Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

The War for History in Syria

The War for History in Syria

Wednesday, 19 June, 2019 - 06:30

When did the revolt in Syria cease to be so and transform into a civil war? When did takfiri terrorism emerge from its womb? What harm has the militarization of the conflict caused? What role did foreign forces play? What conscience held sway over it?

One can debate many things about the conflict, except for history.

History is not the “memory” that it actually is, especially in society where consensus is rare and diverse social segments exist. Talk about a single collective memory bares oppressive undertones. Memory is by definition selective. This very trait makes it susceptible to manipulation and weakens it as time goes by. The passage of time and the greater knowledge and discoveries it brings does not weaken history, but makes its stronger and richer.

Memory is more subjective than history and history is more objective than memory. This is why when the war of memories rages, one turns to solid history to set the facts straight.

For the Syrian revolution, its first year was unfortunately its last and it was the only time one could properly refer to history and get an accurate description of events. The revolution turned back to Syria’s history and reclaimed it: it retrieved its national flag from under the rubble of militarization and populism. It reminded itself and the world that Syria once enjoyed political parties and partisan life. It boasted journalism, a parliament and politicians before history was turned into a process of a dead man waiting for his savior. It thwarted the revolt, which also affected history as it did everything else in Syria.

The revival of Syria’s history was struck, just like the revolution itself.

Today, in parallel to its military victory, the Syrian regime is seeking a victory in history. It is seeking to fabricate a false history. The beginnings of things often dictate how they will conclude. The “conspiracy” was chosen as the beginning of this “history”. The country was peaceful and living in the glory of its leader when conspiracy struck one night. It was a “foreign-backed takfiri conspiracy.” Prior to that, Syria was living in heaven and afterwards, it was living in hell. President Bashar Assad has been striving since 2011 to reclaim that lost paradise because what took place was not a revolution, but a conspiracy.

The “conspiracy”, therefore, emerged yesterday out of nowhere and for no reason. Can the rejection of paradise be nothing but a conspiracy?

According to history and those writing it, Syria never knew a security regime and its jail cells. It never knew the silencing of the media and the banning of opposition parties. It never knew sectarianism and never witnessed growing poverty and immigration in search of job opportunities. It never usurped the decision-making power of its neighboring Palestinians and Lebanese or threatened the Jordanians and waged losing wars. The developments in Hama in 1982 were nothing but a nasty rumor.

Propriety does not allow for another word other than “fraud” in describing this depiction of history.

Syrians and the observers of Syria can find the roots of today’s tragedy in several formative dates: They can find it in Assad’s inheritance of power in 2000. This inheritance has turned the country into an impenetrable family property. They can find it in the 1970 coup that solidified Hafez Assad’s grip on Syria. They may turn to the 1973 coup when the security regime provided him with populist legitimacy and financial support. They can find it in the 1963 coup that brought the Baath party to power and ended political diversity.

These are all possible dates, each of which hold some truth and which culminate in the establishment of the Assad regime.

This is all up for debate, except for the misleading assumption that the official Syrian history will be built upon as written by the victors: the regime’s foreign allies. The introduction will only lead to another miserable ending that the Syrians will resist as they did previous fabricated versions. They will interpret it as a re-writing of their history and its replacement with fiction that omits their bloodshed. This fiction will inform them that your victims should not be mourned because they are not a part of history, but part of the conspiracy. Beware the sadness that is not allowed to mourn its losses.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks