that the regime is not buying time and playing games. Bashar is not receiving good advice,this is why he waited 11 years to do what is right,and yet he is still very cautious and even hesitant. I am not ready to declare that the beginning of the end of this crisis has been reached but there are encouraging signs,however,signs are not a substitute for solid measures. Some loyalists are still unwilling to understand that Bashar will at best be a transitional president who must deliver on promises he made in 2000,then repeated those promises in 2005,but waited until now to allow political reform to get out of jail..

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July 6th, 2011, 12:48 pm


79. Yazan said:

Dear Sheila,
Not offended, at all. But, simply put, I feel that it’s a futile effort for us to discuss “me”, while you know so little about me. (not to mention that it’s beside the point.)

Case in point, what you mentioned in your last comment. I am not struggling with the fact that my family is supporting the regime, for several reasons. One, is because, and I’ve mentioned that, my relationship with the “family” is minimal. They don’t reflect on me, and I don’t reflect on them. Another one would be, that while the majority of the family does support the regime, those who don’t are very vocal and very important people in the public discourse. Along with many reasons relating to my own life, and family history, that you couldn’t possibly have known, and that I’m not inclined to share here.

It’s not that I’m “unable” to forgive the atrocities. I’m not trying to forgive them. I have a first hand account of them, and I’m not in any psychological struggle whether to forgive them or not. I’m simply trying to analyse them.

Ofcourse none of these things, are ones that you could’ve known, but all of them would be important to a discussion about me, I’m just not sure why we’d want to go there. I’d love to discuss what’s written, regardless of who wrote it. Agree?

Everybody is certainly fed up with this failed mode of governance, I agree. But not everybody is inclined to join in the protests. In Homs, the only city where upper-middle class neighborhoods joined in, it took them 3 months, and an unprecedented crackdown, and the sight of tanks in their neighborhoods to rise up. The uprising certainly started as one of the working classes revolting against their conditions, and it is sustained by these. The rural vs. urban character of the uprising only strengthens my claim. It is significant because historically the rural areas were the Baath’s main base of support. But in the last 10-20 years they’ve seen all the wealth they achieved under the first 20yrs of socialism disappear.
In Latakia, Skantouri, and Ramel Falastini, as well as Homs Baba Amro and to a lesser degree Bab al-Sebaa (the hotbeds of demonstrations, in their respective cities), are areas where a “respectable” middle-class person would never dare go, these are places plagued by poverty, illness, unemployment, crime, etc.

Like I told Tara, the middle class has much more to lose in participating. And regardless of whether they sympathize or not, they still have not made a serious participation, apart from facebook groups which I am a member of several.

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July 6th, 2011, 10:46 pm


80. louai said:

dear Yazan sorry for the delay
there is no comparison between the stat’s media and the opposition media(wisal safa jazeera arabya you name it) when it comes to sectarian language and rumours ,i don’t like doing that but i have to go throw some examples to explain
the Syrian soldiers who were executed and slaughtered by Jisr el shoghor terrorists video , it has clear sectarian motive and it was obvious a hate crime ,the dump terrorists posted it on youtube and here is the original video with the filthy sectarian language
Addunia TV report muting the filthy sectarian talk and other filthy talks (the same did the Syrian TV)

its one example that I remembered , if addunia wanted to use these video in a sectarian way to scare minorities so it’s a golden opportunity to do so

as for the rumor about the Israeli flag ,its started with a phone call to sham FM from a lady who claimed to be from Homs and said the story but I heard later on Addunia TV the presenter condemning the story and stating that they went and investigated but nothing found but the Syrian flag , that was confirmed on one of the opposition websites (in ugly way) here is the link

الزغبي يدعو لقتل المسلمين العلويين في سورية على قناة صفا

there are hundreds of similar clips and I am sure you know that ,maybe state’s media is not perfect but its incomparable to the opposition media’s sectarian war .

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July 7th, 2011, 4:35 am


81. Aboud said:

@79 “In Homs, the only city where upper-middle class neighborhoods joined in, it took them 3 months, and an unprecedented crackdown, and the sight of tanks in their neighborhoods to rise up”

At the start, anyone who wanted to demonstrate would go to Khaldia or Baba Amr to join Friday prayers. Once the number of people participating from Insha’at grew to sufficient numbers, nightly demonstrations started to be held there.

I remember the first time Insha’at came out on their own. It was about a month ago. The security forces had beefed up their presence there. At exactly noon, massive amounts of gunfire was heard. It was firing meant to intimidate the people of Baba Amr from going out to Friday prayers.

It had the opposite effect. People in Insha’at were maddened by this display of blatant bullying. Right after Friday prayer, they went out in the streets and chanted in support of Baba Amr. The more the firing grew in Baba Amr, the bigger and louder the Insha’at demonstration got. For two hours, the demonstrators walked up and down the neighborhood, shouting at the top of their lungs.

The next day, the army replaced the shabiha at the checkpoint, and we have rarely heard a shot from Baba Amr since then.

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July 7th, 2011, 4:58 am


82. On Olives and Sake» Blog Archive » Syria: An Uprising, Not a Revolution said:

[…] A guest-post at Joshua Landis’ Syria Comment. […]

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July 7th, 2011, 6:15 am


83. ALI ALVES said:

its over the conspiracy by us israel saudi arabia turkey,aljazeera,amnesty international,hrw,and mrach 14th movement,is now full blown exposed..its done,give it up,this is absolute evidence and proof of cpnspiracy by these above mentioned countreis and organizations..period..there is nothing else to discuss..its proven deal with it…

MUST READ!!! Kiss Of ‘Democratic’ Death: Israel’s Plot To Take Down Syria I by Jonathan Azaziah

MUST SEE!!!Kiss Of ‘Democratic’ Death: Israel’s Plot To Take Down Syria II by Jonathan Azaziah

Energy wars and the destabilization of Syria- Geopolitics at it’s worst


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July 7th, 2011, 2:17 pm


84. أحمد نظير الأتاسي said:

Dear Yazan
Thank you for this candid article, it is very informative regardless of my assessment of it. You introduced yourself so we understand better what you say. In turn, for the same reasons, I should introduce myself. I am 43 years old, originally from Homs, agnostic, individualistic, studied engineering for a long time and then decided to become a historian. Currently, I teach Middle Eastern history in the USA. I agree with you that sectarianism is over-used by westerners studying Syria while disregarding other explanatory factors. However, the sectarian identity is quite strong in Syria that it must be taken into consideration as a viable explanatory factor. The fact that sectarianism is a negative taboo is indicative of its powers despite people’s avowed hatred of it. It is not necessarily a conscious choice, but even your assessment of the current situation in Syria shows a strong sectarian perspective (not preference). I am not accusing you of sectarianism, I am just saying that your understanding of Syria is shaped by your social and sectarian belonging in many ways. Your Marxist penchant will find my social relativism quite abhorrent. Unlike Marxists, I do not distinguish between “good” and “bad” uprisings or revolutions. The notions of class and class consciousness are too rigid as tools of social analysis in my opinion. Back to Syria, probably a good majority of the protesters are protesting for economic reasons, but Marxism will naturally filter out such reason as identity, migration, the psychology of repression or relative poverty and unequal distribution of opportunity. I find your disdain of the so called “Houriyyas” quite elitist, but that accords well with your claim that they lack a rational self-conscious avant garde to lead them to a “good revolution” worthy of support. It is really telling that your analysis sounds like a nationalist discourse, I would call it Alawi nationalism. Again this is not an insult, what I mean is that your analysis sounds like other known discourses uttered by emerging national middle classes; which is exactly the way Hafiz al-Asad presented himself, a hero and liberator of the Alawis in Syria; and the reaction of Bashar al-Assad and his supporters would be made very clear by such a theory. It is no surprise that the Syrian Social Nationalist Party has many supporters among Alawis and Christians in Syria. Again, this is not an insult, because I do not posit Alawi nationalism as an opposite to Arab nationalism because I really do not care about ideologies. What could unite all Syrians today is a rejection of the police state that the Assads have established. What is really hurtful today is that supporters of Assad would hide behind all kinds of exclusive elitist rhetoric to disguise the fact that they really consider that guy and his father as national emancipators regardless of the suffering that this family has caused our country. I don’t call on people to support the uprising, I however do call on them to support the desire for change and an acknowledgment of how horribly oppressive this regime is. Do voice your opinion, your road-map, your initiative, whatever, but do not deride the demonstrators. By the way, our two immediate families share many commonalities in their history despite my last name which could insinuate the contrary. I do hate the Assad regime, but my strong feelings do not come from a sectarian perspective but rather from deeply seated trauma. I do sincerely hate religions and will struggle against an Islamist state in Syria the same way I struggle against the Assad state. I hope you understand that feeling which I share with many of the demonstrators regardless of whatever other reason have pushed them over the edge. I hope to continue the debate, my blog address is given above. regards

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July 10th, 2011, 1:44 am


85. Yazan said:

Dear Ahmad,
In my attempt to present a coherent Marxist interpretation of the uprising I may have, inadvertently, obscured my own strong personal inclinations. And your excellent response is evident of that, to me.

I don’t do that often. In fact on my own blog, I show quite the disdain for those who do that. But because this is an article that was written for SyriaComment, and because I felt that a Marxist interpretation (however rigid, it may be to some people) is needed at this point, I chose to swallow that bitter pill.

Let me explain a little further, so we can perhaps be on the same wavelength.
I do not (nor do I believe Marx, Engels, Gramsci, or even Lenin) portray revolutions as “good” or “bad”. But, and especially in Leninist Marxism, there is a rigid portrayal of a successful social revolution (not “good”, but “successful”). The model that Lenin presented, is the model I used here, because it’s the most accessible to many people.

Further still, I did not introduce myself in the article. I introduced my extended families, and I made it clear that I have absolutely nothing in common with either. If I was to try and introduce myself in a finite number of social stereotypes I’d say I’m an: Individualist, Humanist, Atheist, very strongly influenced by Marxist, existential and later situationalist literature. But this is what I am today, as I write this.

My immediate family history is completely independent and utterly different from that of my extended ones. Hafez al-Assad made sure that my father had to live in voluntary exile for 10 years, and undercover/voluntary house arrest for 20. At 5yrs old, I had to change my name, every time I crossed the borders. I don’t see Hafez al-Assad, nor his son as emancipators. And if my words are not as clear-cut, even here, as you might expect them to be, it’s because I hold an infinite amount of fear/caution and silence within.

I did not, nor will I ever, deride those demonstrating. After 6 years of conscious struggle and trying to cut that umbilical cord to that place, those demonstrators were the only thing that brought me back. And I share your every sentiment in that regard.

This article is not about “me”, I have my blog to write about that. This is exactly what I billed it out:

“This is one attempt to explore a different facet to the conflict. It is by no means a comprehensive analysis, but an attempt to highlight an area that has not been sufficiently discussed with regards to its importance to the developments on the ground.”

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July 12th, 2011, 12:31 am


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