In the manner of all momentous rebellions, the Syrian upheaval has been rich in iconography and lyrics and political language. A people long repressed have come out to give voice to what has been on their minds for four decades of silence. One placard read, “Like Father, Like Son,” to remind themselves, and their ruler, that they have been in the grip of this tyranny for far too long.
But the truth of it is that Bashar al-Assad, though in every way heir to his father’s despotism, lacks the guile of the old man. Hafez Assad bent things to his will but had a knack for avoiding terrible storms. He was the quintessential survivor, alternately playing arsonist and fireman for three long decades. He was an Alawite, from a historically persecuted community of peasants, and thus tread carefully, keen on avoiding a sectarian war. Not so with Bashar, the entitled prince, who has now set off what is, for all intents and purposes, a civil war within Syria, and in the process left his regime a pariah among nations.
It was a moment of reckoning for the regime of Bashar Assad when the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, recalled his envoy from Damascus and spoke out against the “killing machine” in Syria and the regime’s brazen brutality. A day later, from Cairo, the grand imam of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb, arguably Sunni Islam’s most prestigious religious authority, called on the Syrian rulers to desist from facing unarmed protesters with “live bullets and iron and fire.” His followers should no longer, he said, remain silent “in the face of a human tragedy that can’t be accepted religiously, when we know that the shedding of blood only increases the ferocity of rebellions.”‘
(photo credit: Maggie Osama)