By Ali Khalaf, a Syrian activist based in the UK
Syrian people that can no longer live under the regime started the movement. The political programme is to give the people of Syria freedom and dignity. The main demands of the people remains the same as it did in the beginning of the revolution; freedom and dignity for all Syrians. Due to the way the regime has reacted, they are now demanding the regime is toppled.
This revolution was not started by any political party. It was purely started by and for the everyday people of Syria. Political parties independent of the Ba’ath Party have never been allowed in Syria. This will naturally change, but it will be the people of Syria that will choose their future leaders. No party will ever be allowed to appoint themselves sole rulers again in Syria. If you look at what is happening on a daily basis in Syria, you will see that any prominent figure involved in the protests always quickly disappears.
The strikes are happening for many reasons. The main one is that the people of each city want to show their support to the other cities that are being attacked by the regime. The other reason is because people are far more educated than in the past, and they know strikes will have an economic impact on the regime.
Everyone is involved in this movement in some way, except for those who work directly for the regime. At the moment, there are no organised trade unions in Syria. Employees would always be worried about joining a union; people would always be worried that some of their co-workers could be spies for the government. For the last forty years corruption has been widespread, and trust in the workplace is rare particularly with any kind of civil service job.
Despite great efforts from the regime to divide the people of Syria, this revolution has never been a religious one. It is a movement to gain freedom for all regardless of age, gender or creed. Muslims, Christians and Alawites have united as one.
People are using internet social networks to broadcast what is currently happening in Syria. Protests are organised via the internet and word of mouth.
It’s impossible to know at the moment who would win if free elections were held. Because the regime prevents any opposition as soon as it arises, we have not really seen the serious opposition yet. There have been oppositional political meetings in Turkey, however.
Every day there are soldiers defecting from the army. It is a double-edged sword for many of them as it holds high risks not only for them but for also members of their families. When the soldiers do desert and come to the side of the people, many they bring reports of their colleagues in the army being shot because they refused to shoot at the unarmed protesters. YouTube is full of clips showing soldiers defecting.
The people have not armed themselves. As of now they refuse to arm themselves. There has been no looting or burning of homes by the people asking for freedom, but the regime have been filmed regularly looting and burning homes, businesses and even livestock.
The biggest weapons the people of Syria use are their lives and their voices. They can be heard everywhere chanting “one hand” which signifies all faiths. They also chant “Allahu Akbar”, but there is a common misunderstanding that this is only for Muslims but the translation, “God is great”, is also used by other faiths. They are now also chanting “the regime must be toppled”. This is a reaction to the brutal way the regime has responded to the peoples cries for freedom.
On the question of whether sectarian civil war is a danger, I can quote from a letter sent to me by one of the demonstrators:
“Dear Ali, I would like to answer this question, being that I am from the Alawi sect. The drive for the revolution is the thirst for freedom. The drive for the revolution is the inhumane oppression towards the Syrian people by the regime which has used heavy military force against unarmed people who have come out to ask for legitimate rights. The revolution includes people across the board, including the Alawi sect from which myself and the president come from.
“The reason why there are more Sunni protesters is due to the fact that the Sunni sect makes up the greater part of the Syrian community. There have been allegations that this is a religious revolution due to the fact that the demonstrations start at Mosques after prayers, especially on Friday. The explanation for this is simple; the regime prohibits and suppresses gatherings. The only gathering that they cannot stop is that of people going to pray. As a matter of fact, Christians have joined demonstrators after prayers outside the Mosques. This revolution includes all decent and honest Syrians across all sects and races against a murderous regime. The regime has tried to spread ethnic hatred as this helps the regime's cause.
“For many years, all religions and sects have lived close to each other without any problems. I was brought up in Damascus and never experienced any issue with regards to my sect or religion. It is true that many of these criminals in the regime are Alawi, but many collaborators and beneficiaries are from across the board including Sunnis and Christians. Many Alawi are decent citizens who do not agree with what the regime is doing. A lot of them are poor and many are fearful and therefore remain silent. The regime's attempts to create an ethnic war have not succeeded so far and we have to be alert to this and fight such a conflict as much as possible as this would only help these criminals in power.”
To support the Syrian revolution, activists in the UK can raise awareness, write to your MPs and MEPs, and come along to demonstrations in the UK and show their support directly. There are many Facebook pages to join where they can leave messages in support of the people of Syria. Activists can campaign for boycotts of companies that are still trading with Syria (a list of which can be easily found). Activists can demand the expulsion of the Syrian ambassador and other diplomats. They can sign petitions and attend fundraising events. They can demand that the UN pressures the Syrian regime into giving access to The Red Cresent.
I would ask all people to try and find out for themselves the real situation in Syria as I am very confident that when people research what is happening there they will be horrified. There are woman, children and men being arrested, murdered, kidnapped and raped in Syria on a daily basis. The evidence is most certainly out there; I would ask that they seek this knowledge by themselves and decide what they believe to be the truth.