The revolution in Syria was not expected. The people of Syria had life plans for that day, the week, the future. And now it’s all suspended, hanging in the wait, for things to get worse, or to get better.
It’s been a children’s battle all along. The revolution started when some kids in Daraa played revolutionary, mimicking what they had seen on television. If the government’s reaction had been to congratulate the children on their imagination, give them some candy and a pat on the head, all of Syria would be relieved right now to not be having the growing pains of Tunisia, the uncertainty of Egypt, the transitions of Libya, the forecasted chaos of Yemen.
Instead, they chose to go in hard, to quash the ‘rebellion’ and those heavy-handed tactics, against children and their parents, spurred others to protest at the funerals of these first victims. And then when that didn’t work, they made more victims, had more funerals, all the while, turning people’s hearts away from fearing their government and fearing change to sacrificing their life’s plans to attempt securing freedom for their children.
Last week, a video circulated showing the corpse of a beautiful, perfect four-month-old baby girl, her chubby skin maimed by signs of torture. The world’s media has been reporting the regime’s statements about armed insurgencies and terrorist groups with as much of an eye-roll as print allows. Many who have seen that image have not slept well since; I have a infant daughter, and I’ve clung to her more desperately in these last days, wanting the world to be good for her, to be good to her.
On Monday, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. He had life plans of his own, would have wanted to raise his children, see his mission succeed, see it still working decades later. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
The Syrian government is trying to bend its citizens backs, trying to force them to accept the realities of permanent, brutal power. It’s a joke to anyone who knows anything about Syria that the authorities would blame gangs for the violence there now. Because a year ago, they would have lauded the security of their state, that they nip problems (real or imaginary) in the bud, and raze the earth around to prevent any chance for spreading, to remind people of the stakes.
But to the world, the regime continues blaming roving gangs, foreigners, and reminds us of the possibility of civil war, or of a democratically elected fundamentalist government fueling violent, religious splits.
Except there are no roving gangs and there is no fear of sectarian strife. The phrase doesn’t exist in Damascus’s history, the history of the world’s oldest inhabited city, and it doesn’t exist in the hearts of Syrians. The only strife is within the ones wielding power, that they’re willing to torture the most innocent to prove a point about their mercilessness, about the ends they’re willing to go to not cede power. And we need to make the part about the foreigners true and intervene, for humanitarian reasons. We can’t let a government annihilate its people for refusing to yield to their authority. Not anymore.