As the fifth Middle Eastern nation to join what has become known as the Arab Spring in early 2011, not many could have foreseen that 12 months later the Syrian revolution would still be infused with unbounded strength and determination to oust one of the most sadistic regimes, especially not their president, Bashar Al-Assad.
Yet what started as a peaceful movement for freedom and democracy, took a quick turn for the worst the moment Assad unleashed a spiteful army to obliterate entire cities. The Syrian opposition currently puts the number of known deaths at around 9,000 people, many of them children, women and elderly. And with the increase in army defectors, many people have begun to anticipate a war.
Despite the intense crackdown, the Syrian people share one common sentiment: hope.
They all strongly believe that the regime will fall. Soon.
But what remains to be known is: How?
“The situation in Syria is hazy,” said a 21-year-old activist from Halab who wished to be identified as Zien Majzob due to safety reasons. “With the continued brutal repression, the numbers of those wishing to continue peacefully are becoming muted as the voice of tanks and rocket launchers scream louder. But I am optimistic, like many of the protestors on the ground, that a democratic country that ensures all its citizens their freedom will come out of this.”
To give a general idea of the situation in Syria, Majzob, who lives in a relatively safe city-security forces have control over most of the streets and are violently suppressing protests-, says it’s a blessing compared to the nonstop violence elsewhere in Syria. “We are being slaughtered,” he said. Should the situation continue as is, Syrians “will also die due to hunger, disease and the lack of medical supplies.”
Many Syrians have often come to question how an army intended to protect its people could easily disregard all sense of principles and humanity and aim their heavy artillery at an unarmed defenseless people. And in besieged cities like Homs, Rastan and Zabadani, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), made up of defectors, has made it their objective to protect the people no matter the cost.
Mustafa Safiia, 26, a Syrian living in New Hampshire, a year ago, would have been against an armed opposition; however, he now believes that the Assad regime played a vital role in helping to create the FSA. “With all the bloodshed that the Assad gangs have committed, Syrians are obligated to carry weapons and defend themselves. It is their right,” he said.
Yet a victory based solely on the FSA is currently unlikely.
The Assad regime has already waged an all-out war, said an 18-year-old Damascus resident who is currently in Lebanon. However, the FSA does not have the resources needed to face the opposing side, said Abd Ha. Majzob agrees that “the FSA lacks any type of support and would be no match for the ruling gang.”
Twice detained and beaten with electric cables while tied and blindfolded-whose mother wrote on Facebook: “My son, sweetheart, you have honored me with your imprisonment”- Abd Ha believes that trying to surmise how the Assad regime will fall and what type of government should follow “is like debating between having fried or grilled chicken before even slaughtering the fowl…But one thing is certain,” he said, “the majority of the people are praying that Bashar will fall, even the scared and silent.”
For over two weeks, Assad has been bombarding the neighborhood of Baba Amro in the province of Homs. Upon reaching the besieged city of Homs, Correspondent Arwa Damon told CNN that activists have counted “55 explosions in just the span of 15 minutes.” And yet the U.S. has already ruled out military intervention.
Not until recently did the two major cities in Syria, Damascus-the capital- and Halab, which house the majority of government elites and supporters-, begin fiercely protesting. In the past couple of days, large protests unlike any others in the capital erupted in Mezze in the face of gunfire, less than 1km away from the presidential palace. For the most part, Damascus has been shielded from the conflict but it has become apparent that the government has begun to lose its grip on the last stronghold it has.
“It’s close. The regime has begun to falter and is losing its control over Damascus,” said Abd Ha. He said almost every night now at around midnight, chants of “Allahu Akbar” have been ringing loudly in the neighborhoods of Damascus, which he considers a major escalation to the events in Syria not only because it leads to frenzied movements of security forces but also because “it gradually encourages the participation of those still afraid and has turned the once sleeping areas of Damascus into sites of opposition.”
Yet compared to the cities like Hama and Homs, who have sacrificed the most, “Damascus and Halab are still crawling up the revolutionary scale,” said Majzob.
While many are secretly praying for a peaceful resolution to ending the bloodshed, the majority have begun placing all their hopes on the FSA.
“The regime seems indifferent whether the world is watching or the people have guns or not. The regime is killing us anyways,” said 22-year-old Barzah resident who goes by the name of Ameer. “People want to protect themselves & their families and [it seems that] a war will explode and that is going to be the only way Syria frees itself.”
“There is absolutely no way to end this except with war, unfortunately,” said New Jersey resident, Racan Alhoch, 22. “I personally wish there was another way because this is going to end up being a war of brothers - Syrians against Syrians but the regime will not leave without force.”
“The revolution is definitely headed towards victory in the sense that this regime will be ousted,” said Alhoch. “As for the future of Syria, it will be a long, hard road to building Syria into a democratic state. The most important thing for us as Syrians is to not look forward in fear, or back in anger but to look around in awareness so we don’t let anybody take our rights from us again.”