Yassin al Haj Saleh writes: Forty-four years ago, on an autumn day like this one in 1970, Hafez al-Assad seized power in Syria by military coup. The man had been minister of defense during the June 1967 war with Israel, which ended in a disastrous defeat for the Arabs and Syria. Thirty years later, he passed down control over the ‘republic’ to his son Bashar, a move unprecedented on the global stage except in North Korea and Azerbaijan. Forty-four months ago, a revolution erupted against the son’s rule, and he confronted this revolution, from the very beginning, with war. This war has developed into a number of wars, involving numerous sides, now including the participation of the Americans and their allies in opposition to the ‘Islamic State’ that occupies regions in the north east of the country and has spread its control into parts of Iraq. At the same time, the Assad state – along with its Iranian, Lebanese, and Russian allies – continues to wage war against those areas that have gone out of its control over the course of the revolution.
This moment in time – marking simultaneously the passage of forty-four months and forty-four years – should provide an opportunity to examine the Syrian microcosm, as well the global macrocosm that surrounds it.
This sequence of six posts will begin from the fact that this shorter period of forty-four is a continuation of the longer forty-four rather than a break with it, a deepening of the situation and not a rupture with it. The shorter period of forty-four explains the longer forty-four, sheds light on its more hidden dimensions: the longer forty-four provides precedents and beginnings, which we see come to completion only in the shorter forty-four.
This series of posts will constitute a vacillating back-and-forth movement that has three parts: between two periods of time, a long one and a short one; between two worlds, a small Syrian one and a greater international one; and between the lower and higher levels of Syrian society and of the world.
Despite the fact that Syria is not known well, and the fact that it remains unknown after forty-four months of extreme struggle, these texts will not seek merely to produce definitions. Rather, the texts will try to renew the nature of the current approaches and lines of perspective, a step that can then lead to definitions. The reason that Syria remains unknown in the West and the world at large is that the dominant approaches representing the country make the population invisible, indeed nonexistent. A change of approach is necessary in order for us to become visible, for us to exist. [Continue reading…]