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February 4, 2012

Syrian Christian girls hold up eggs during an Easter eggs hunting at the Syrian Church on Sunday, April 4, 2010 in Damascus, Syria, where a mass was held to celebrate the Easter on the Orthodox and Catholic calendar. Christians pose around 12 percent of Syria’s 24 millions Sunni-majority populations. (AP Photo/ Bassem Tellawi)

While Coptic nationalists support a civilan, secular democratisation (which we call real democracy) anywhere in the world, and therefore support the best intentions of the Arab Spring, we are concerned that the West, whose role in this is crucial, has not being paying enough attention to ensuring that the outcomes of change in the Middle East and North Africa represent real democracy.

The Syrian Christians do not back Bashar but they have extreme fear of what the substitute may be. This is understandable. The Syrian Christians want the West to do more to ensure that Assad is not replaced by Islamists. This is legitimate.

Here are 10-points to reflect our position on Syria and 8 appendices to go with them. We fear for our brothers and sisters, the Syrian Christians. The Syriac Church is a sister church – they and we are intertwined from early age. But our position is not based on selfish motives – our position is principled and logical. The West which is supporting the removal of Assad without much thinking about the outcome on women’ and Christians’ rights must rethink its position. As the writer clearly states and believes, the neutralising of Iran’s nuclear, existential threat on Israel does not necessarily need to be done at the expense of women’s and minorities’ rights in Syria. If Assad must go, the West must make sure that the alternative to Assad is not the Islamists. Syria is simply not Libya – Syria needs much more preparation and work. But, here are my points and appendices to them, which I have already tweeted. The readers’ comments will be very much appreciated:

1/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: We really don’t think Syria is ready for democracy yet. This doesn’t mean Syria doesn’t deserve one.

2/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: The main opposition is not really democratic or pro-democracy though many are good.

3/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: Assad’s removal will not result in real democracy & the Sunni Islamists will take over.

4/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: Assad’s removal will be bad for Christians and Alawites, in particular, and may be Kurds & Druze too.

5/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: If Assad is changed Syria will descend into nasty civil war & divide into several states.

6/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: If Assad is changed the region may destabilise and its peace may be threatened even more.

7/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: Assad’s removal will not necessarily help Israel’s just war with Iran & his stay will not effectively hinder it.

8/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: Assad is bad but on balance seems to be better that any practical alternative. It’s a choice between two evils.

9/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: In summary, the negatives of removing Assad will outweigh any positives.

10/10 OUR POSITION on #Syria: It is wrong to support change for change’s sake – look at the likely outcomes.

APPENDIX 1: OUR POSITION on #Syria: Both Assad and his Islamist opposition are evil. The question is: Who is lesser & who is greater evil?

APPENDIX 2: OUR POSITION on #Syria: Remember, Syria is the only country in MENA (Muslim Middle East and North Africa) which is secular.

APPENDIX 3: OUR POSITION on #Syria: Remember, Syria treats its women & minorities better than any other Arab state, perhaps excluding Lebanon.

APPENDIX 4: OUR POSITION on #Syria: You cannot blame Syrian Christians if many of them support Assad – he has been good to them unlike Mubarak to Copts.

APPENDIX 5: OUR POSITION on #Syria: Syrian Christians remember the massacres committed against them in 1861 & know the Islamists well.

APPENDIX 6: OUR POSITION on #Syria: Syrian Christians are not selfish – they are wise & they don’t need lectures from third parties.

APPENDIX 7: OUR POSITION on #Syria: Syrian Christians don’t mind a change if it is better for them AND for Syria.

APPENDIX 8: OUR POSITION on #Syria: The Coptic nationalists can sympathise with the Syrian Christians and they do sympathise.

At last, a note to those who read part of this article and come to unfair, erroneous conclusions: this is not about Assad – this is about ensuring that his alternative proves to be better than him. It is about ensuring that the Syria of the future is at least equal or better than the Syria of today, not worse. In short, it is about making sure that the Sunni Islamists in Syria don’t win and don’t wreck the lives of Syria’s minorities with the help of the West. The Coptic nationalists support a democratic transformation in Syria, but they want it a real transformation. As in Egypt, the rights of women and minorities in Syria will be the litmus test to any claim to democracy in Syria.

N.B. Please, note that this article does not represent the Syrian Christians’ position – it represents the Coptic nationalists’ perspective on the dilemma of the Syrian Christians and the failure of Western politicians to address the legitimate concerns of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2012 1:38 am

    I must agree with much what you wrote here, in a way it reflects what Sergei Lavrov said today trying to explain the reasons behind Russia’s veto.
    As he points out: The Russian foreign minister said extremist groups that provoke violence in Syria should be assessed in a proper way, which has not been done. He said the resolution did not set enough demands on anti-government armed groups, and that Russia was concerned it could jeopardize Syria’s national political dialogue.
    I can’t approve these killings , but there might be a lot more killings in the days after Assad leaves.
    Who will be in controll and who will they consider as ‘ennemies of the people?
    If they are the Muslim brotherhood then a terrible backclash will follow on Syria’s christians.
    What the heart feels should be ruled by the brain.

  2. Dioscorus Boles permalink
    February 5, 2012 10:49 am

    Thank you, my friend, for agreeing with me on this one. It is a difficult issue, and I must say required some courage to write and post. We don’t want to be seen as not supporting democratic change in Syria, or anywhere in the world, but we are concerned as to how this presumably democratic change has turned out to be. As we can see, the Arab Spring has somehow proved to an Islamist one in many places. But that was not surprising – it was predictable but we just didn’t want to see it. The question arises: Do we support the Arab Spring with money, arms and lives (NATO did that) to help the Islamists and get them into power and allow them to spread their evil ideology across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and suppress women and minorities, whether religious or ethnic, such as the Copts, Syrian Christians, Berber (Amazigh), etc.?

    Supporting any change in the MENA without qualifications seems to me to be a stupid, short-sighted strategy. Even if the Sunni Islamists – in their subterfuge – can reassure the West for now that they will not be hostile to the West or Israel, and they will support the expected just attacks against Iran’s nuclear installations, they will turn against both West and Israel tomorrow. These people, with hostile ideology that is ingrained in their political thinking, simply cannot be trusted.

    The Western position, which we have often heard being repeated by American and British politicians and diplomats, that “we will judge the Muslim Brotherhood on their actions, not on their past or their literature” is absolutely foolish. These wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the other Salafists – the sons of vipers type of Islamists – are condemned by their literature and their history; and their present actions already reveal their evil. I say this: supporting the Islamists at the present (nay, cutting a deal with them) by Western politicians, and assessing them only “on their ‘future’ actions” is like supporting ‘the democratically elected’ Adolf Hitler in 1933, and neglecting his Mein Kampf and previous fascist history, until he invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and committed the Holocaust.

  3. mindthehat permalink
    February 5, 2012 11:48 am

    Dear Dioscorus,

    Your article raises a host of interesting issues. However, I shall just focus on one, namely point 5. What is wrong with ending up with several states?

    Homogeneity in the MENA is a myth! Although people do not have to share the same blood ties to live together, and contrary to popular belief, the Arabic culture/history was never tolerant to those perceived as different. Therefore, separate states might be the only option; otherwise, minorities will be sacrificed for “the sake” of the majority.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink
      February 5, 2012 1:09 pm

      We don’t disagree with this, my friend. What I was talking about in the article is the disintegration of the state into absolute chaos which will result in a bitter and bloody civil war, and lead to horrible crimes being committed against many, particular the minorities who, currently, come second, if not third, in the thinking of the West and the international community.

      I support the secession of national minorities and their right of self-determination; but I believe that should be done with minimum loss of life, when the time is opportune, and when enough regional and international support for the separatist movement has been secured. I do believe that a planned secessional movement is favourable to any secession that is thrown at one without much preparation.

      So, while you are talking about the eventual result – the final event of the creation of independent national states in place of a failed multinational state – which we both agree on, I am more concerned about the process that leads to that eventuality. I want to be in control to some extent of that process, and not to be surprised by it or by its being forced on our people without proper planning.

      Actually, I think when a poorly thought of strategy, as the current Western strategy on Syria is, is implemented, without much attention to the outcomes of the change, the likelihood is that the chaos that will ensue, and the ascendancy of the Islamists which will surely result, will only lead to annihilation or immigration of large sections of the weaker minorities, and not to an independent secure homeland for them. The Kurds may secede and the Druze may join their brothers in Lebanon, but the Syrian Christians will undoubtedly come to much harm.

      • mindthehat permalink
        February 5, 2012 4:21 pm

        It seems to me that your distinction between process and outcome is spot on. You are right, I was focusing on the outcome rather than the “how”. I also agree with you that the “how” should be prepared for.

        To my simple mind, if it goes belly up in Syria, then the Christian over there will be forced to bear arms.

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