Annalisa Klein| Commentary Editor
The Middle East is not known for high levels of peace. It is often times overlooked as a favorable vacation spot. In the current generation’s mind, the Middle East is war-torn over different ideals people associate with. Radical extremism is the most common thought that arises to the minds of an otherwise unknowing external world population. In America, since Operation Desert Storm, people have seen the Middle East as impoverished in resources, money, and morality. After the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, this belief has only compounded oftentimes into further misunderstanding. Syria is therefore, at the crux of a region riddled with confusion and with the current rebellions within the country the reputation is not getting better.
To help understand the problems that are arising out of Syria, one must understand the history.
When looking on the politics of the Middle East, one rarely assumes college activism to be the path to political dictatorship however in the case of Former Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, that is exactly how he came to be. The deceased father of the current leader of Syria ruled Syria for almost just shy of three decades until his death of presumable natural causes in the year 2000. Hafez went from the steps of his university to the military. His tactics proved superior to any opponents and he ascended the ranks with relative ease. Hafez groomed his oldest son Bassel to take political power upon the relinquishing of his presidency. The people loved him. Bassel was said to be as pure as the driven snow but in a devastating car-wreck in Damascus, Bassel passed away. This is where the current leader Bashar steps in. Bashar was the younger brother of Bassel who was tossed into the spotlight and large shoes left by Bassel. Bashar had been abroad studying medicine and was forced back in 1994 to pursue politics.
Bashar had to make up years of political and military training and studied from 1994 to 2000 when his father died. In the form of a truly interesting government and a symbol of foreshadowing, the Parliament changed the legal age of rule from 40 to 34 to allow the 34 year old Bashar al-Assad to ascend to power. He was elected with an approval rating of an astounding 97% twice though he ran unopposed.
Let’s jump to 2003. Bashar al-Assad was founded to have occupied Lebanon by means of eliminating any possible forms of political resurgence in the country. Al-Assad slowly but surely removed all cabinet members, administrators, and ultimately the presidency and replaced the whole governing system with allies and began to launder money. His poor and illegal money-laundering scheme left a third world nation, Lebanon, with a devastated economy that was horrific to start with. Surely, this was a sign of things to come.
In what I personally refer to as “the Time of Great Revolution,” the Middle East started to rebel. Gone were the times of complacency in regards to government, or the terrorist cells like Hamas and Al-Qaeda, These countries had had enough. Mubarek was removed from power and executed and his body decimated. Talk about a fall from power. Saddam Hussein was removed as well. With the use of American forces, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden was shot, killed, and deposited into the ocean. The times were changing. As the Middle Eastern youth grew older they grew weary of the injustices of their governments and the disparities between their culture and the Western World. In 2011, these revolts hit the doorstep of the Syrian President al-Assad. The right to assembly was not recognized in this administration and the peaceful protests turned deadly. Al-Assad sent forces to gun down in cold blood these revolutionary minds. The young, the old, women, children, Syrian, foreign, made no difference to Assad’s forces. In mid July of 2012, it was estimated to have reached an intense number of 20,000 Syrian citizens falling victim to the ammunition their taxes paid for.
What difference does a civil war in what seems like another world make to college students like us? Under the current administration, al-Assad has permitted Hamas, a terrorist organization to have headquarters within it’s country lines in Damascus. Syria permitted Hezbollah to cross its border to enter into Iraq. Al-Assad has had a nuclear weapons program that was bombed by Israel in as recent as 2008. If they can build them once they can build them again.
The United States have sanctioned Bashar al-Assad in hopes of forcing him to cease his violent acts on his own people. Far too much blood has been shed for the mere act of standing up for what you believe in. Too many protesters have fallen at the hands of a regime that is clinging on to power. Without societies’ knowledge of this rash and cruel administration, this President who resembles a dictator will continue to stifle all opposition of his rule. In efforts to appease his people, he has completely changed his cabinet members except for the two who are under fire for corruption, cruelty, and inefficiency.
America can and will do nothing so long as it’s people don’t demand it. Until knowledge is spread about the levels of injustice globally, justice cannot prevail domestically. Martin Luther King, Jr. states “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”