[Marxism] Interview on the Syrian revolution

Louis Proyect 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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