[Marxism] Running the Town of Qusayr Without Assad
mkaradjis at gmail.com
Wed May 22 23:52:57 MDT 2013
A useful look at one of the revolutionary councils down on the ground as
the people resist Assad's terror. Note how all the discussion in this
revolutionary centre focuses on imposing sharia law and/or loving
imperialism ... not. But that's what many would have us believe.
A useful article because there is so much emphasis on geopolitics -
which I also have a personal fascination with - but as Marxists we need
to remember stuff like the existence of classes, and the facts of
popular power that has emerged below all over Syria (ie, what's
generally called "the revolution"), when we discuss the impact of the
geopol going on around it, where this popular upheaval and
self-organisation are key to the context of the geopol.
That obviously doesn't make it pure, proletarian, perfect, free from
corruption or anything else, or impervious to backward ideologies here
and there (no evidence in this article).
But it does suggest that the course advocated by the left
argument we see on this list and elsewhere - support for the heroic
advances of the Syrian armed forces of the great progressive regime of
Assad - could only mean that these popular councils, as described here,
should be blasted to bits by Assad's scuds, missiles, tanks, attack
But they evade this obvious conclusion from their politics.
Running the Town of Qusayr Without Assad
March 6, 2013 By David Arnold
Sami, by his own account, is an activist-turned-school teacher who
writes about changes that have taken place in his hometown of Qusayr
since the uprising against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad began
nearly two years ago. In the midst of the conflict that has destroyed
much of Quasayr, Sami recently visited its newly-elected city council to
learn about its efforts to restore the supply of power and water since
regular municipal and state services were disrupted a few months ago,
and to learn what is being done to make bread and other basic staples
available for local residents. Sami is not the author's real name. Read
his account below.
Middle East Voices' "Syria Witness" series features personal accounts by
citizen-journalists inside Syria about the grim challenges of survival
in a war zone. These activists are often the only available street-level
information source about life in a country whose government restricts
With Syrian expatriates having begun to enter areas of Syria now under
rebel control, we have expanded the series to include their accounts.
Syria Witness reports cannot be independently verified and, for their
personal safety, some contributors do not use their real names. Accounts
may be edited for reasons of clarity and style, but no changes to
content are made.
By Sami in Qusayr, March 2013
Before the Syrian revolution, the people of Qusayr never fully
understood what democracy meant. They were so busy making ends meet that
basic values like freedom of speech and the right to vote were of only
secondary importance to them. They were scared of a regime that had
turned Syrians against one another: brothers and sisters would report
anything that was said or done to the regime's intelligence services.
I remember the stories circulating about the regime's powerful reach and
how the Assads supposedly knew what "happened inside people's bedrooms."
There was a widely-known story about a soldier who spent two years in
jail and was dishonorably discharged because he made the mistake of
telling a friend that the regime had been overthrown in one of his
Video: Lights in Qusayr come back on
(clip provided by Sami; contents and authenticity cannot be
Almost two years have now passed since the start of the revolution. Many
Syrians have died, and many have lost their homes. But we have gained a
strength that outweighs everything we've lost. We have regained our
dignity and freedom.
"Democracy is something that requires continuum," local resident Abo
Fida told me. "You cannot expect people to exercise it properly after
being deprived of it for over 40 years. Putting democracy in motion, he
said, is like having to cross a dangerous river." Fida is a member of
our town's civilian council that has been trying to restore local public
services disrupted by the Assad regime.
Re-building our communities
In many parts of Syria where the Free Syrian Army has been able to repel
regime forces, local intellectuals and community leaders have formed
local councils to restore services once provided by the government of
the Syrian Arab Republic.
The first civil council in Qusayr started organizing about a year ago.
Most of the members were prominent protesters who had been active from
the very start of the revolution. Some two months ago, however, a new
council was formed.
"A former teacher by the name of Adnan runs the relief office, and a
pharmacist, Ihasan al-Simer, heads the town's political office." - Sami
At first, I thought that it would be easy to form a council since now
there would not be any favoritism or duplicity, but I now realize how
mistaken I was. While all protesters were united under the goal of
overthrowing Assad, members of the opposition have conflicting agendas
and, because of the frequent shellings by the Syrian military, few of
these leaders can risk meeting under one roof. Under these
circumstances, numerous councils were formed - often with one denouncing
another. Eventually, however, they gathered and selected a large
23-member council. Members serve three months and then a new election is
Men line up for bread in front of a bakery in Qusayr. (Reuters file
The council consists of offices for the president, a deputy, an
executive secretary, a political officer, a coordinating and inspection
officer, who keeps an eye on all the other offices, and other officers
who manage media, legal issues, and services for education, medical care
and relief. Unlike many activists, the members of this council do not
hide their true identity. They are well known in the revolution and are
already wanted by the regime. A former teacher by the name of Adnan runs
the relief office, and a pharmacist, Ihasan al-Simer, heads the town's
political office. The latter plans to invite youth to discuss social and
political issues with him.
Since I wanted to learn more about how our local government functions, I
went to see for myself.
Meeting the new president of Qusayr
All of the council members work in a modest flat that is divided into
offices with labels on the doors of each. The president's office is on
the right side of flat.
As I entered the president's office I noticed that he was not seated
behind his desk, but actually sat next to an elderly citizen who was
complaining about having no water or power in his neighborhood since
they had been disrupted by government shelling.
The president promised he would personally supervise restoration of
A view of damaged buildings in downtown Qusayr (image courtesy - Sami;
authenticity cannot be independently confirmed)
Then the president rose to greet me. I introduced myself and requested
an appointment to interview him. He suggested that it could be done
I was struck by this forthrightness because I remembered how nervous and
tense I always used to get when I had to enter a government office. In
the old days you had to bribe someone to get anything done; and that was
not everything - aside from being corrupt, they were always very mean.
The president of the Qusayr council is Ziyad al-Akhras. He used to be a
lawyer. He looks like a modest man, probably in his 40s. He is quite
tall and very welcoming. At the same time he's also quite magisterial
I asked him about the difficulties involved in getting a council
"The Syrian National Coalition gave us $43,000. That is all! And this
barely pays for the bread that residents here need." - Ziad al-Akhras,
president of the Qusayr city council
Qusayr residents are seen at an anti-Assad rally February 27, 2012.
"Getting people to gather in one place was a problem sometimes,"
al-Akhras said. But he also pointed to another issue: "The Syrian
society is very diverse. It is not easy to please everyone, but we have
finally found common grounds and goals upon which all people agree."
Bread and water were the lowest common denominator but a top priority
for all, he said.
He also said that setting the criteria for selecting candidates was also
problematic but they were able to please most if not all people in the
Al-Akhras said that he did not mind dabbling in politics now, but
stressed that he was not doing it because he was aspiring to get elected
to some office in "a future Syria."
Currently, the siege imposed on Quseyr by government forces poses the
greatest threat as there is an increasing demand for the basic needs
such as bread, water and power amid a severe lack of funding. Among the
various responsibilities this council has is to protect the public
buildings like schools, power stations, and post office and to provide
flour and water to the general public.
Smuggling food into town
Finances - or lack thereof - are the council's biggest problem.
"We have not received much," al-Akhras said with a sigh. "The Syrian
National Coalition gave us $43,000. That is all! And this barely pays
for the bread that residents here need."
Most of the funds are being used to smuggle bread into the city and to
help the families of those killed or detained by regime forces, as well
as care for the wounded and disabled.
"If we were able to form this council amid all these hellish conditions,
there is a very good chance that there will be better days ahead once
this regime is no more." - Sami in Qusayr
Since the siege began in January of this year, flour is not available in
The Syrian government used to subsidize the supply of bread for its
citizens by means of price reduction. But after the revolution started,
the prices sky-rocketed and many people stopped being able to afford it.
Now, the council subsidizes the price of bread.
Democracy enters Qusayr
One of the upsides of having established this council is that it has
helped restore residents' dignity. Syrians are not used to being able to
express their views freely. Before the revolution, people hardly knew
anything about democracy and how to properly practice it.
Now, people in Qusayr feel that their voices are being heard. They come
and file complaints or suggest things to the council without fearing
persecution or arrest as in the old days.
As I was leaving al-Akhras' small office, I felt quite hopeful about the
future of Syria. I thought to myself: If we were able to form this
council amid all these hellish conditions, there is a very good chance
that there will be better days ahead once this regime is no more.
NOTE: To become a Syria Witness and tell your own inside-Syria story,
contact David Arnold, coordinator of our Syria Witness project at
syriawitness(at)gmail.com. For safety reasons, we strongly urge you to
use a browser-based e-mail (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail) and be sure "https"
appears in the URL. You can also invite Arnold to Skype at
David Arnold David Arnold coordinates the Syria Witness project at
Middle East Voices and reports on Middle East and North Africa affairs
for both Voice of America and MEV. The Syria Witness project publishes
on-the-ground citizen reporting, giving Syrians the opportunity to offer
to a global audience their first-person narratives of life on the
streets of their war-torn country.
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