Assad's departure from power, far from being settled, is necessary for Syrians wishing to build a better country.
While the newest round of Syria peace talks begins in NYC, and the eyes of the world are still focused on Idlib, it would be a good time to remember why millions of Syrians rose up in 2011 and were willing to risk their lives challenging the legitimacy of Assad’s presidency in the first place.
The Assad regime has never even once been held accountable for a multitude of internationally recognised crimes against humanity it has consistently committed against its own people.
For decades the previous regime of Hafez al Assad was able to keep a tight lid on the country through the use of bullying and intimidation and until the revolution of 2011 many expatriates who had left the country and made new lives elsewhere were too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about the reality of the lives they had left behind.
In spite of the unwillingness to tolerate life under the regime, an intense love for their homeland and its rich cultural heritage stayed with expats wherever they went. When the revolution began in 2011 a new hope for freedom from the tyranny and corruption of the brutal regime was born.
Those who remained in Syria were keenly aware that the well-being of their children was dependent upon their ability to accept the status quo and not “kick against the goads” so they shushed their little ones and raised them to believe that the regime was omniscient and that the walls had ears.
They impressed upon their children’s young psyches from an early age that there were consequences to be had for social and political dissent that didn’t fall in line with the ruling Baath Party agenda or submit to the pecking order of the ruling classes.
For the most part, the upper echelon of these ruling classes consisted of Assad’s extended family, close friends and members of the favoured minority sect to which Assad and his supporters belonged.
Nevertheless, the most important criteria for being considered a member of the Assad hierarchy was loyalty to the Assad family and the longer they remained in power, the more powerful the loyalists grew.
When the Syrian people, motivated by the arrest and torture of their children, began filling the streets to protests the brutality and corruption of the regime and its agents in 2011, Assad encouraged his loyalists with a brutal free hand against their fellow Syrians in the hopes of quashing their revolution; much as his father had done in 1982 when he ordered the massacre of thousands of civilians in Hama.
When that didn’t work, Assad progressed from sending tanks and soldiers to fire upon peaceful protesters, consistently referring to them as “terrorists” in the international media.
In reality it was the regime that had escalated the violence in Syria with its own long-standing policy of terrorising its citizens in the hopes of bullying them into further submission.
This is what ultimately tipped the scales in Syria where revolutionaries—originally committed to remaining peaceful—started taking up arms to defend their children, their families and their neighbourhoods.
When the revolution refused to die in spite of his best efforts to quash it, Assad changed his tactics and began the systematic targeting of those areas he knew to be hotbeds of rebellion against his presidency, beginning with Homs.
When the first group of rebels in Homs were finally starved and bombed into agreeing to get on the green buses and be displaced to northern Syria, the regime turned its focus towards displacing rebellious Syrians located in other crucial areas in order to change the demographics of the nation in Assad’s favour.
Despite being mercilessly bombed, surrounded and cut off from supplies and international aid, Syrians under siege all over the country enjoyed the freedom of not having to deal with the brutal agents of Assad on a daily basis. They formed their own local governments to ensure the survival of all and established clinics and schools in order to ensure their children’s well-being.
No longer did they feel the need to impress upon their little ones that the walls had ears and that voicing their innocent observations of the injustices being perpetrated against them could put them in danger. Their children were free to speak in a way that their parents had never been.
When Assad began putting these young Syrians and their families on the green busses and transporting them to Idlib, Syrian activists and supporters of the revolution for freedom and dignity from around the world felt a morbid dread for what they thought he might be planning for them in the days to come.
In spite of every effort by Assad to break them, the people of Syria have risen to every challenge - while Russia, Iran and UN negotiators continue to show deference to the “sovereignty” of Assad’s presidency.
But the question not being considered is “what has actually changed about the regime’s criminal treatment of the Syrian people since the revolution began in 2011?”
For several consecutive Fridays approximately thousands of Syrians now living in Idlib have been filling the streets in a continuing effort to voice their opposition to what they consider to be an illegitimate presidency.
And even though Assad, with the help of his foreign supporters, has managed to regain control of most of Syria, we can safely assume that there are many Syrians currently living in regime-controlled areas who still oppose his regime if for no other reason than that for six and a half years none of the conditions that sparked the revolution, have changed.
For now, Russia and Turkey have agreed to maintain a buffer zone in northern Syria but how long will Assad be willing to tolerate three million people being free to raise their voices against him within Syria’s borders?
If Idlib were to fall back under the regime’s control, how much more violence would he have to continue exerting on civilians to ensure that he maintains control?
Assad had his chance to institute reforms when the revolution began. Instead he proved to the world that he and his regime are committed to maintaining his dictatorship by force.
That alone is reason enough to say that Assad must go if there is ever to be a chance for peace and a hopeful future for all of Syria’s children.
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