Hands up who lives in the west and would really love to see increased democracy and human rights in Syria? Me too!
By Carlos Martinez
Of course, the level of existential threat facing a state is pretty closely linked with that state’s willingness to allow freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and so on. On that basis, there’s actually quite a lot we in the west can realistically do to help Syria to improve on its democracy and human rights:
- Campaign against our governments’ support for an armed insurgency, the success of which would significantly worsen the democracy and human rights situation (Libya, anyone?). A state fighting a large-scale armed insurgency cannot reasonably be expected to “loosen up” on its opponents, or to devote time, money and effort to exploring processes that ensure greater popular participation.
- Campaign against economic sanctions on Syria. If the average Syrian has to worry about the more fundamental human rights of food, healthcare, education and housing, then freedom of speech moves down the priority list.
- Focus your political critique on the real enemies in this situation; those political entities that are intent on destroying Syria, pulling it out of its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and the Palestinian resistance, and thereby working to preserve imperialist hegemony in the region. The governments of the US, Britain, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey: these all pose a far greater menace to Syrian democracy and human rights than the Syrian government.
To make liberal-democratic demands of the Syrian government right now - that it let opponents out of prison, that it refrain from driving insurgents out of the areas they control, that it allow fuller freedom of speech, etc - is essentially to demand that it give up its fight against the forces of imperialism, sectarianism and zionism that are trying to tear Syria apart. And that, paradoxically, would be the opposite of democracy and human rights.