[Marxism] Yassin al-Haj Saleh: The Dark Path of Minority Politics

mkaradjis mkaradjis at gmail.com
Wed Apr 24 23:46:44 MDT 2019

The Dark Path of Minority Politics

Why Privileging Minorities Will Only Perpetuate the Syrian Catastrophe

Yassin al-Haj Saleh <https://tcf.org/experts/yassin-al-haj-saleh/>

Since the inception of the Syrian uprisings, the Syrian regime has had an
implicit justification for its violence: the protection of minorities. The
regime has never been open about this, yet it is there. The justification
reveals the dual structure of the Syrian state under the Assads: there is
an outer, public discourse of national unity and an inner, publicly
unexpressed discourse of minority protection and a minorities’ alliance.1
After eight years of war in Syria that saw savage oppression, genocidal
massacres, and the rise of brutal extremist groups, the regime’s claim that
it must exist to protect minorities proved to be a self-fulfilling
prophecy—at least for a while, especially between 2013 and 2016. This
reality has emerged not because the “protection of minorities” was
necessary to begin with, but because the Syrian regime’s strategies,
response to the uprisings, and role in the civil war made it all but

This report argues that the temptation to give the Syrian regime credit for
protecting minorities must be refuted and resisted. The truth is rather the
opposite: the regime’s top priority is to protect itself, using minorities
as a shield. The entire minority-versus-majority narrative in Syria is one
that the regime carefully crafted long before the uprisings of 2011
began—indeed, since the 1970s. It fashioned this narrative on a pattern
inherited from colonial powers, which had earlier cast themselves as
protectors of minorities throughout the Levant. To understand the
possibilities for a better future in Syria, activists and analysts need to
unshackle themselves from the false narratives and fears of inevitable
minority persecution. This is not an easy task, but the cycles of violence
and repression in Syria will continue until its politics can confront a
very basic truth: what Syria needs is not a politics of minority
protection, but civil and economic rights for all on the basis of
citizenship, neither enhanced nor restricted by the divisive identity
markers bequeathed from the colonizers and reinvigorated by the Assad

What Syria needs is not a politics of minority protection, but civil and
economic rights for all on the basis of citizenship.

This report provides a constructive critique of the minority-protection
narrative. It focuses on the historical basis and permutations of this
narrative, before moving on to an evaluation of the possibilities for
escaping it, and some warnings about the dangers to come.
This report draws heavily from an essay I first published in Arabic in
early 2013, when I was still living underground in Damascus. It was
motivated by a March 2012 statement
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LTxmdifjCA> by Sergey Lavrov, the Russian
foreign minister, warning of “Sunni rule” in Syria.2
I wrote the essay believing that my experience as an activist and
intellectual contemporary to the Assad family rule during half a century
gave me an important perspective on the historical and political origins of
what I called “minority politics” and its implications. Needless to say,
the regime never commented on Lavrov’s flagrant comments. Nor, of course,
did it comment on Iran’s pretext for intervention in Syria—protecting Shia
holy shrines—which recalled the Crusaders’ justifications for their
destructive campaigns almost a thousand years before. What might seem more
surprising was how little Lavrov’s comments, and others like his, were
questioned from other quarters. Not a comment was heard from any Western
government, international analyst, or anti-imperialist leftist. Indeed, in
the years since, there has been continued silence on comments like Lavrov’s
and the logic underlying them, even from groups and individuals who should
have been in a position to give a critique

Full: https://tcf.org/content/report/dark-path-minority-politics/?agreed=1

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