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A Syrian's Perspective: Bashar al-Assad's Democratic Movement

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The Democratic Movement vs. The Foreign Invasion

Bashar al-Assad has recently been demonized by the mainstream and so-called alternative media who claim that he is a brutal dictator. Actually Bashar is a reformer who has done much to further the causes of democracy and freedom. It is the opposition and their foreign supporters who represent the most repressive elements of the former ruling party in Syria. To fully understand this its is helpful to look at the historical context of the current crisis.

The so-called "spontaneous popular uprising" started in Daraa on March 15 th , 2011. The court house, police stations, governor's house, and other public buildings were looted and torched by the "peaceful protestors" in the first week of the crisis. The people in Homs then began to protest in solidarity with Daraa, but this was uncharacteristic of peaceful Homs and many Syrians knew that it was a fake revolution.

About 110 unarmed police officers were murdered in Daraa and Homs, sparking anger against the "revolutionaries." There was an incident in the city Baniyas where an Alawite truck driver was attacked by an armed mob, skinned, and paraded through the city. This disgusted almost all Syrians and since then not a single major city actually rebelled against the government. The foreign backed "revolutionaries" would attack a neighborhood, police station, or army base, from across the borders of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Then they would claim that the city was in rebellion.

But the Syrians, seeing the same lies in all the western and Arab news stations, and the exiled rotten officials adopting the 'revolution', mostly took an anti-revolution stance. That is why whenever the rebels would infest a town or city you would immediately hear of a massacre to punish the residents for not supporting them. Of course the mainstream media would claim that it was Assad forces punishing the town that dared to oppose him!

Assad took advantage of the revolution to introduce his packages of reforms, putting aside those in the old guards who opposed them. Many of the old guard then joined the opposition abroad.

The opposition demanded the removal of article 8 from the Syrian constitution making the Baath Party head of the government. Instead of just deleting it Bashar Assad had the constitution re-written buy a specialized committee of Syrian experts from all parties in Syria and with input from all Syrians. A referendum was held and the new constitution was approved with almost 90% of a voter turnout of 60%.

Assad then enacted a Media Law that would allow more freedom of expression and the establishment of new independent media outlets. Assad eased requirements on the formation of political parties, excluding sectarian based parties. We now have at least nine new political parties.

Municipal elections were held in December 2011. Many of those who won seats were assassinated or threatened throughout the country by the same revolutionaries who claimed to want democracy. Parliamentary elections were held in May 2012 with no eligibility restraints on the candidates. Many new members of parliament have also been assassinated by the FSA including the wife and three daughters of parliament elect trustee Abdulla Mishleb in the infamous Houla massacre.

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Historical Context: Syria in the 1980s

Recent events can be better understood in the context of Syrian history. Bashar al-Assad is the son of late president Hafez al-Assad. Hafez was described by western mainstream media as a tyrant and oppressor but he was not nearly as bad as any other leader in his time like Thatcher, Reagan, or any of the region's rulers including Turkey's military rule.

The current anti-Assad opposition often refer to the 1982 Hama 'massacre'. They claim that Hafez besieged the city and then bombed it killing up to 40,000 civilians. I lived in Damascus at that time and you must understand the conditions in the country at the time to know what really happened.

1) The Muslim Brotherhood was engaged in a war of terror at that time, nothing less than what the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is doing now. The Muslim Brotherhood's forces were called the 'Fighting Vanguard' (Arabic "Al Taleea Al Muqatleh"). Many of the present leaders of the FSA are the same men who led the Fighting Vanguard in the 80s; and they were as savage as their sons now. One of the Fighting Vanguard's bombings included the Azbakiyeh Bombing in Damascus which took the lives of over 175 civilians and injured hundreds more, and there were many other terror attacks.

2) The entire Hama episode was led by Hafez al-Assad's younger brother (Bashar al-Assad's uncle) Rifaat Assad. Rifaat was heading the Saraya Difaa (later to become the Republican Guard). At that time the Syrian minister of defense was Mustapha Tlass, and the Syrian minister of foreign affairs was Abdul Halim Khaddam. All three of them: Riffaat al-Assad, Mustapha, and Abdul Khaddam are leading and financing the political opposition against Bashar from abroad right now.

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In the current conflict Mustapha's son Manaf Tlass was sent to negotiate a settlement with his cousins who were rebelling in Rastan. But instead of negotiating he gave them weapons from the Republican Guards caches and leaked secrets causing the deaths of many Republican Guard soldiers at the hands of the FSA.

Thirty years after the fighting in Hama a report by US intelligence was declassified revealing that the death toll didn't even reach 2,000. That number included 400 Muslim Brotherhood Fighting Vanguard militants; many Syrian Army soldiers and officers; Baath Party and other state officials; and a number of civilians who were caught in the fire.

3) At the same time the Syrian Army was fighting the Israeli, US and French Armies in Lebanon.

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Seth Rutledge is a writer and activist from Syracuse, NY. Follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/SethLRutledge

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In the United States there is an almost knee jerk ... by Michael Germain on Monday, Apr 1, 2013 at 9:10:13 AM
The US interest in Syria has a lot to do with Iran... by Seth Rutledge on Monday, Apr 1, 2013 at 9:41:42 AM
NPR has pretty much nonstop broadcast the Syrian e... by Peter Duveen on Monday, Apr 1, 2013 at 10:59:42 AM
Thanks for the great article! The problem with th... by JFearing on Monday, Apr 1, 2013 at 10:57:00 AM