A ceasefire in Syria but a continuation of revolution
To say a ceasefire has been established in Syria is an overly optimistic assertion. It’s an assertion that will be refuted by each bullet or artillery shell directed at residential areas in towns and cities across the country that have committed the offense of merely protesting Assad rule. Flawed and insufficient the ceasefire may be, it was desperately needed after a period of eight days when one thousand Syrians lost their lives in violence that showed no way of ending in either regime triumph or defeat.
The ceasefire, however, should be seen as a triumph to the various forces opposing the Assad regime. Assad has since the inception of the uprising portrayed it as the work of armed gangs, terrorists, and any other term that can be used to belittle and delegitimize opposition. For the regime to agree to a ceasefire doesn’t simply acknowledge the regime’s weakness, it acknowledges that Syria as a nation is contested territory the Assad regime is physically incapable of controlling even with all the tanks and soldiers at its disposal.
The ceasefire holds a great advantage to opponents of the Assad regime. If the ceasefire is entrenched in the days and weeks ahead, it can permit the intensification of the popular phase of the revolution that dominated the first half of the Syrian uprising. Even in its current tenuous state, the ceasefire has seen large and energetic demonstrations like this one today in the Damascus suburb of Douma:
If the ceasefire deepens and displaced families are permitted to return, protest mobilizations may soon return to their previous form of bringing hundreds of thousands to the street in contrast to the still magnificent mobilization today that brought out tens of thousands of Syrians.
The Syrian revolution is at its healthiest when the largest number of Syrians are able to participate in it. The armed phase, however justified in resisting a brutal military crackdown, simply doesn’t enable enough Syrians to involve themselves in the revolutionary struggle when it is in the form of an armed campaign, an armed campaign defined by smaller and highly mobile units avoiding direct confrontation with the full might of the regime’s army.
The revolution will find its completion through its original mass participation that left the regime so desperate that it stoked sectarian tensions in a cynical ploy to justify its own existence as a supposed vanguard of a united Syria. Toppling the Assad regime requires a diverse coalition from Syrian society, a coalition that stands a better chance of forming during this ceasefire than during the heat of combat that raged just last week. As described with biting accuracy years ago by Ella Shohat, “war is the friend of binarisms, leaving little place for complex identities.” In a society as rich with diversity as Syria, the role of an armed struggle is limited even with revolutionaries retaining the best intentions. I have little doubt that opposition fighters prevented an even greater death toll in population centers like Homs and Idlib. That said, armed struggle stands little chance in subduing the Russian armed Assad regime and stands a lesser chance of replacing it with a government that meets the aspirations of the revolution. Both these goals are to be achieved by the energy and ingenuity of Syria’s youths who initiated the revolution.