It is unclear as to what is the cause of the ongoing Syrian protest. Some argue that is largely due to the unrest in the neighboring Arab world that caught on in Syria. Others claim that the protests began after children in Daraa, a Syrian city, endured torture after reportedly writing anti- It is unclear as to what is the cause of the ongoing Syrian protest. Some argue that is largely due government slogans on the walls of buildings. Protests officially began on February 26, 2011 to present day. It is clear that the protests are not about economic hardships, as protests are countrywide, and transcend any religious, economic, or political difference. Many of the protesters allude to dignity and freedom as their main cause of revolt. It is mindful to observe that the government has been paranoid to the royalties of the subjects (Kamrava 290). They also point out to their cause being a direct result of the corruption that inflicts their nation, as well as a host of other injustices. They believe that the Security Services’ rule should end and that the Army should fight to protect the citizen's interests, and not of the regime. Others point out that the revolution started in Damascus, when a local shopkeeper endured a beating by a traffic police officer, and people from shops nearby tried to defend him. As more people came to his assistance, a full on protest took place. This highlights the sentiments of many Syrians because they were to endure humiliation no more.
The current president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, ascended into the presidency after his father, Hafez al-Assad, died in the year 2000. The country hopeful that Bashar would address many of the pertinent issues the country experienced. However, despite his ascendancy, many issues remain unsolved. Syria has very low unemployment rates among youth, in comparison to the older citizens (Allain 142). The protests started out unusually small, with many citizens in fear of retaliation by the ruling government. However, Syrians have undergone what many refer to as the breaking the wall of fear. They say that their hearts would not let them sit whilst the government had its way. They overcame the fear that was in their bodies, and chose to follow the feelings that were in their hearts.
The Syrian government did not stand and watch. They have disrupted every single protest that has taken place, despite the fact that they are peaceful. The government comes under intense criticism for unashamedly firing at unarmed protesters. The latest report of violence took place in Homs, where the army opened fire at protesting citizens, killing 55 in the process. A mass funeral took place in Khalidiya, a district in Homs, where most of the killing took place. Most estimates of the current death toll differ in the actual number. Some estimates point out to 10,000 deaths, whilst point to as many as 40,000. What is clear is that the number of people dead is immense. At its lowest, these figures represent 3 times over the number of people who died because of the September 9/11 attacks (Gad 200). Other similar reports highlight the various injustices by the Syrian government. An estimate has it that 500 children have died due to military intervention, with a further 600 currently in Syrian prisons across the nation. One can only guess what happens in these penitentiaries, with reports claiming torture and human rights violations.
One cannot overlook the importance of Hafez al-Assad’s rule of Syria as having a direct impact on the current state of things. Hafez took control of Syria in 1973 when he was then minister for defense. Initially, Hafez was exceedingly popular for his contribution to the growth of Syria. He was responsible for the introduction of the Syrian constitution and his foreign policies that opened the country up as a trade destination. This move is noted to have increased foreign interrelations with a view of achieving total control of resources such as the oil-region, Kirkuk (Norwegian Refugee Council and Global IDP Project 171). He is also responsible for many infrastructural initiatives countrywide, like the construction of Thawra dam.
After a failed assassination against him, things took a turn for the worse. He is solely responsible for the Tamdor massacre that occurred a day after an attempt on his life. Tamdor prison housed many of Hafez’s political enemies. As a show of might, and as a warning to others, his soldiers opened fire at close to 1000 inmates at the prison, killing them. However, he is most popular for his involvement in the Hama massacre, 1982. At the time, the town of Hama housed a rebel group of Sunni Muslims who firmly objected to Hafez’s regime. Several insurgents had attacked Hafez’s defense forces and killed them. As a result, Hafez, through his brother Rifaat, laid a siege on the town. Thousands died in the battle, with estimates of 20,000 deaths (Kamrava, 409). This killing alludes to the fact that Bashar is continuing in his father’s legacy of killing anyone that dares defy his government. However, one could point out that Hafez was reacting to actual violence against his government, whilst Bashar kills innocent citizens.
A counter argument is that Syrians are fighting because of the disparity in wealth allocation in the country. Reports indicate that 70% of the country’s GDP goes to only 30% of the population. Army and Alawite high-ranking officers are some of the wealthiest in the country. This gives them control of the government and, by extension, the economy. In addition, the Syrian government controls all imports and exports, wholesale and retail trade, operates monopolies, and owns all insurance companies and banks. Therefore, one can deduce that Syrians are also protesting because the rich keep getting richer, while the poor suffer. The rich-poor divide widens in Syria, with many Syrians unable to meet their monthly costs. The bulk of the money earned in Syria goes to extremely few pockets, and the few control most of the crucial facets of the country.
Support for Assad and his Regime
Contrary to all popular belief, a YouGovSiraj poll in Syria found that 55% of Syrians support the Assad regime in fear of a civil war. They believe that if the protests continue, they could spark a civil war that would lead to carnage, and a retrogression of the economy. However, Assad’s regime has grown to become unpopular. Experts cite his inability to organize the masses effectively to account for his lack in popular legitimacy (Kamrava 12).
Further to this, others believe that Assad’s actions are justified because citizens should follow the rule of law, and should not be reckless. They believe the protestors are simply lawless, and that they seek to undermine the authority of leaders. In addition, they believe that Assad is under attack because he hails from a minority tribe. They believe this does not err well with the population who believe that the president must hail from a majority tribe, which will truly reflect the people. However, Assad would rule for yet thirty years before his death in June 2001. His son, Bashar Assad succeeded him (Allain 217).