After three years Syrians are used to defying expectations
Barrel bombs don't kill dreams. Neither do scud rockets, warplanes, tanks or canisters of Sarin gas fired at sleeping children.
Three years into an uprising against a tyrant and his police state, it seems the world has decided our dream of freedom, justice and dignity has turned into a nightmare. But on this day - the third anniversary of the first large-scale demonstrations against the regime - I call on all those who look at what's happening in Syria with fear and trepidation to put their faith in the people of Syria. We have become used to defying expectations.
For four decades we did nothing but conform to expectations. Every Syrian knew that asking too many questions of the rich and powerful would result in jail, torture and death.
In March 2011, young Syrian men and women decided that there was no reason to accept the status quo. They broke the fear barrier looking down the barrels of machine guns held by soldiers with orders to shoot to kill. The Free Syrian Army was born in those early demonstrations when soldiers and officers who refused orders to fire on unarmed civilians joined the protesters.
Millions around the world watched videos smuggled out of Syria. The raw courage defied belief. The Syrian uprising fashioned heroes on the streets of Deraa, Homs, Aleppo and countless other towns across our country. It also ushered in a new era for Syria. The unchallenged power of the state had broken against the moral force of mass mobilization.
Assad's response was beyond horrific - medieval savagery executed with modern weapons. But nothing he has done has been able to re-establish fear of his regime. We know that without the massive military help of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia it would have already been swept aside.
As the regime escalated the conflict in a bid to mutate it, we struggled to build the mechanisms needed to deal with the biggest humanitarian disaster of this century, run half the country and engage in international diplomacy, all while fighting for our survival. Of course, this is what Assad wanted.
But away from the headlines, we have made huge strides in shedding the imprint dictatorship leaves on your collective consciousness. Inside Syria and across the world, Syrians are learning community politics. In liberated areas, local councils push their meager resources and immense ingenuity to the limits in order to provide services for their embattled communities. Outside Syria, the scale of the suffering has galvanized millions of Syrian North Americans, Europeans and others to organize and advocate on behalf of those inside the country.
This month, Syrians will be holding events all over the world. In Washington DC, 26-year old activist and vice president of the Syrian Coalition, Nora Alameer, will be addressing a gathering encompassing dozens of Syrian American organizations. And, in the UK, British supporters of the Syrian uprising will be holding a march in central London. Across the world, supporters are tying red ribbons in public places to draw attention to Syria's plight. I call on all those who value freedom, dignity and justice to take part and stand behind our people's struggle.
The Coalition, which includes men and women who have spent decades opposing the regime, has engaged in diplomacy to end the violence. During peace talks in Geneva only a few weeks ago, we put forward a proposal to bring peace and stability to the country through a transitional process. The regime refused to even look at our suggestions.
The age of the Arab dictatorship ended when tyrants opened fire on unarmed protestors. This, our most difficult battle, was won by heroes who sacrificed their futures for ours. A better tomorrow depends on our ability to find a new way of doing politics in our country and our region. We must balance rights with responsibilities, limit the power of the authorities and establish accountability over our representatives. Our duty is to honor all the fallen, those who died in the first protests and the later conflict, by realizing their dream.
Syrians have defied expectations before. Be sure, we will do so again.
Published in Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louay-safi/the-end-of-arab-dictators_b_4950880.html
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