Thursday, 5 January 2012

The case for regime change in Syria

Kamal Jumblatt, killed in 1977
Lebanon Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, whose father Kamal was shot and killed in 1977 and whose Progressive Socialist Party is represented in government by two ministers, explained in a statement this week why he expects Russia and Iran to support regime change in Syria. Following is my English wording of his Arabic text:
Much as Václav Havel, the great intellectual, essayist and late president of Czechoslovakia, wrote about the “Power of the Powerless,” martyr Kamal Jumblatt spoke of “shirtless men eventually liberating the world.”
All historical experiences show peoples move forward, not backward. What is built on falsehood is unsustainable since [the Almighty] “defers but does not overlook.”
It’s as if the “Power of the Powerless” was meant to describe current events when it was written by Václav Havel, the playwright who lived through the 1968 Prague Spring that saw the Red Army quash attempts at political reform by Czechoslovakia’s then-prime minister Alexander Dubček, and later returned to lead the 1989 Velvet Revolution after spending several years behind bars as a political prisoner.
Indeed, it is the power of the powerless that sparked, and is sparking, Arab revolutions demanding, freedom, dignity and pride.
And much as Jean Balach set himself on fire in 1969 to protest a totalitarian regime, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in Tunisia to protest oppression and humiliation. History is a cumulative trail and an open book to whoever wants to draw lessons.
Russia would probably be better advised to contemplate the principle of “Power of the Powerless” in addressing the situation facing its Syria ally, acknowledging that security solutions won’t unravel the current crisis, which can only be solved by regime change.
Instead of clinging to a regime that did not learn the Hama lessons of 1981 that mirror Budapest’s in 1956, Russia would do better to counsel the regime that rotating power is more important than holding onto it and shedding blood. Didn’t Russia rise against Tsarist tyranny before?
It would be advisable as well if the Islamic Republic contemplated the “Power of the Powerless” principle and if Imam Khomeini’s successors remembered it was the principle used to bring down the Shah of Iran in a great historical struggle, which proved that bare chests roaring for freedom and democracy could face up to omnipotent regimes.
Iranian missiles might have great military impact, but reverberations of the words of the great poet Saadi Shirazi are more potent. The sons of the Islamic Revolution ought to remember what Shirazi wrote to redress the injustice afflicting the Syrian people: “We’re humane and our roots are one and the same, so how can we enjoy life when others hurt? How can we breathe in pleasure and abundance when we see a brother in distress?”
[The Druze, better known as] Bani Maarouf in Syria also know that popular movements don’t backtrack, that collective memory is unforgiving, and that the shirtless in Deraa, Sanamain, Basra al-Harir, Khirbat al-Ghazalah, Idlib, Homs, Hama and the various other Syrian towns and villages control the future because they represent the “Power of the Powerless.” It is high time they refrained from joining police forces and military units cracking down on the Syrian people. Scores of them (Druzes) have been returned home in coffins after fighting their folks in other parts of Syria.
The thousands of shirtless who fought and won in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen under the banner of “Power of the Powerless” will be followed suit in other countries. It is the logic of history and its rule. Indeed, [He] “defers but does not overlook.”