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The Syrians’ Fear in the New Year

The Syrians’ Fear in the New Year

Friday, 8 January, 2021 - 13:00

Euphemistically, we could say that the fires of the Syrian people’s dreams have been put out. Their gentle hopes and dreams that all the world's peoples aspire to achieve in the new year are absent in the face of the emergence of extreme fear and anxiety that the next phase will carry, as the preceding years had, increased deterioration, tribulation and pain.

It starts with severe fears, building up inside the majority of Syrians’ spirits and growing with every passing day, about the fate of a nation whose name they carry and are proud to belong to. These fears will persist so long as they cannot stop the country from slipping from their fingers and tumbling toward the abyss. They will persist as they are unable to stop it from disintegrating into spheres of influence governed by the military interventions of foreign powers that are not concerned with the Syrians’ fate and their national unity as they are safeguarding their interests and turning the country into an arena where they can settle scores and increase their influence.

Are the Syrians not deeply frightened and worried by the sight of their state’s internal structure’s fragmentation and the authorities’ subordination to and dependence on the foreign powers from whom it sought protection? Shouldn’t they be concerned when the governments of Tehran and Ankara provoke sectarian sentiments to deepen divisions that they exploit to gain more ground in Syria.

Moreover, does the Syrians’ panic not increase and their aspirations for minimal salvation not dimmish by the persistence of developments and balances of power that prolong their crisis – all this amid the international community and UN organizations’ failure to achieve any breakthrough to activate the political process. Regional and local powers that hold sway in Syria have no interest in easing the conflict, but they want the war to continue so that they can maintain the gains and sources of wealth.

Why wouldn’t the Syrians’ fears be stoked by the arrival of a new president to the White House, one whose policy on the region is likely to open doors to the intensification of the rivalry and disputes between the main parties to the conflict, and their exposure to the ramifications of the struggle between Russia and America over shares and spoils?

Indeed, why wouldn’t they panic over what Iran might do and excuse in order to maintain its influence in Syria and confront the growing global drive to besiege it and expel it from the country? Or of the disputes between Moscow and Ankara and their ambitions being manifested militarily? They may perhaps be limited for the time being, but they are likely to expand. They threaten to undercut the accords concluded between them in Astana and Sochi, thereby posing the threat of reigniting the bloody conflict, a return to the spiraling violence that has left scores of victims, devastation and displaced countless communities in its wake!

Still, the direct and primary fear haunting Syrians at the gates of the new year pertains to the implications of the country’s total economic collapse. Their minds are fraught with concerns about the failure of all the conflicting parties - the regime, the opposition and the Kurdish faction - to manage their societies and provide basic necessities. Here, it does not suffice to refer to the millions of Syrians who have lost their homes and properties as a result of the bombardment and devastation and are in great need of assistance. This also applies to those who have lost their jobs and have not found alternative means to secure an income that would alleviate their families’ hunger and deprivation. The matter also impacts most of those who work in the public sector, now hopelessly chasing their basic needs amid the astronomical rise in prices and the Syrian pound’s steep decline.

Exacerbating matters further is the damage left by the extreme violence seen in the country, its destruction of infrastructure and the declining quality and availability of many public, health and educational institutions. This deterioration is most clearly demonstrated by millions of children being deprived of the opportunity to go to school, and the struggles Syrians must undergo to obtain electricity, fuel and heating.

There is also the excruciating manner in which the various conflicting parties dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, defined by contempt for human life and apathy about people losing their lives.

How then, are we to assess the situation once we add the Syrians’ fears of security agencies terrorizing them and seizing their property, especially since they now act with absolute impunity!? How are we to assess the fears of Syrians governed by Islamic jihadists, who have been blinded by an ideology that drives them to kill and denounce as apostates all those who don’t share their beliefs, as they seek to impose their way of life, and its rights and wrongs, on the populace, with no regard for their humanitarian choices.

Displaced and refugee Syrians are added to this scene. Fear is eating them alive, not only because of the natural factors of the cold and alienation, the decline of welfare and their deteriorating living conditions, but from the changed positions of the societies who have hosted them in exile. These stances have changed due to the pressure caused by the number of refugees and the emergence of ISIS. Their search for dignified solutions that would allow them to continue to live there has become difficult, as prejudice and humiliation define their existence.

The result is the same, regardless of the various reasons for the collective or individual horrific ordeal facing Syrians, which go back the intransigence of a regime that was concerned only with staying in power. To this end, it sought various forms of external support, employed the most vicious of means, killing and torturing the people to crush them and silence their demands for the basic rights they are entitled to.

Or whether it stems from the presence of fanatical terrorist jihadist groups and the absence of a political alternative that could earn society’s trust, which is tied to the weakness of the Syrian opposition and its subjugation to the pressure of Islamic political groups and foreign dictates.

Or whether it is a consequence of the international community’s passivity and its failure to intervene, for years, to stop violence, protect civilians and impose a political settlement.

The result is one; Syria is in danger of being lost, and the increased fear we are witnessing on the Syrian people’s faces is due to the realities of the painful deterioration of their country on every front. Everything is sliding towards the worst and most painful outcome, from the country’s independence and its national identity, to the unity of society and state institutions, the future of national, sectarian and civil strife, the security situation, economic and living conditions, and the prospects for salvation.

Under the weight of these fears, it would be accurate to explain the Syrians’ broad participation, in their various affiliations - with the absence of the Syrian regime representatives - in bidding innovative director Hatem Ali farewell… It is as though they had been awaiting for an occasion to express the extent of their despair over the state of their country… It was as though they wanted to “commemorate” their suffering, when the mourners at the funeral procession cried out, spontaneously, the song from the opening credits of his TV series Big Dream: “Everything shriveled… shriveled until it was gone”.

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