A Close look at the Syrian revolution:
An Anarchist among jihadists.
This could to some extent tell my situation when I was inside the “liberated territories” of Syria; that is the territories controlled by the free army, the armed forces of the Syrian opposition. But still it is not the whole truth. It is true that not all the free army militants are devoted jihadists, although most of them are thinking, or telling, that what they are practicing is “Jihad”. The truth is there are a lot of ordinary people, even thieves, etc; among them, as in any armed struggle. My first and lasting impression about the current situation in Syria was that there is no more popular revolution going on there; what is taking place is an armed revolution that could degenerate simply to a civil conflict.
The Syrian people, who showed unprecedented courage and determination in the first few months of the revolution to defy Assad’s regime despite all its brutality, are really exhausted now. 19 long months of fierce repression and lately of hunger, scarce resources of all types, and continuous bombardment of the regime’s army, weaken its spirit. Cynically, the beneficiary of all these was not the regime but the opposition, especially the Islamists. Depending on its international relationships, especially with the rich despotic Gulf governments, the opposition can now feed and support the hungry population in the areas controlled by its forces. Without such support, there could be a grievous humanitarian situation. But this support is not provided for free, either by the Gulf rulers or the opposition leaders; they are, like any other authoritarian force, asking the masses for submission and obedience. This in fact could only mean the real death of the Syrian revolution as a popular courageous act of the Syrian masses. Yes, I helped some jihadists to live, and others to go back to fight; but my real intention was to help the masses I belong to, firstly as a physician, secondly, as an anarchist.
To tell the truth, I don’t think that our problem is with Islam itself; Islam can also be egalitarian or even Anarchistic. In the history of Islam there were scholars who called for a stateless and free Muslim society, even a free universe without any sort of authority. The problem in what is happening now in Syria is not only the difficult and bloody process of changing a ruthless dictatorship, but might even be worse: substituting it with another dictatorship, which could be worse and bloodier. Early in the revolution, a small number of people, mainly devoted Islamists, claimed to represent the revolting masses and appointed themselves to be the true revolutionaries, the true representatives of the revolution. This went unchallenged by the mainstream of the revolutionary masses and intellects. We did oppose such authoritarian and even false claims, but we were, and still are, at a loss to make any real difference. These people claimed that what was taking place was a religious war, not a mere revolution of repressed masses against their oppressor. They used very aggressively the fact that the oppressor was from another sect of Islam, different from the sect of the majority of the people he is exploiting, a sect that was judged frequently by Sunni scholars in the past to be against the teachings of true Islam and even worse than non-Muslims.
We were shocked by the fact that the majority of Allawete, the sect of the current dictator, who are poorer and more marginalized than the Sunni majority, did support the regime, and that they participated in his brutal suppression of the revolting masses. This came as “evidence” of the “actual religious war” taking place between Sunni and Allawete. In this regard these people could really claim to be the real Sunni; they are Muslim scholars and they are so sectarian that no one can challenge them in this regard. In fact, they built their spiritual and moral authority before the material one; then came the material support from Gulf rulers. Now the potential for any real popular struggle is decreasing rapidly; Syria is governed now by arms, and only those who have them can have a say about its present and future; this is true only for Assad’s regime and its Islamic opposition.
Everywhere in the Middle East, the great hopes are disappearing rapidly, in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. The Islamists seem to get all the benefits of the courageous struggles of the masses, and they could easily initiate the process of establishing their fanatic rule, without strong opposition from the masses. I could feel exactly as Emma Goldman felt in 1922 when she broke with the Bolsheviks and finally disillusioned about their rule. In fact, no one in the whole Arab and Muslim world looks closer to the Bolsheviks nowadays than the Islamists; even devoted Stalinists lack the full criteria of their ancestors compared to the Islamists. For a long time they were badly repressed by local dictators, used to frighten the masses and the west; and because of that might, looked the most decisive part of the opposition to these dictatorships. At the same time, they really have the same efficient propaganda machine as the Bolsheviks once did. They are so authoritarian and aggressive, exactly as the Bolsheviks were during the decisive days of October revolution. So it looks rational if the Arab peoples opted to try them, or to accept their rise to power. Even to hope, as did the Russian workers and peasants once, that they could really create a better and different type of society. For Emma she awoke very early from such disillusion, for the masses themselves, it took so long to realize the truth. Still as Emma thought, rightly as I claim: the masses were very righteous to rise up and try to change their miserable reality, the big “mistake”, if it could be described as a mistake, was done by the authoritarian forces which sought to hijack the revolution. We still support the revolution, not its false “leaders”
Building the libertarian alternative: Anarchist propaganda and organization.
The other issue I think is so important for us Arab anarchists, and Arab masses, is how to build the libertarian alternative: that is how to initiate effective anarchist or libertarian propaganda and how to build libertarian organizations. To tell the truth, I never tried before to convince anyone to be anarchist; I opted only for a free dialogue between “equals” with everyone. I never claimed that I know everything or that any anarchist or any other human being deserves to be the “guide” or the “leader” of others; that anyone deserves to be in the same position as the Pope, Muslim Imams, or the general secretary of any Stalinist or Leninist party. I always thought that trying to affect others is another way to practice authority upon them. But now I see this issue from another perspective: It is all about making anarchism “available” or known to all those who want to fight any oppressing authority whose repression they suffer from. Let them be workers, unemployed, students, feminists, the youth, or ethnic and religious minorities etc. It is about trying to build an example or sample of the new free life in the body of a free or libertarian organization; not only as a living manifestation of its potential presence; but also as a MEANS to achieve that society. We have to make anarchism well known to all the slaves and victims of all the current suppressive systems and authorities. EFFECTIVE ANARCHIST PROPAGANDA is, as I think, the first aim of such organizations. In a word, we are witnesses of the bankruptcy of the “secular” authoritarian trends (including the nationalist and Arab – nationalist, Stalinists and other varieties of Leninism), and very soon the bankruptcy of the authoritarian religious ones. The future alternative should be, logically, a libertarian one. Of course, anarchism cannot be implanted artificially; it must be a “natural” product of the local masses’ struggles. But still it will need good care and to be properly highlighted. This will be, supposedly, the role of our propaganda. Still there will be no “centre” in our organization, no bureaucracy, but still it is supposed to be as effective as its authoritarian counterparts, or even more efficient.
Still our Stalin or Bonaparte is not in power; still the Syrian masses have the opportunity to get a better outcome than that of the Russian revolution. It is very true that this is difficult and becomes even more so every minute, but the revolution itself was a miracle, and on this earth the oppressed could create their miracles from time to time. This time also, we Syrian anarchists put all our cards, and all our efforts with the masses; it couldn’t be another way, or we will not deserve our libertarian name.
I want here to tell some details about this. In fact it wasn’t easy for me to be among Jihadists, but for some reason it wasn’t the same to treat them. For me, I was so clear since the first moment I entered that front hospital I was working in: that I will treat anyone who needs my help, let them be civilians, fighters, from any group, religion or sect; and I was so particular that no one could be mistreated inside that hospital, even from Assad’s army. I will repeat here that my real problem, and that of the oppressed in general as I think, is not with god himself, but with human beings who act as gods, who are so sick with authority that they think and act like gods, let them be a secular dictator like Assad or Islamic Imam, etc. God himself is never as deadly dangerous as those who “speak” for him.
Editor’s note: the above was received as raw text, I have corrected any typographical errors and made a few minor grammatical changes to make the article easier to read in English; I trust the author will not object.