Syrians have not experienced a state

Louay Hussein writes: Syrians did not build their state in the second quarter of the past century according to the usual struggles, or agreements that go into building states; we inherited state institutions established by the French mandate. Thus, it was easy for successive military coups, which swept the country a few years after independence, to turn the state into a tool of control rather than an institution that organises the common interests of all Syrians.

Is it not up to the people now to pick up the pieces? No. Instead it is the responsibility of those who have appointed themselves their political leaders: all their programs, attitudes and statements must focus on issues like national unity and central authority. This does not contradict the administrative de-centralisation that was necessary in order to build the new modern Syrian state, based on justice and equality for all Syrians, if by any chance one day this Syrian crisis comes to an end.

This became much clearer when Hafez Al-Assad ascended to power, and especially after he had consolidated his authority—which lasted for a long time. Political and military authorities quickly turned state institutions into agencies to oppress citizens and transform them into subjects, in the economic sense, but also socially and politically.

After three decades of Hafez Al-Assad’s rule, and over ten years of his son’s, Syrians saw the state as something alien, an entity which they might appease, con, abuse, fear, and from which they hide their opinions—everything that reinforces the dynamics separating a state from society.

Thus, receiving any services from a public office is considered an act of “generosity” by the official, since according to regulations he can do whatever he wants with public money, including leaving it to his relatives and entourage. For ordinary Syrians, even public property is considered state property—meaning the regime’s property—not a commons. We can understand why Syrians show no interest in taking care of, or protecting, public property. Public property was seen as a resource to exploit, rob and misuse when possible. In short, Syrians have not experienced a state. This has serious implications and requires extensive research. [Continue reading…]

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