Syrian crisis from internal conflict to international crisis and its impact on the minorities, from the perspective of a Syrian parliament member

The wave of events in Syria began at 15/3/2011, the protests was affected by the tsunami of the ‘Arab Spring” in Tunisia and Libya. Soon many third parties participated in the protests to achieve its interests in the Middle East. According Maria Saadah, a Syrian parliament member, “the goal was to make it an international crisis from the very beginning. And to make it an international one we need internal tools to be an excuse for the intervention. The goal was not to change the regime in Syria, but to change the system of the area as a whole”.

Syrian crisis from internal conflict to international crisis and its impact on the minorities, from the perspective of a Syrian parliament member -

“What is happening in Syria today is part of the scheme that began in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt”, said Saadah. “But Syria was able to hold up. In the beginning, they tried to create some ‘with or against’, with the regime or against it, in order to create factions under the name of the revolution. These terms have changed since the beginning of the war. We were talking about an opposition, that turned into a revolution, then into an armed opposition, and then a terrorism”.

Events have developed in Syria tragically and rapidly, as well as the forms and means of intervention in the Syrian crisis. That made the Syrian people pay the high price. And the biggest crisis after World War II has began. That left about a quarter of a million dead and half of the Syrian people displaced, internally and externally.

Saadah explains the stages of intervention during the five years of the crisis in Syria.

“The West and the supporters of the crisis in Syria found “with or against” on a religious and sectarian basis.  After that the armed factions began to appear under the name of Syrian revolution. Then we found criminals and mercenaries from various nationalities. They have been trained in camps in Turkey and some other areas, which means that there is a scenario prepared for this. And this scenario was not created out of nowhere, and weapons were not inside the country since the beginning, in other words, there were preparations to make it an international crisis. Then we found that what is happening in Syria is a kind of terrorist acts, not a revolution. This has been known on the inside, but we are talking here about the world opinion. ”

For the parliament member who was elected as an independent member for Damascus 2012, “in fact it is a systematic process to create conflict centers in Syria. Today we are no longer talking about “with or against the regime” but we are talking about the opposition. But who are they? Saudi Arabia today form an opposition, Europe form another opposition, and Turkey as well. This started from the beginning when we saw the National Council in Turkey, the coalition in Europe, Saudi Arabia Conference, and the Cairo Conference. Then Russia intervened and also attracted a group of opposition, in addition to an opposition that grew inside the country in response to that foreign one. That was a creation of tools and opposition armed groups as a substitute for the Syrian army, under the sonorous title “Free Army.”

After the outbreak of protests in Syria, which began on 15 March 2011, and evolved to the so-called Syrian crisis, the approval of a new constitution for the country came on 27 February  2012 . Among the most important changes at the level of the presidency was the abolition of the eighth article, which says that Al-Baath Party is the leader party of the state and society, and thus the party nomination for president is no longer confined to the native leadership of Al-Baath Party and the transformation of selecting a president of a referendum on the national leadership candidacy to the elections pluralism. The Constitution also kept the duration of the presidential session to seven years, but select the number of times of the re-election; only once; that means, no one can stay as President for more than two presidential session, each one lasts for 7 years.

For Saadah, the crisis has turned into an international one after the Presidential election. The conflict was about the opposition of the regime and the legitimacy of the president, etc. But when President Alassad won the elections, and they saw the reaction and participation in Lebanon and the response of Syrians in Europe, that changed the equation, and we entered the internalization stage of the Syrian crisis.

She said that the countries supporting the Syrian crisis tried to penetrate the Syrian Sovereignty under several pretexts. In the beginning, these countries welcomed the opposition that stood against the regime, and then, when the armed conflict began, they started to talk about protecting civilians from the regime that killing them. After that they needed something bigger to talk about, so started talking about the use of the chemical weapon by the regime.

Chemical attack in Syria occurred in Ghouta, east of Damascus, on Wednesday, August 21-2013, claimed the lives of many residents of the area (there are no accurate number), but it could be hundreds of dead, due to inhaling toxic gas that affects the nerves. The attack happened after three days of the arrival of international inspectors mission to Damascus. Both the regime and the armed opposition have exchanged accusations of responsibility. The crisis ended after the Russian initiative to put the chemical weapons of Syria under international control to spare the Syrian regime from American and Western strikes. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid AlMuallem announced the approval of Syria in September 9 / 2013. On this ground, Syria has emptied from its chemical weapons, and the country entered the treaty of non-proliferation of chemical weapons.

So this was an attempt to interfere in the affairs of the country. This was a very serious breach that the Syrian government dealt with very intelligently.

“Iraq was a clear example in front of us, where after 15 years of war, foreign countries said that they did not find weapons of mass destruction. After all that, it is a shame to underestimate peoples’ minds and the public opinion. The example is crystal clear in front of us. Thus, the pretext of the chemical weapons has fell”.

“The countries that fuel the crisis tried to enter by other ways, but the steadfastness of the Syrian state, its army and people dropped all these excuses.

And we began to recognize the reality of the war on Syria. It is a war of armed terrorist groups.  The Security Council put these groups under the name of terrorist groups, and this also gave the crisis an international character”.

The international intervention in Syria has become obvious after Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey supported the armed opposition by providing it with money, weapons, and logistic support. Turkey has played a direct role by facilitating the movement of weapons. We saw as well regional interference by the Syrian army side from Iran and Hezbollah.

“I think, from the beginning, this struggle was international. Today we face a global war. All the countries have interests in the region, whether economic, political or social interests”.

After the emergence of Daesh and declaration of the caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June 2014, it dominated large areas in Iraq and Syria, especially on the oil sources in Syria. The group committed massacres to spread its control, particularly against Yazidis and Christians.

The strikes of the Western Coalition led by the United States started on 23 Sep. 2014, the first military operations against the ISIS began with the US-led coalition air strikes.

On September 30, 2015, the Russian Air Force launched air strikes on Syria, after the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad requested military support from Moscow, and the Russian Federation Council has approved the mandate of President Vladimir Putin to use the Russian armed forces outside the country.

Does the international intervention began with the war against the Islamic State?

“let’s talk about the obvious intervention on the state level” Saadah answers. “when a country calls for a war against terrorism, like US, without communicating with the country that exposed to it, like Syria, then this is a lie to put its troops inside Syria. Distinctly from America and her allies that launched military operations without coordinating it with Syrian government, Russian involvement was in accordance with international law. Because Russian military intervention in Syria was requested by Syrian government.

But the difference is that Russia entered intelligently and opened the door to everyone, saying that Russia is willing to cooperate with anyone if they are serious in their intention to fight the terrorists.

In my opinion, Russia has intervened in a timely manner. It left the US to provide its pretexts and plans, to see how serious it is in fighting terrorism. And here, the political process became serious. Previously, we were talking about consultative meetings, and today we are talking about negotiations. There are great powers that involved in the Syrian crisis in addition to the Syrian Army, which achieved many victories on the ground. That requires from the countries participating in this war, or the countries that stand by Syria, to engage in serious negotiations.

“We are facing an international war, over their interests in Syria. So these negotiations revolve around these interests through lists of oppositions belonging to these countries.”

Before the war in Syria, Al-Baath Party imposed secularism in the country. There was coexistence among all religions and sects, there was religious freedom for minorities, especially Christians, compared to the rest of the Arab countries. With the beginning of the crisis, the fundamentalist movements and Daesh appeared and threatened the social fabric and the minorities. So as a Christian deputy, what is the situation of these minorities now, and is the social fabric exposed to the threats of ISIS?

“First of all, we reject the use of the term” minority “, it is an imported term. We cannot call an integral part of the Syrian fabric a minority. Our roots in this land went back before any other religion, and before Islam. This does not mean that we did not engage with others in co-existence. Syria welcomed so many cultures and races throughout its history, and was the cradle of many religions. This has formed a cumulative civilization of authentic blend on the Syrian land. Therefore we cannot dismantle the Syrian society to sects and religions.

70% of the population are Sunni Muslims, 20% Alawites and Shiites, Murshedes, Druze and Ismailis, and 10% of the population are Christians of different sects, and there is also a Yazidi minority in the Sinjar mountain region on the border with Iraq.

“In every society we find extreme category, and unfortunately, the West supports extremists. We have not seen it support any secular or national stream, because these currents entrench people in their land. When we say today that there is a plan to change the Middle East or to change the map or geography, this requires the dismantling of the community, and this in turn requires the creation of a “for or against” that we talked about previously. When you reach that, you destroy history. what is shared by the Syrian fabric is history and geography. when you change the demography of the region and destroy the history you erase the memory of the location for the next generations, minds. This is a factor in changing the geography. What we are trying to do now is keeping the Syrian fabric together , even if there was a demographic shift, internally or externally.

Christians constitute about 10% of the total population in Syria and Christian-density varies according to areas of Syria. While it is up to 20% in the Euphrates River area, it is 10% in Aleppo and the coastal area, and 15% in Homs, and 5% in Damascus and Hama.

Most statistics indicate that about half of them Greek Orthodox, while other denominations make up the other half. The percentage of Christians in Syria in late Ottoman was 25% of the total population. But the falling back was mainly due to the Christian exodus which have increased since that time and its percentage is high among Christians more than other communities.

About Christians, Saadah said

“As for the Christians, emptying the Middle East from Christians means the end of Christianity in the world, because its roots are in the Middle East. If you cut the roots you will finish up the whole religion. On the other hand the abolition of the role of Christians in the Middle East, either through intimidation or enticement; intimidation where we saw massacres of Christians here, and enticement like attracting them to Europe, US, and Canada with some attraction factors as providing jobs opportunities. This also means the withdrawal of an important component in Syria, and convert Syria to a society with a single component or two. That is the process of sorting the components inside Syria, and that is what we are facing today. Despite all this, the Syrian society resists, defies and clings to its roots more than before”.

Saadah concludes:” We hope to be able to withstand in the face of all these challenges in order to protect Syria”.