Why Are Syrian Victims Blamed?

Sectarianism, terrorism, jihadist elements, radicalization and civil war are not inherent to Syrian society, but the direct consequences of backing dictatorship.

Suffocated by the pain brought upon them by a repressive regime that would rather set its own country on fire than leave power, they long for the days when death was not at every corner, or at least not in an explicit, visible way. Afraid to blame a regime that has proved to be a killing machine, many find it easier to blame the victims. Nothing uncommon within dictatorships, where silence is the price to pay for an appearance of stability.

The rest of the world seems to blame the victims too. After two years of sitting and watching civilians being massacred by the people who are in charge of protecting them, the “international community” now points at the consequences of its own inaction. Sectarianism, terrorism, jihadist elements, radicalization, and civil war are not inherent to Syrian society, but the direct consequences of backing dictatorship.

These are the direct consequences of watching peaceful demonstrators being arrested and tortured, their neighborhoods bombed, their children killed, and every big or small non-violence initiative crushed without any country doing anything to stop the regime, and some going out of their ways to support it. These are the direct consequences of listening to Assad supporters chant “Bashar, or we will set Syria on fire” and not take it seriously. Assad supporters have kept their promise in a literal sense.

Syrians are not only held responsible for the degradation of a movement that started peacefully and was faced with state terror, but also for the proxy war ignited by international powers, whose only victims are the Syrian people.

Under such circumstances, the escalation from peaceful revolution to armed rebellion is not surprising. What is surprising however is the ability of Syrians to resist. Every poster from the town of Kafranbel, every sign photographed and shared with the world through online platforms, every YouTube video showing Syrians demonstrating, Syrians being tortured and killed, Syrians standing up, day after day, against brutality, is further evidence of the people’s heroic resistance. They are the only heroes and the only victims of their own struggle against tyranny.

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They are the voices that matter amid the growing amount of geostrategic noise. Let’s listen to them, instead of blaming them for the consequences of backing repressive regimes and leaving people unprotected against state terror.


Kafranbel coordinating community on Facebook

You have destroyed the country. Why did you people have to go and take to the streets? You mean the regime has destroyed the country, right? Our revolution does not have cannons and missiles and does not bomb populated cities… I know, but if there had been no uprising the regime would not have responded this way…

This dialogue is part of a Facebook post published by Palestinian intellectual Azmi Bishara. It reflects a conversation that continues to occur in Syria, amid an escalation of violence that has made life unbearable.

This article has been updated since original publication in Sharnoff’s Global Views.

Leila Nachawati is a Spanish-Syrian communication strategist and human rights activist. She is a professor of Communications at Carlos III University in Madrid, where she is currently pursuing a PhD in new media under repressive regimes, and contributes to several projects and online media like Eldario.es, Global Voices Online and Global Voices Advocacy. She holds degrees in English Studies, Arabic Studies, and a master’s degree in International Cooperation. You can follow her on Twitter @leila_na.