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When death becomes a way of life

February 27, 2014 - 5:27:02 am
“No solution, no hope for change,” answered the old man from the countryside of Damascus, when asked if there was hope for change or solution. 

“Not at all,” Abu Ahmed riposted in his Damascene dialect. 

This was part of the conversation between the slim Syrian sheikh in his 60s and me. He had a poignant look in his eyes. This was how he replied to my questions, always. 

Talking about politics in Syria is not fun or joyful. When people talk, they have to be careful in view of the situation. That is why they use codes and keywords. Syrians avoid saying directly what they have in mind. Intelligence officials are everywhere and they have unlimited authority. Prisons have a very bad reputation, similar to that of Spainish courts of inquisition in the Middle Ages. The minds of Syrians are full of stories about torture, mutilation, burning and rape and these memories are indelible. 

On February 17, the Time magazine published statistics about the crimes committed by the Syrian regime — revealed by human rights organisations  — during the Geneva II conference. According to them, around 6,000 Syrians were killed between the morning of January 22 and the evening of February 14. This means 242 were killed every day, or around 10 every hour. 

While they were being killed, others were waiting for the outcome of the conference. However, the delegation of the regime refused to discuss demands of the opposition. That is why the gathering was an utter failure that compelled the architect of the conference, Lakhdar Brahimi, to say, “I am deeply sorry, deeply sorry. I apologise to the Syrian people. I apologise to them because we could not help them much during these two meetings.”

The thing, however, is his words will never wipe memories of these 6,000 people. They will not abolish memories of 140,000 killed over the past three years. They will not bring rest to millions living in intolerable conditions across the world, in tents, on the borders, waiting to return to a place where there is no future or life. 

People do not carry arms or fight because they know that fighting will bring them nothing but disasters unless they are compelled. They do it only when it is better for them to die carrying arms than be threatened by armed people every now and then. Rulers stick so strongly to their thrones, believing that their thrones are more important than their people, their aspirations and their dreams. Rulers brook no delay in doing anything that can protect their thrones. 

But what people do if they lose hope and reach the dead end, with death on their road. So they prefer to die fighting to face death and humiliation everyday.

Sometimes I ask myself why these regimes have failed to upgrade themselves in ways that help them find a way out of the crises surrounding them. 

Would Bashar Al Assad have lost much if he reserved the presidency for himself for the rest of his life and brought a prime minister through election? Would the situation in his country have become like what it is if he had introduced reforms to his security system and banned its manipulation over people’s lives? Was it difficult for him to reform the judicial, educational and health systems? 

He would not have lost much if he had done it. On the contrary, he would have won many things. Nevertheless, the fact is that when regimes prove incapable of changing and coping with changing realities on the ground, they must be changed. 

None – whether rival politicians outside Syria or the Free Syrian Army inside – was enthusiastic about going to Geneva II. Everybody knew that it will be a total failure, even before it started. How could the conference succeed when the Syrian delegation refused the idea of pushing Al Assad from power? 

The conference was held at a time of intense fighting in Syria — between the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other factions. 

At the time lavish Iranian and Russian support went to the Syrian regime, the other party was divided into two groups: one disintegrated and suffering internal conflicts and the other steadfast and not ready to compromise its principles. 

I do not know where Abu Ahmed is now. His slim body may not allow him to survive the current crisis. I am afraid — is he dead? The Syrian regime has been giving the people a hard time, controlling every aspect of their lives. Death is the only way of life for the Syrians.