The lust for power is not rooted in strength but in weakness.
Since December 2010, the Arab World has been witnessing massive political upheaval. The massive popular protests by people against their power-hungry dictators have come to be characterized as the ‘Arab Spring’. Several Arab nations saw their version of this ‘Arab spring’: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. However it has spawned both success and failure.
Syria is witnessing a devastating conflict that has been going on since February 2011 making it the longest running people’s movement in the so-called Arab spring. Since 1971, the Assad family has come to rule Syria, like a family fiefdom.
The Assads belong to the Alawi group, which is a branch of Shia Islam and make up only 12% of Syria’s population. The divisive rule of the Assads has over the years shaped Syrian polity and society, riven with sectarian strife. For close to two decades after it gained independence from France, Syria experienced political instability. The ascendance of Hafez al- Assad to the presidency in 1971 brought in much-needed political stability which came at the expense of essential freedoms, including the denial of fundamental rights to citizens. While Hafez ruled in a democratic polity, in practice he abandoned all democratic practice. Anyone who dared to oppose him was detained arbitrarily and tortured. In order to perpetuate his rule, he created one of the most brutal, secretive, and repressive dictatorships in the world. Hafez died in June 2000 and was succeeded by his son Bashar al-Assad.
All dictators are paranoid by nature. Bashar is no exception. With the help of the secret police, he crushed all political opposition and denied basic freedoms to his people. Repression, nepotism and economic corruption became the order of the day. Elections were a one-sided affair, with all legitimate opposition leaders either disqualified or put in jail. In short Bashar continued his father’s policy of subverting the system to perpetuate his rule. A high degree of youth employment, widespread corruption, lack of democracy, discrimination against certain groups of people (like Sunnis), and the all-pervasive shadow of a totalitarian state have all come together to explode in the face of Bashar.
Frustrated Syrian people took to the streets, first peacefully and later violently, demanding the step down of Bashar from the presidency. Bashar’s response was on predictable lines: shoot at sight, detention without trial, all aimed at crushing any form of dissent against his regime. This civil war has already killed more than 38000 people. Still, the rebels aren’t giving up and neither is Bashar.
To put pressure on Syrian government to stop using brutal violence against rebels, the global community has imposed wide-ranging sanctions. Ban on travel, freezing of assets in abroad, ban on import of crude oil from Syria, sanctions on Damascus’ energy sector, really hit the Syrian economy real hard.
There is great anxiety in the US, EU, Israel, Iran etc. about the outcome of this movement in Syria. But the thing is that there is no credible opposition in Syria, and ultimately this will give rise to another Bashar, even if the real one leaves the throne. However notwithstanding this scenario, Bashar al-Assad may yet survive to live another day, a day that may come to signify the triumph of sheer brute force over people power.