In the age of new media, it has become increasingly easy to have conversations with people you know nothing about, who believe in values completely removed from your own and have opinions on contentious subjects that you can barely believe possible. I had one such conversation with @HumanishTweeter when he responded to something I said about Syria on Twitter.
For a bit of context of the current situation, a New York Times article discusses how squeezing the economy (in the form of sanctions) will eventually put the pressure on the merchant elite to rebel against Assad:
““We’re all waiting for the thing that will crack them,” an Obama administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “And it will be the economy that will wake everybody up, both those who support him, and Assad and his circle.”
“…But uncertainties persist over the international strategy to put pressure on the Syrian economy. American and European officials have debated whether the sanctions will end up hurting average Syrians more than the leadership. Some analysts have contended that the government may try to paint itself as a victim and court support by casting the sanctions as a contest of “us against them.””
These economic concerns are oddly foregrounded by my conversation with a Christian Syrian tweeter whose comments (although vitriolic and angry) echo this unease over economic loss and its effect on the average citizen.
He said: “Millions of them [the people of Syria] despise the uprising as fake, and a mere grab for power.Syriawas extremely at peace in itself for many years now, and there was no reason to do this at all. Ask yourself why Syria is the target of world scorn… but the Saudi King is 100 times worse and people like Obama kiss his ass.”
“It’s all a joke. Israel wants Assad gone because of Hezbollah…Israelis the most powerful lobbyer of American politics, so, we support their bidding.Syriawould be fine, if not for little power hungry killers, aka, “peaceful protesters” [who are] shooting at police etc. Not all of them are violent, I know, but it [Syria] wasn’t some hell hole. The sanctions were the worst thing about Syria, and the very people that set the sanctions up (to get people to topple Assad) are the same people the rebels sided with.”
I commented that there were obviously people not at peace with the regime, who chose to rebel.
He replied: “I believe their motivations are revenge for what happened under his dad, the 20 thousand Hama deaths. It’s the past. Well, see if “families” were tortured for vengeance, of course that’s wrong. But I don’t believe all these stories, either… but if some occur, I can’t believe Assad etc signed off on it. It’s like in theIraqwar, someUSApeople did brutal, sadistic things to prisoners etc, but it’s not like generals wanted it happening…just random crimes.
I pointed to stats, to Amnesty, to the facts that say that these kinds of crimes aren’t random, but a way of inciting terror and keeping the oppressed downtrodden. The recent expose of the use of torture to keep family members in foreign countries from protesting was alarming, not because it’s surprising, but because it points to worse human rights abuses happening in Syria that we don’t know about. I asked if he believed he was truly free under the Assad regime?
“Free. I am Christian. Jesus when he was here never preached overthrow of the Romans. Ever. Why? Because unlike what Jews thought, Jesus knew true freedom is within, spiritual…USApreaches freedom, “land of the free”… know what they did recently? Forced fag marriage on the state of NY, against what violators of NY already said NO to on a ballot. They did the same nationally forcing abortion on our people. Free you ask. To do what? Live? Have families? Be happy? Yes…. to be a fag and get married and kill your baby? No.”
And most importantly, a statement that echoes the youth from all over the Arab Spring countries: “I don’t preferUSA’s freedom toSyria’s. This is my point,Syriain that regard was free. What nation doesn’t have rules people hate? They were as free as anywhere except to make mass money, because of sanctions. Makes many people think “if only Assad were gone we could make more cash.”” Surprisingly, many of his concerns echo orthodox Christians all over the world (the loss of the nuclear family values) and are concerned less with the war, but what the regime change will do to his lifestyle and values (however misguided they may otherwise be considered.)
As part of the Christian minority, perhaps “@humanishtweeter’s” worries are founded in becoming part of a sizable minority in what would otherwise be a Sunni Muslim majority. Media reports suggest that Syrian Christians worry that the unrest could turn into civil war, dividing another country by religion where the divide, previously existent, was not yet so fractured.
The statements portrayed here are xenophobic, racist and bigoted, and yet I see an echo in his worry about Western involvement, in how it will change his country and the way that economic sanctions are, not just potentially, damaging the average citizen. I support the movement in Syria completely, but I cannot help thinking it’s worth listening to the other side, only in the hope of coming to some kind of middle ground, remembering the minority groups which also make up the country, and maybe changing these extreme opinions into something more inclusive.