By Paolo von Schirach
July 16, 2011
WASHINGTON– Why is it that the Cairo Tahrir Square protests in Egypt, eventually leading to President Mubarak’s forced resignation, attracted so much interest, while the ongoing massive protests in Syria against another dictatorhip get minimal coverage? Is it because in this case we do not have the revolution “as presented” by Anderson Cooper and the other CNN shock troopers? I suspect that this is the reason. We got Egypt and Bahrain and then Libya “live” because Western cameras, along with Al-Jazeera, were there. Syria is different. No Western media welcome. It was and is a real police state, run via Emergency Law for 5o years. So, no Western TV crews and thus much lower media profile in the news cycle.
Syrians keep fighting against all odds
And yet, think of it. The fact that the poor Syrians even dared to begin any protest back on Janurary 26 would have appeared unthinkable to any reasonable person. The fact that, faced with violent repression, they just went out for more protests beginning in March seems absolutely crazy. In a fairly well organised police state, you go out and protest and you get killed by security forces. As simple as that. And yet the truly amazing story is that they they kep going. Even though the death toll keeps rising, having passed 1,300 killed and many more wounded and arrested, the Syrians do not give up. They do not stop.
In Egypt the army turned agaisnt the regime fairly quickly
In Egypt, while it was not a done deal at the very beginning of the uprising, there was hope, (in the end realised), that a fairly popular army leadership would turn against the regime and side with the people. When that happened, a significant mile stone was reached. Hosni Mubarak and his family had to go. This was not the end of the revolt, (as recent massive protests in Cairo indicate), but it allowed the beginning of a major transition process away from dictatorship with minimal bloodshed.
No such luck in Syria. At the moment at least, we do not see cracks within the regime led by President Bashar al-Assad. The security forces are still performing their duty to protect this entrenched dictatorship by killing and arresting protesters.
Syrian protests got stronger as the repression got worse
All the more reason to be in awe of the Syrians who, confronted with massive repression, not only did not give up but redoubled their efforts. A protest that had started with some minor actions here and and which appeared destined to end quickly, given massive violence used by feared security forces, has now engulfed the entire country. People who know they are risking their lives still go out, mostly defenseless, facing police, machine guns, tanks and helicopters.
They are not relying on senior military officers taking control by arresting President Bashar al-Assad and dismantling the Alawite regime he inherited from his father. These people rely on themselves and on the hope that, by building more and more pressure around it, the regime will crack and fall. In the meantime, they go out and die in large numbers. Now, this is incredible courage.
In America we defend liberty with trained professional soldiers
In America we talk about our commitment to defend liberty around the world. Such as it is, the cause of liberty is defended, however, by the best all volunteer, professional armed forces in the world. These highly trained and well equipped troops go and do their duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they all signed up for this and they get paid to do it. This does not diminish their dedication and patriotism. But my point is that they have weapons, resources and back up.
Syrians: no weapons, only conviction
The Syrians instead got no training and have no weapons. They do not get to be evacuated when wounded. They get arrested, or worse. As I said, even though we do not have CNN anchors presenting their case to us, the Syrians’ bravery deserve our respect. They go out and fight for liberty with no weapons, except for their conviction. In the end, this may make all the difference.