Socialist Worker

Syrian rebels hold strong against Assad's demoralised forces

As Western leaders discuss possible intervention in Syria, but the revolt there is deepening, writes Simon Assaf

Issue No. 2309

The shooting down of a Turkish jet fighter by Syrian forces marks a dramatic turn in the Syrian revolution.

The attack, which came a day after a Syrian pilot defected to Jordan, deepens the possibility of military intervention in Syria.

Turkey has invoked a Nato clause that stipulates common defence in the event of one alliance member coming under attack.

The circumstances of what happened are murky and as yet unexplained. But it could be just the excuse Western powers need to intervene in the revolution. Nato was set to meet to discuss a response as Socialist Worker went to press.

The cries for foreign intervention were loudest when the revolution was on the back foot. But the ground is shifting.

The revolution encompasses the daily mass demonstrations and strikes in Aleppo and Damascus. And last week rebel fighters slipped into Bab Amr, Homs, capturing three military positions that were overrun by regime forces last February.

Now the regime has lost control of Deir el-Zour in the east and the countryside around Aleppo in the north. Add to that the long-lost regions of Deraa in the south, as well as the central towns and villages around Homs and Hama.

A grim picture emerges for dictator Bashar al-Assad. The rebels are now better organised and are receiving ammunition and some weapons.


Many of these weapons, especially from the Gulf states, come with strings attached. Rebel battalions are, on the whole, refusing to obey orders set by outside forces.

Islamist groups that have begun to operate inside the war zones remain on the fringes. The main revolutionary formations are committed to the independence of the revolution.

The West’s preferred solution, a “Yemen-style” transfer of power, cannot work if the revolutionary forces refuse to accept it.

The West and its allies have to seize control over these forces if it wants to force its “compromise”. Arms supplies are the only effective leverage it has at the moment.

The crisis of weapons and ammunition has forced the rebels to concentrate on winning over military defectors. New tactics have effectively isolated the increasingly demoralised forces.

The lack of trusted manpower has forced the regime to turn to airpower. But this is a risky option. One pilot defected with his warplane and many others have walked off their bases.

The frequent helicopter gunships are proving ineffective. This is leading many rebels to conclude that the pilots are deliberately missing their targets.

The balance of forces is now turning against the regime. Bashar Assad’s military solution, effective at first, has backfired. His army is in crisis and his base of support is shrinking.

But the decision that emerges out of the Nato meeting could have dramatic consequences on the developing rebellion.

‘The revolutionaries are our children’

Women in Zebdani, west of Damascus, who are at the forefront of the Syrian revolution, sent in this report to the Mena Solidarity Network

Women first became involved in the campaigns to free those detained by the regime. When we went on our first demonstration we felt that we were suddenly living a new life.

Umm Salem, one of the leading activists in Zebdani, said, “When we decided to stage a sit-in to demand the release of the detainees, one of the families in our neighbourhood was not from Zebdani.

“They did not have any people who would call for the release of their loved ones. So I went out on the demonstration on their behalf. All the revolutionaries are now our children.

“We insisted that women stand in the first line. An argument started with the enthusiastic young men as everyone wanted to lead the march. But we insisted, and pledged, that we will not allow the security forces to touch our children.”

Women are taking an increasing role in the revolution. As well as writing placards and sewing revolution flags, we are rescuing the wounded, caring for the families of the detainees, as well as joining the demonstrations in increasing numbers. The Zebdani women produce a newspaper called Oxygen which is published every 15 days.

For the women, the revolution is no longer simply about bringing down of the regime—it is about transforming the whole of our society.

The process of change is the act of destroying what is the worst in our history and creating new social relations. Every part of our society now has a role in transforming our lives.

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Tue 26 Jun 2012, 17:32 BST
Issue No. 2309
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