This Syria solidarity statement was initiated by Tadamon! Montreal.
The Syrian people continue to demand their rights and liberties and the end of the al-Assad regime. The Syrian state has responded with brutal repression.
Since the uprising began, the Syrian regime”s propaganda machine has labelled those calling for freedom and justice “criminals”, “terrorists” and religious fanatics. It has also claimed that they are foreign agents with a mission to install a puppet regime that would abandon regional resistance movements and sign a peace agreement with Israel.
In truth, Syrians are engaged in a legitimate struggle to change an untenable local reality: a brutal authoritarian state that has governed through intimidation, fear and repression for 40 years; a security apparatus that arrests and detains citizens arbitrarily and that subjects them to torture and other abuse with impunity; increasing impoverishment, unemployment, income and wealth disparity and uncertainty about the future due to neo-liberal economic policies in recent decades.
At the same time, this struggle inevitably challenges the global and regional props of local repression. Western states, Israel and their regional allies have long waged an unrelenting war against people and resistance movements in the Middle East and North Africa. The popular struggles that are making history in the region today represent challenges, at once, to internal domination – regimes exploiting their own people – and external domination – regional and global powers and their corporate partners that rely on those regimes to plunder resources, exploit local workforces and open new markets. The strong popular challenge to these regimes has forced these states to seek new partners.
Thus, while the Syrian opposition faces the harsh repression of state military and security forces, it simultaneously finds itself courted by powers which view the Syrian popular uprising as an opportunity to advance economic and strategic interests antithetical to the goal of self-determination for the peoples of the region. Just as the Syrian state – and its allies – cynically uses the language of resistance to justify its repressive hold on power, Western states hypocritically support calls for democracy and denounce the brutality of a regime with which they have cooperated in the past (from entering into oil partnerships to “extraordinary rendition”). Now they hedge their bets by building relations with opposition groups, no doubt hoping for a more stable and pliant replacement, particularly on the question of Israel. Thus, Canada”s oil-based conservative government – no friend to self-determination in the region, as the Palestinian people know well – voices strong support for the uprising.
In this way, the struggle for the respect of basic rights in Syria is bound up with the struggles of other peoples in the region, including the Palestinian people”s struggle against Israeli apartheid.
Against this background, the Syrian uprising enters its second year.
The popular struggle in Syria
The Syrian people”s struggle is directed against the Syrian state”s disregard of civil, economic, political and human rights. Since the beginning of the uprising, Syrians have declared that their goals are freedom and dignity. Today, they are calling for “the overthrow of the corrupt tyrannical security regime” as the only viable means of fully attaining these aims.
Recognizing the diversity of Syrian society and understanding the harmful consequences of any foreign military intervention, much of the popular movement for change in Syria has been committed to three fundamental principles: non-violent struggle; unity and equality of Syrians; and self-determination, which precludes foreign military intervention.
The costs borne by Syrians in this legitimate and courageous struggle have been high. Too many lives – more than 7500, according to UN sources – have been lost at the hands of the regime”s military and security forces and its hired thugs. Too many people have been detained, tortured, brutalized and disappeared in the state security labyrinth of prisons, detention centres, interrogation cells and torture dungeons. Too many families have been subject to intimidation, harassment and extortion. Towns and entire city quarters have been subject to military siege. The health system is in crisis and education for thousands of students has been disrupted. Too many have been punished for wanting nothing more than freedom and dignity.
The current juncture: civil disobedience and the Strike for Dignity
These terrible sacrifices have led some in the opposition movement to advocate a turn to arms to defend themselves and bring about the regime”s collapse. Additionally, some have begun to call for military intervention by foreign forces. Military intervention and armed conflict will imperil the integrity and success of the so-far non-violent revolution in Syria. It could have dire consequences for self-determination struggles throughout the region.
At this point of crisis, in a conscious attempt to bring the situation back from the brink of civil war and keep the uprising effective, principled and accountable to the Syrian people, organizers of the popular movement have called for ongoing general strikes throughout the country. Many thousands have courageously heeded this call. Since the call for a general strike was issued in early December 2011, economic life in cities and in commercial areas – including in Aleppo and Damascus, Syria”s two largest cities – has been disrupted if not shut down in an expression of peaceful resistance and civil disobedience.
The main demands of the Strike for Dignity are the release of all political prisoners and the withdrawal of all armed security forces from the streets as part of a movement of popular self-determination seeking the end of autocratic, authoritarian rule in Syria and revolutionary change to a society of accountability, respect, justice and liberty.
Call for solidarity in Montreal, Quebec and Canada
In solidarity with the Syrian people, we declare our support for the Strike for Dignity and its demands. We believe that international solidarity for the strike, and more broadly for the movement, can play a role in maintaining the principled, accountable and effective nature of the movement for freedom and dignity, and help prevent a slide into civil war.
At the same time, we categorically oppose foreign military intervention. The violence the state is using to quell the uprising, especially in Homs, is outrageous, and we must respond urgently, using all means at our disposal to protect the Syrian people and their struggle for self-determination. But foreign military intervention will not help stem the bloodshed – on the contrary, it will only lead to greater loss of life and destruction. Despite the talk of concern for life, 40,000 people died in Libya during the seven-month NATO campaign. Moreover, foreign military intervention would be disastrous for the Syrian and other struggles for self-determination in the region. Like Iraq, Syria would be left with a destroyed military capability, to the advantage of Israel, and a legacy of destroyed infrastructure, internecine conflict, and long-term political and economic dependence on the West.
We call on civil society organizations and grassroots movements in Montreal, in Quebec and across Canada to urgently organize effective actions in support of the popular uprising in Syria and in opposition to foreign military intervention. Such actions may include the following:
– boycott of Syrian state companies;
– organizing civil society observation and protection missions to Syria;
– protesting against the continued presence and operations of official
diplomatic representations of the Syrian state – ie. consulates and embassies.
No to militarization of the struggle! No to civil war!
No to foreign military intervention in Syria!
Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI)
Le Chapitre Montréal du Conseil des Canadiens
Coalition contre la brutalité policií¨re
Collectif pour la Syrie í Montréal
College and University Workers United (CUWU)
Conseil central de Montréal métropolitain – CSN
Independent Jewish Voices
Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)
La Pointe Libertaire
No One Is Illegal – Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territories
Quebec Public Interest Research Group – Concordia University (QPIRG Concordia)
Quebec Public Interest Research Group – McGill University (QPIRG McGill)
Société nationale syrienne
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill
South Asian Women”s Community Centre (SAWCC)
US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)