Back in August 2011, SOYMB carried a blog upon what we considered the positive part of the resistance to Syria's Assad regime which was that it was leader-less and the protesters refusal to be co-opted by exiled political dissidents, often with agendas sponsored by foreign powers. The World Socialist Movement understood that those who start such a progressive non-violent movement must be prepared for a long struggle, with setbacks and suffer casualties (after all, only one side is committed to non-violence). Nor was there any guarantee of success, even in the long run. All the same, violent resistance and militarising of it entails even larger casualties and has even less prospects of success. That is because it challenges the strongest point of a dictatorship – its capacity for violent coercion, plus, of course, the fact that the government possesses the more potent weapons - the tanks, the artillery and the bomber aircraft, unavailable to the resistance unless supplied by other nations.
Unfortunately, developments did lead to the formation of self-appointed leaders from various organisations setting up a Syrian National Council, seeking support from such outside parties as "the Friends of Syria", (America's Hillary Clinton apparently laying claim to be such a friend but whose promotion of “regime change” is done solely for strategic and economic reasons and has nothing to do with democracy whatsoever.) We have witnessed the birth of the Free Syrian Army, financed, armed and trained by Saudi Arabia as well as various Western powers, including Britain and France who have no recriminations whatsoever about there earlier instigation of civil war in Libya. There has also been a growth in the Muslim Brotherhood influence, creating a religious sectarianism division within Syria.
But, still, in the midst of this now increasingly bloody conflict with its rising casualties there continues within Syria a movement that believes the regime can be brought down without arms, and is committed to continuing the revolution using non-violent means alone. More than just bringing down the regime of Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s non-violent activists believe that the goal of the revolution is to bring a new spirit of democracy and freedom to the country and that the tactics used in the revolution are just as important as the goal. The opposition believes there to be the silent majority of Syrians – those in Damascus, Aleppo and other big cities, who agree with the cause but disagree with the current tactics, and who aren’t willing to sacrifice their lives for another form of dictatorship. "We are still many who want a peaceful revolution,” an activist who calls herself Celine says via Skype from Damascus. “But since it became an armed conflict, many people who were sympathetic to our cause have dropped out.”
“Peaceful resistance is a must; if we use weapons we will not be able to succeed as we do not have enough weapons or soldiers,” said Khalaf Ali Al-Khalaf, a Syrian activist from Aleppo. “The military option will increase people’s pain. Providing people with arms will only increase death. The opposition must convince those requesting arms that there is a different method of resistance. We are facing an unusual regime so we have to use unusual methods.”
"The SNC claims to be representative of the Syrian people. That’s just not true," says Ms. Nseir, a SNC's spokesperson in Lebanon but nevertheless a critic of it. "They talk only about arming the rebels. They never talk about nonviolent resistance and they certainly do not speak for the ramadieen, or grey people, the silent majority who support neither the regime nor the armed rebels.”
The activists are not naïve: they know they cannot turn back the clock to last summer, before the uprising turned violent. But they are still determined to work toward peaceful solutions. "There is no going back," says activist Alloush. "The Free Syrian Army is a reality and we have to accept it. But that does not mean that we have to accept them as the leaders of this revolution. I know these people, and I know that many of them want to turn Syria into an Islamic republic if they get the chance.”
A singer who uses the pseudonym ‘Safinas’ because she still lives in Damascus explains. "Our revolution has been stolen from us...We are fighting two regimes and two armies now."