When the history of these interesting times is written, the people of Syria will perhaps take their place right at the top. Of course, the courage and leadership demonstrated by the people of Tunisia and Egypt in challenging the old, ossified order will forever define the Arab Spring. It was their resolve and courage under fire that turned the region around, heralding a democratic dawn that has become a metaphor for change around the world.
However, most inspiring as the epic sacrifices of the people of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen are, they seem to pale against the price being paid right now by the Syrians. They were the late bloomers of the Arab Spring, coming out on the streets diffidently, almost apologetically, much after the tsunami of change set off by Tunisia had turned the region upside down.
Those peaceful and polite Syrian protests acquired an infectious momentum of their own in no time after they provoked the same vicious and casually ruthless response from Bashar Assad that seems to come naturally to all ‘socialist Arab republics.’
And look what the people of Syria have already been through. It’s nearly a year since they took to the streets and they have offered thousands of lives in their fight against the regime. It is a totally one-sided war – peaceful and defenseless multitudes facing the full power of a pitiless regime.
This lopsided fight looked doomed from the start–even before it had begun. At least, that’s how it had appeared to the rest of the world. However, the Syrians are hanging on in there, fearlessly facing the cowards who call themselves their leaders. They remain steadfast in the face of death and destruction, even as they go about patiently burying their loved ones in scores and hundreds across the country on a daily basis.
And the world watches, horrified—and utterly helpless. So much for the international community and its fine institutions! Where’s the civilized world when it’s needed most? What is the point of institutions like the United Nations when they cannot stop the endless, coldblooded massacre of a helpless people at the hands of their rulers and army?