What happened in Syria spells the end of an era. The 1990s, the longest decade in Syrian history, has finally ended. It wasn’t only the heroic cries of freedom by the people of Daraa that spelled the end of this decade of silence, but also the bullets that were to meet them. One of the hardest parts is over now; many walls have been broken inside of me and many other Syrians that no force can restore. The only way from hereon is forward.
Whatever will be the outcome of this coming week; be it an unprecedented crackdown on dissent, or the promised “reforms”, the biggest achievement of the protests has already taken place. This collapse of all the red-lines we’ve been taught to accept and maneuver is a matter of fact. On the street as much as online, people seem to have an urgency about their country, a real one. One that tramples over every individual, symbol or mantra of the past.
It is then of utmost importance to start a real debate on how to move forward. How can we turn this volatile situation into the real opportunity it promises to be. How to heal the wounds and how to deal with the remnants of those dreadful 1990s. It is also important to start this debate now to preempt any attempt to put the cat back in the box. Whether you believe the regime’s promised reforms are genuine or not, is irrelevant. For even if the regime had the will, they evidently lack a way. The intellectual bankruptcy of this regime is most clear in its choice of spokesperson-Mrs. Buthaina Shaaban-and her clumsy gaffes and hesitant answers to the media. But it is not Mrs. Shaaban’s fault, for after all as she herself explained, she’s but a representative of the regime.
It is also of great importance because a reform of this scale can not be a simple government directive. It is an all-inclusive effort that all of us need be involved in to succeed. We need to provide creative answers to the questions facing us tomorrow. Detailed answers to the real pressing problems. What is our vision of the next Syrian state? What is our vision of its economy, society, culture, politics and how do we get there? What do we do with the Mukhabarat? How do we rehabilitate them? What do we do with the enterprise of corruption that has seeped into the very bones of the Syrian state? How can we reconcile with the past? How do we define our new citizenship?
Each of these questions breed a thousand more, and each of these will be debated fiercely. And so it should. Because if we don’t, no one will. We all need to contribute to this discussion, but extra effort must be demanded from the Syrian intellectual elite. They need to lead the process of revitalizing this society, they need to step up to the plate and provide answers and ideas. They’ve been forced into the passive observant mode for too long, and now they need to reclaim their part in our moving forward, and for this they need to put extra effort. We owe this to all of those who have fallen for a moment like this one.
A lot of things may remain vague at the moment, but one thing is clear: Change is coming. First and foremost through the Syrian people. Whether the regime wants to tag along or not, it’s their choice.
I will sign off with this wonderful tune, by the ever-wonderful Samih Shqeir, which he dedicates to the people of Daraa. I wish everyone a better tomorrow.