[Marxism] Interview on the Syrian revolution
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jul 9 07:51:28 MDT 2011
The Syrian Revolution: Interview with Rosa Yaseen Hassan (Part 1)
Jul 07 2011 by Jadaliyya Reports
In late June, a Jadaliyya affiliate sat with Syrian novelist Rosa Yaseen
Hassan to talk about the Syrian revolution. The interview was conducted
in Arabic and transcribed/translated into English. This post represents
Part 1 of the interview, in which Hassan discusses the nature of the
Syrian revolution. Part 2 deals with the nature of the regime's attempts
to suppress the revolution. Part 3 discusses culture and culture
production in Syria during the Syrian revolution.
Rosa Yaseen Hassan is a Syrian writer and activist. She studied
architecture and worked as a journalist. She has published a short story
collection, Sama' Mulawwatha Bi-l-daw' (A Sky Tainted with Light, 2000)
and four novels, one of which, Hurras al-Hawa' (Guards of the Air,
Beirut, al-Kawkab Books, 2009) was longlisted for the International
Prize for Arabic Fiction. Her most recent novel is entitled Profa
Jadaliyya Affilaite (JA): We want to start, if you will, with general
observations of the current situation in Syria.
Rosa Yaseen Hassan (RYH): Syria today is in the throws of revolution as
I am sure you are seeing on the satellite channels or the media outlets.
This is a popular revolution; it began approximately three months ago.
It started with a small incident that was the spark of this revolution.
This [incident] was the detention of children in Dar'a and their
[subsequent] imprisonment and torture over ten days. In the wake of this
[incident], the intifada [uprising] began in Dar'a, which is a city in
the south of Syria, and [eventually] this [uprising] became generalized
across all Syrian areas.
JA: There are some people that say there is no such thing as a Syrian
revolution. That there was [instead] something called the Syrian
intifada: an intifada for dignity, an intifada against certain practices
of the Syrian state or Syrian regime. How do you view things?
RYH: Let me say that it started as an intifada. But today, after three
months, after - The revolution in Syria is developing very rapidly. If
we take into account that Syria is a security state, and that there were
no opportunities for popular activities (or let me say mobilizations)
because of this very despotic security grip, this development [of the
uprising], I believe, has begun today to become a real revolution. [I
say this] because, first of all, it includes most of the Syrian areas,
most of the sects and minorities, and is reflected in the social and
economic life. Therefore, it has began to take shape as a revolution and
not just an uprising.
Perhaps its origin is freedom, to be sure. The first slogan to come out
in Dar'a during the revolution was: "freedom freedom." This was the
first slogan. It was an uprising for the sake of freedom and dignity but
[it has since] transformed into a revolution.
JA: How do we respond to the people that claim that the protesters and
the social components of the Syrian revolution lack a practical
understanding of what democracy means?
RYH: It is possible that, in general, the Syrian people that came out as
part of the revolution do not understand freedom in a legal or
intellectual sense. But [they] do know perfectly well that they have
been ruled by a decades-long oppressive security grip, that they are
very poor, and that there are those that have stolen their wealth. And
[they also know] that [they] cannot have the political freedoms [under
this regime] that they should, that [they] cannot practice the democracy
that they dream of, and [that they] are seeing people enjoying lots of
things that [they, the Syrian people,] cannot enjoy. Therefore, by
virtue of this thing that the Syrian citizen is feeling, they were able
to understand the meaning of freedom, irrespective of whether they were
in tune with the legal nuances [of freedom] or not. However, we also
observe that this revolution, during the three months (that could if you
want be measured as three years), this massive development that has
happened has brought society into a new arena. Syrian society is a
society that did not talk about politics, did not do political work; it
did not engage with it [i.e., the political]. The revolution has
politicized Syrian society. Many did not know the Emergency Law or even
that there was a state of emergency in Syria. Today, they know. There
were a lot of people that did not know [about] the Political Parties
Law, but today they know what the Political Parties Law is. The
politicization of the Syrian street is the most important, [or rather]
one of the most important things, happening in Syria.
JA: So in spite of the difficulties faced and blood shed by the Syrian
revolutionary popular movement, can we consider the revolution to be
successful to a great extent or only to some extent?
RYH: In my opinion, it has a greater success. Meaning, that its success
increases every day. I hope that it remains peaceful, an issue that I
stress in the consciousness of the Syrian people, and that it remains
attentive to this in protests, slogans, and popular conduct; one that is
very beautiful. Today you rarely see sectarian, religious, or inciting
slogans and signs. I hope that this remains to be the case. But it is
clear that as it becomes more general it becomes more successful.
JA: For this reason, let us talk about two connected issues related to
the Syrian revolution: its social components, the brave Syrian
protesters that return to the street week after week; and, therefore,
the means of coordination between these social components.
RYH: The Syrian revolution is being made by the Syrian people. The idea
that [the Syrian people] are of one color is wrong because the Syrian
people are of many colors and very different components, regionally,
socially, ethnically, religiously, and in terms of sect as well.
Meaning, today you have turn out in areas like Hama and Homs, and areas
like Salamiyah and al-Suwayda, and areas like Latakia and Jableh, and
Kurdish areas, and areas like Damascus, Aleppo, and University City, and
as well as civilian squares. So it is very colorful and diverse.
In the beginning, the protests used to come out from the mosques. And
this issue made some of the public opinion, or it was used by the Syrian
media, against the revolution; [claiming] that it was a religious
revolution. But people do not know that the only permitted places of
congregation in Syria are the mosques. You do not have places to
congregate. You do not have civilian councils and institutions of civil
society that work to create real ties between people that allow them to
congregate. Therefore, the only place that is acceptable for me to
congregate in without being dispersed before I even congregate [with
others] is the mosque. There were many young men and women, that have
never prayed in their lives, that would wait at the doors of the mosques
for those praying to finish their prayers so they can join them in
protest. There were a lot of people, that never prayed in their lives,
that would enter into the mosques with those that were going to pray, so
that that they [themselves] would pray and then come out of the mosque
together. This is one thing and what others say is another. The mosque
is not necessarily [exclusively] something havnig to do with religion.
It is a place for congregation. Furthermore, the Syrian street, in
general, is religious. This is its right. But this is one thing and
fundamentalism is something else. [The Syrian street] is not
fundamentalist at all.
JA: The majority of opinion, especially outside of Syria, believes that
the coordination between the organizers of the revolution occurs by
means of, let us say, "new technology." But here you are speaking about
opportunities for new social communication and ties between people on
the ground either on the doors of mosques, public streets, or other
places that are public that did not have a connection to politics at all.
RYH: It definitely does not have any connection to politics. When the
revolution started, it was clear that the Syrian regime attempted to
empty political work in Syria from its contents. Therefore - The Syrian
opposition (or the traditional Syrian opposition parties), [was]
subjected to dictates and controls for many decades, which [in turn] led
to their lack of doing political work in the real sense. Therefore,
there was a major chasm between the traditional political opposition and
the street. The [traditional] opposition did not have resources or youth
cadres in the street. [Thus,] the street was disconnected from this
opposition; and the revolution started like this in Syria. So the people
had no choice but to search for substitute means to organize and
coordinate themselves. So what was called "coordinating committees"
began: "coordinating committees of the revolution." These were groups
[based] in each geographic area. Because you were in the horrendous
security grip, you could not communicate by means of mobile phones or
telephones because they were under surveillance. And the internet was
under surveillance [as well], Facebook and otherwise. Therefore, they
were trying to network based on their presence in one area. Thus [there
were] the geographic coordinating committees at the beginning [of the
This led each coordinating committee to have the makeup of the
geographic area it was located in. Therefore, the people in the
coordinating committee of, say for example, Latakia differed in their
makeup than the those of the coordinating committee of, for example,
Aleppo. Or, for example, the coordinating committee of Muadamiyah
differed from the coordinating committee in Qatana because of
differences in social and economic makeup.
After this, the movements and mechanisms of coordinating committees
began to develop such that they would network [cross]-geographically
with one another. So the coordinating committees of Damascus and the
outlying areas of Damascus would network with each other. And then the
coordinating committees of governorates would network with each other.
This was [done] as an attempt to make up of the absence of political and
civilian work in Syria.
At this point, the traditional opposition parties began to take note of
and be sensitive to [the fact that there was] a wide chasm between them
and the street. And they started to created mechanisms for interacting
and networking with the street. In my opinion, this is a very necessary
matter for two reasons. [First of all], the coordinating committees, in
general, did not propose or claim any political vision for the future.
So today they are claiming that, we the coordinating committees, care
about the revolution, are paying a high price, are brave in ways that go
beyond description, have put an immense amount of work into
coordination, networking, and communication in the context of a siege,
that was personal, local, and technological. Meaning the internet and
[other] communication would be cut, and you would be surrounded and
monitored. Despite this, they were able to break a large part of this
siege. However, there is also a need for a political vision for the
future. This is the responsibility of the politician, or the political
parties. So I am seeing connections between opposition political parties
and the street; and I hope this increases.
JA: Do you expect communication, and even negotiations, between, let us
call it, the traditional opposition and the new coordinating committees?
RYH: Of course. It is occurring.
JA: Is it currently occurring on the ground.
RYH: Yes, on the ground. Not negotiations. Coordination and networking,
but not negotiations.
JA: How can we view the capabilities for networking and coordination
between the traditional opposition and, if we want to call them this,
the new opposition.
RYH: The matter certainly needs time. First of all, [there is a need
for] the return of trust of the street in these opposition. Secondly,
[there is also a need for] changes in the means of these traditional
forces from old means to new means that are appropriate for the new
mobilizations. I do not at all doubt that everyone has a nationalist
sentiment and wants to jointly rescue the country to try and build a
democratic and civilian Syria. I do not doubt that. Therefore, since
good intentions exist, what is left is that we create these new
mechanisms. I hope for this. I [already] see the beginnings of this and
that is a joyful matter.
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