Syria: a people under siege

On Sunday 26 February the Syrian regime held a referendum on a new constitution. That constitution declares that Syria will be a multi-party democracy.

The opposition called for a boycott, saying that the old constitution bans torture and guarantees civil liberties, but as the government ignores that constitution, so too will it ignore any new one.

The opposition Syrian National Council declared that what is needed is a new government.

The voting took place amid widespread fighting. Homs was shelled by government troops for the 26th consecutive day.

Waleed Fares, an activist in the Khalidiyah district of Homs said, “What should we be voting for, whether to die by bombardment or by bullets? This is the only choice we have.”

One hundred people, mostly civilians, were killed across the country on Saturday alone.

Al-Jazeera reported intense fighting around Deraa, where the uprising first began last March and an opposition rising in Aleppo. If the report is accurate it is an important step: Aleppo is Syria’s largest town and is home to the Sunni elite. It has been considered a regime stronghold.

This week Radwan Ziadeh of the SNC called for arms for the Free Syrian Army.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal stated he thought arming the rebels was “an excellent idea.”

If the Saudis do start to seriously arm the rebels they will promote those they agree with. In Afghanistan, during the war against the Russian occupation, the Saudis funded and armed the most reactionary wing of the mujahedeen.

Now, in Egypt, they are helping the salafists — the most backward wing of the Islamist movement.

Workers’ Liberty supports the brave uprising against Assad’s state and advocates democracy, free speech and association, secularism, workers’ and women’s rights. We oppose Islamism.

We oppose the break-up of Syria through sectarian strife. But we recognise the right of the oppressed Kurdish minority in the north east of Syria to self-determination.

We oppose those powers which are backing the Syrian regime. We condemn the “left” in Britain which is effectively doing the same.

We distrust the motives and calculations of the big powers, and do not make calls on them to sort out the situation in Syria.

But the internal opponents of the Syrian state have a right to ask for help from outside and we would not oppose US, British or other outside support for the Syrian rebels (notwithstanding sectarian moves by e.g. Saudi Arabia) . We will not oppose moves by outside powers to provide military aid or a “safe haven” for the uprising.

For liberty and democracy!

Publications: 

Around the world: 

The AWL, Labour and the Left: