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Syria’s ‘silent majority’: “To hell with both of them”
Two years since the outbreak of the crisis, many Syrians are growing weary and cynical. They condemn both the regime and the opposition and hope for some peace and quiet, Al-Akhbar reports.
Damascus - When the uprising first broke out on 15 March 2011, Syrians were polarized between those who were willing to give the regime a chance and those demanding its downfall.
All we want is our rights and dignity which were trampled on by some of the regime’s men. We will not forget, nor will we forgive the bastards who humiliated us.But it is difficult to gauge the views of those Syrians who remain bystanders to the conflict ravaging their country. Many have learned to keep their political opinions to themselves, fearing the repercussions of expressing themselves openly.
In Daraa – the spark that lit the fire – a local resident explains: “We did not protest against the president. This doesn’t concern us, and we do not want to take his place – anyone who comes after him, if he does in fact leave, will start stealing from the till within months of assuming power.”
“We know that politics are a dirty business,” he adds. “All we want is our rights and dignity which were trampled on by some of the regime’s men. We will not forget, nor will we forgive the bastards who humiliated us.”
The first year was marked by a sense on both sides – the regime and the opposition – that victory was around the corner, each declaring the certain defeat of the other, even setting dates that never materialized.
A year into the upheaval, it was still business as usual in the heart of Damascus, particularly in the well-to-do neighborhoods. Many were still optimistic that the troubles would soon end, despite the opposition’s insistence that they would accept nothing less than the downfall of the regime.
But in the opening months of the second year, the situation turned grim, with tens – and sometimes hundreds – of deaths reported daily. The regime’s blundering media only made matters worse by ignoring people’s suffering, thus further inflaming their hatred of the authorities.
When you ask members of the opposition why they continue to fight against a military that remains powerful and well-armed, despite the defections it has suffered, they respond: “We did not go to them looking for a fight. They are the ones who invade our poor neighborhoods and arrest and kill our people.”
Let Bashar al-Assad stay in power, but that will not be to our liking, and no one can force us to feel anything but hatred towards him.“We want nothing more than the bodies of our martyrs and to know the fate of those in prison – what is happening is madness. We have no interest in taking power,” they insist.
At first, many supporters of the opposition put a lot of faith in the possibility of foreign intervention, believing that it would provide a speedy exit from the crisis. But as time went on, their praise of Turkey and West turned into frustration and hatred.
“They lied to us,” some began to complain. “All they care about are their interests. They want us to destroy our country.”
As hope of a quick victory began to fade amid the opposition’s inability to effect some change in the regime’s behavior, the public’s mood began to shift – not in favor of the regime, but rather toward a desire for the interminable conflict to end.
“We do not want either freedom or democracy. We don’t want anything but a little peace and quiet,” some would say. The desperate economic situation has led some Syrians to complete resignation: “Let him [Bashar al-Assad] stay in power, but that will not be to our liking, and no one can force us to feel anything but hatred towards him.”
The growing cynicism can be gleaned from what channels people watch in public places. In the early days, they set their dials on 24-hour news stations like al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya, largely ignoring the official media, which they didn’t trust.
“They are liars,” one viewer says of the regimes television stations. “We like to diversify our sources of information. We don’t believe everything that al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya say...we are open to a variety of views.”
Today, you rarely find a television screen broadcasting the news. In most places, it is either turned off or is set to a sports or entertainment channel.
Inquiring about the latest news, the reply comes, before completing your sentence: “We don’t listen to the news. We only hear the sound of shells falling and the rumbling of tanks – all we want is for these things to end. Syria has been destroyed. We don’t want freedom or elections or anything – we want this war to end.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
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