It’s bad enough that it’s starting to look like Bashar al-Assad won’t be ousted from Syria anytime soon. What’s worse is that even were the rebels to win, the way they’ve been conducting the war suggests their reign wouldn’t be markedly different from Assad’s. In gaining the upper hand, the heart-eaters have compromised the uprising’s values and jeopardized its success.
No one explains this better than a commentator who goes by the name of Edwin Dark in a piece titled How We Lost the Syrian Revolution. We’re excerpting salient passages in hopes of directing you to Al Monitor to read the piece in its entirety. Dark (a pseudonym) begins:
So what went wrong? Or to be more accurate, where did we go wrong? How did a once inspirational and noble popular uprising calling for freedom and basic human rights degenerate into an orgy of bloodthirsty sectarian violence, with depravity unfit for even animals?
He elaborates (emphasis added).
… what we saw on the ground when the rebel fighters entered Aleppo was a far different reality. … To us, a rebel fighting against tyranny doesn’t commit the same sort of crimes as the regime he’s supposed to be fighting against. He doesn’t loot the homes, businesses and communities of the people he’s supposed to be fighting for. [They] would even kidnap for ransom and execute anyone they pleased. …. They would incessantly shell residential civilian neighborhoods under regime control … their snipers routinely killing in cold blood unsuspecting passersby. … tens of thousands became destitute and homeless in this once bustling, thriving and rich commercial metropolis.
As a former rebel himself, Dark asks “So who was ‘us’”?
… the civil grassroots opposition movement in Aleppo, who for months were organizing peaceful protests and handing out aid at considerable danger and risk to our own lives. “We” truly believed in the higher ideals of social and political change, and tried to. … model ourselves on the civil rights movement of the US in the 1960s, Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, and the teachings of Gandhi: precisely what similar civil movements in other Arab Spring countries such as Tunisia and Egypt had done before.
In other words, “we mostly came from the educated urban middle class of the city,” while the rebels were
… the underprivileged rural class who … were out for revenge against the perceived injustices of years past. Their motivation wasn’t like ours, it was not to seek freedom, democracy or justice for the entire nation, it was simply unbridled hatred and vengeance. … Add to that terrible fray, the extremist Islamists and their open association with Al-Qaeda and their horrific plans for the future of our nation, and you can guess what the atmosphere over here felt like: a stifling primordial fear, a mixture of terror and despair.
‘Twas ever thus, the educated element elbowed aside by those driven by revenge rather than replacing tyranny with a just system. Sympathizers are repulsed and the rebellion loses, or it manages to win but reigns like those they drove out.