The Syrian crisis grows worse by the day. A pan-Arab
revolution, having toppled the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, and thrust Libya
and Yemen into civil war, now threatens the dictatorship in Damascus. But the
stakes are high: the Assad regime has ruled the country for four decades, and
Syria suffers from deep internal splits.
On one side, demonstrators take to the streets to demand
freedom and democracy, at the cost of their own lives. At least 1300 people
have been killed. On the other side, the supporters of the Baath regime fear
that President Bashar el-Assad’s fall will lead to instability, chaos and – in
a worst case scenario – civil war. Syria’s future is clouded by a brutal
dictatorship, a fragile economy, a weak civil society, a splintered opposition,
and severe sectarian tensions. But today’s situation cannot last.
In this crucial moment, many Syrians look back to the
country’s history. This is not the first uprising to threaten the Assad regime.
In the late 1970s, country-wide protests erupted against the dictatorship of
Hafez el-Assad, the father of Syria’s current president. They were led by both
secular groups, Islamists and independent civil society activists. That time,
the opposition was crushed with brutal force, a gruesome massacre in the city
of Hama in 1982 marking the end of the rebellion.
It is in the shadow of this failed revolution that Syria has
again risen against its rulers, and the lessons from that era help determine
the actions of both the regime and the opposition today. In The Ghosts of Hama
– one of the first reports about the current uprising in Syria – Aron Lund
provides a description of the situation in Syria today, and thirty years ago.
Comparing the two Syrian revolutions reveals both similarities and differences,
and points to the major risks that Syria faces. The report can also be
downloaded on http://silc.se/?p=874.
Aron Lund is an editorial writer for the Swedish newspaper
Upsala Nya Tidning. His book, Drömmen om Damaskus (The Dream of Damascus),
which deals with Syria’s regime and opposition movements, was recently
published by SILC Förlag.