Home > Syria in the media, Syrian uprising, TV appearance > Syria’s revolution has yet to capture the world’s imagination

Syria’s revolution has yet to capture the world’s imagination


It may sound cruel but over the past few weeks Syria’s pro-democracy revolutionaries have been pushing and shoving for headline space with their Libyan and Yemeni counterparts. It’s not hard to see why. Getting the West interested in your particular revolution is a sure way of maximizing the potential for its success, for every Arab knows that the US and the EU who have long accepted dictators as a fact of life (and therefore legitimized them) can de-legitimize them with a press conference or two. Getting the Western media to talk about your revolution will lead to public pressure, which leads to leaders making statements, paving the way for policies to be formulated and political pressure exerted.

The Libyans have so far received the lion’s share of interest. To be fair, they did get in first when they sparked their uprising against Gaddafi back in mid-February. Their column inches is impressive, if not the present course of their revolution which has stalled on the battlefields of Brega and Ras Lanuf.

The Yemenis have so far followed the rather more peaceful Egyptian model, remarkable given the amount of weaponry in ordinary citizen’s hands. However, lack of economic incentives, the relatively low number of dead and injured and the real threat of Al-Qa’ida has made the Western media somewhat wary of embracing the Yemeni revolution. In many ways its a less “sexier” revolution than Libya’s: there’s no Dr Evil-type villain, no African mercenaries, no perfect Mediterranean backdrops, no oil fields; just thousands of Yemenis in traditional garb squatting in the centre of the capital San’a.

The Syrian revolution took everyone by surprise. I say everyone; some did foretell what was to come but these voices were drowned out by the well-informed experts who assured us that the Syrian regime was ‘immune.’ How the mighty have fallen. The problem as far as the Syrian revolutionaries are concerned was that their timing was awful. By mid-March the Western media was enthralled by the images of NATO jets taking off on bombing runs in Libya, and terrified by the threat of nuclear meltdown in Japan; both stories easily relegated Syria to the back pages.

Remains of the day: Hafiz Al-Assad's statue torn down by protesters in Deraa.

Not for long though. Hundreds of protesters turned into thousands, and inevitably, dozens of dead and injured. Syria is at the crossroads of converging political interests; it is a police state par excellence run by a militarized mafioso family; it’s beauty and romance tempered by undercurrents of danger and extremism. The world just had to take notice.

Take notice it did; the problem was that the debate was being framed within the context of reform, not revolution. This has meant that news editors are giving Syria less attention that it deserves. In part this is the fault of the protesters themselves who initially went out onto the streets demanding reform, not regime change. The media as a whole however, Arab and Western, did not pick up on the subtleties of Syrian doublespeak, which inevitably develops in a totalitarian dictatorship of 48 years. When Syrians say they want “change”, they mean regime change, not just a change in the law, and when they talk about “freedom” they mean freedom not to be ruled by the Assads. The culture of fear still permeates Syrian society, and many still prefer to skirt on the edges of the hated “red lines” rather than dare cross them. All this has meant that there is a great deal of confusion as to the real aims of the revolution. The body count is there, but not the clarity of purpose.

In Tunisia it took several weeks for the protests to solidify into a popular, coherent and nationwide anti-Ben Ali uprising. Syria will take longer; the adversary is more sophisticated and considerably more brutal. If the protests continue, which they will, and Libya-fatigue begins to set in, Syria will feature more prominently in newspapers and on news channels. Glad tidings for the revolution as it seeks to find its deserved place in the media limelight.

  1. Andy
    April 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Well written! Here’s to more coverage of events in Syria in the future.

  2. Ibrahim
    April 13, 2011 at 10:52 am

    You are absolutely right about the portesters still following the redlines but that will eventually change. I saw a youtube sourced video on aljazeera of protests I believe in coastal town of Banniyass and they were clearly chanting to topple the regime like Egyptians. It will happen, I predicted Syria will be next after Libya when those dumbo westrener experts believed it was very unliekly for Syria(just like they predicated Libya was out of the question haha) but I see that Fashar’s days as head of state are numbered. Though I would have loved to see Algeria following Libya first but things there are more complicated than Syria-although regime is being far less brutal but Algerians have a genuine fear of Civial war after the 90’s elections fiasco and carnage. There’s a guy called Kan who writes a blog called the themoornextdoor http://themoornextdoor.wordpress.com/ who has a very clear understanding and analysis of the situation in the Maghred and specifically Algeria.

    I think the only experts on the region are us, the young Arabs who really understand the resentment and the pressure building on for decades.. not those brainless out-of-touch experts who their main source of knowledge of the so-called “Arab street” comes from bartenders while sipping Martinis in 5-star hotels in Arab capitals.

    Good luck Syrians in toppling this brutal Assad and brother co. regime. The fear has been broken and it’s now a matter of days or months…doesn’t really matter it will happen.

  3. Empire's Handmaiden
    May 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Hey Malik, where’s your blog gone? I want to stay up to date with what’s really happening. Don’t make me rely on The Guardian

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