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U.S. Backed Genocide of Christians, Alawites, and other Minorities in Syria
[Photo: Fourth Women’s Battalion formed in Western Kurdistan (Syrian Kurdistan) of the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG), protecting liberated Western Kurdistan from the both Assad and the U.S. backed Genocidal forces of the Free Syria Army.]
U.S. Backed Genocide of Christians, Alawites, and other Minorities in Syria
By Steven Argue
From the beginnings of the U.S. backed Sunni uprising in Syria, a slogan chanted in the streets has been, “Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut.” Alawites, like Christians, are a religious minority in Syria. With the backing of western imperialist aid to the so-called “Free Syria Army” and its other Islamist allies, both directly and through weapons from U.S. client states in the region, promises of a genocidal counter-revolution are now a terrible reality in rebel controlled territory.
On Monday, May 27th the Fars News Agency reported the entire Christian population of al-Duvair village (outskirts of Homs) was slaughtered by the U.S. backed Free Syria Army. According to the report, all were killed, men, women, and children. This fits an ongoing pattern of genocide against Christians being carried out by the Islamists of the U.S. backed “Free Syria Army” and its Jabhat al-Nusra allies.
Homs, under rebel control and under sharia (Islamic) law has had nearly its entire Christian population of 80,000 people forcibly expelled. The same has been done to Christians who were living in the cities of al-Burj al-Qastal, Quasyr, as well as in some of the rural areas of Latakia and Idlib. In government controlled Damascus, the rebels are using car bombs to deliberately kill and terrorize civilians in Christian and Alawite communities. At least fourteen minority churches, mosques, shrines, and a synagogue have also been deliberately destroyed by the rebels. Between 200,000 and 400,000 Christians have fled Syria since the start of the war. In comparison to their numbers in the Syrian population, this is a disproportionate number that reflects the systematic genocide that is being carried out by the rebels. In Turkey, Christians have also been driven out of the government run refugee camps by Jabhat al-Nusra rebels.
In addition, a video released by the rebels shows them cutting an unarmed Christian man's head off. His name was Andrei Arbashe, 38, a taxi driver who had recently married. After murdering him, his body was cut-up and he was fed to the dogs.
In Khalidiya, Christians and Alewites were rounded-up by rebels, put in a building, and then blown-up with dynamite.
For its part, the Syrian government’s shelling of neighborhoods is also a war crime. Part of the irony, however, is seeing western reporters on TV sitting in these neighborhoods and reporting the horror of being shelled, when at the same time, these same “news” outlets never covered the same story as the U.S. military carried out similar atrocities against neighborhoods in Iraq, or as the Israeli military carries out similar attacks against neighborhoods in Gaza.
One of the most outrageous massacres in the current civil war has been the rebel’s mass murder of 150 Alewite civilians in Aqrab. The massacre took place after rebels held about 500 Alawite civilians hostage, including babies, without adequate food or water for nine days. Truckloads of the prisoners were then released, but about 150 Alawite civilians were massacred by rebel forces. As has been the case throughout this war with the corporate media, the New York Times published reports from the Free Syria Army blaming the Syrian government, without even investigating the matter. Independent investigations have, however, revealed those reports to be blatant lies and that it is the rebels who were responsible for the massacre.
Open Promises GENOCIDE against Alawites by the U.S. Backed Free Syria Army
On May 19th, 2013 Free Syria Army spokesman Colonel Abdel-Hamid Zakaria told Al-Arabiya television that if the Free Syria Army was defeated in Al-Qusayr, the entire communities of Alawite and Shiite minorities in Syria would be “wiped off the map”. He went on to say, “It’s going to be an open, sectarian, bloody war to the end.” The Alawites and Shiites are religious minorities in Syria. They are hated by the U.S. backed Sunni religious extremists of the Free Syria Army (FSA) that have already carried out massacres of men, women, and children in Alawite communities.
In a major defeat for the Free Syria Army, Al-Qusayr was in fact taken the same day as Colonel Abdel-Hamid Zakaria's promise of genocide. The combined forces of the Syrian Army and Hezbollah took the town and took 2,700 FSA soldiers prisoner.
The United States government is already openly aiding the Free Syria Army, both through so-called non-military aid and through the weapons, ammunition, and troops being sent in by U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and Israel. In addition, the United States and the European Union are rapidly moving legislation forward for sending direct military aid to the Free Syria Army.
U.S. backed rebels in Libya made similar promises of genocide before they took power. And they delivered on those promises. Only difference was their hate was directed at black Africans living in Libya. The U.S. and U.S. allies brought those rebels to power with air strikes, troops on the ground from Qatar, and direct military aid to the rebels.
Everything moved backwards under that imperialist imposed counter-revolution in Libya, yet imperialist oil companies are profiting from the war, including U.S. based Conoco Phillips, Italy's Eni SpA, and France's Total SA.
The U.S. directly participated in that war that helped put racist rebels in power that jailed Black Africans, murdered Black Africans, made hundreds of thousands of Black Africans refugees as they fled the country in fear for their lives, and now routinely uses torture and murder against opponents of the new regime. Yet it is a government more friendly to imperialist oil interests. This is the reason Obama lies to us saying the new regime in Libya is "democratic".
Likewise, the lie of the sectarian and chauvinistic "Free Syria Army" being democratic is also being propagated both by the western imperialist press and by many fake socialist groups. Today, a hell on Earth is emerging in Syria in areas controlled by the FSA and their Islamist allies. This is similar to the suffering created by the U.S. - Saudi Arabian and Pakistani backed mujahideen and Taliban in Afghanistan. What took place in Afghanistan truly was a counter-revolution, eliminating the pro-woman gains of Afghanistan’s PDPA revolution. So close are the connections, the Free Syria Army even has an “Osama bin Laden Brigade”.
Everywhere the FSA and its allies have taken power they are setting up Islamic governments with shariah Law. Nowhere are they setting-up secular governments. And similar to the mujhideen and Taliban, the Sunni religious extremists of the FSA and their allies are carrying out atrocities against religious and ethnic minorities. This includes direct attacks by the FSA on liberated Kurdish territory controlled by the YPG. In stark contrast to the FSA’s governance, the YPG has set-up democratic and secular government, thrown off the yoke of Assad’s oppression of the Kurdish language, and taken steps on behalf of women’s liberation. The forces of the FSA have, however, carried out direct military attacks on this revolutionary process. In fact, besides attacks on the real revolution that is taking place in Kurdish territory, the FSA and their allies are even a step backward from the semi-secular governance of Assad’s capitalist regime. All of these things together, including the FSA’s attacks on liberated Kurdish territory, make the FSA and its other Islamist allies a decidedly counter-revolutionary force.
Meanwhile, many fake socialist groups are supporting the imperialist intervention in Syria by supporting the Free Syria Army. In contrast, legitimate Trotskyists and other anti-imperialists demand: US, EU, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel Out of Syria!
For the Defense of Kurdish Liberated Territory!
Under the rule of President Assad the Kurdish language as well as much of the Kurdish culture was illegal. Kurdish political organizations were also banned and 20% of Syrian Kurds had their citizenship rights completely stripped from them.
Today the Kurdish region of Syria has been liberated by troops of the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) that have fought both the U.S. backed religious extremists of the Free Syria Army (FSA) as well as Assad’s military. A secular and democratically elected government has been established with a volunteer police force, women’s centers have been established to advance women’s rights by educating women about their rights and self defense, schools are now teaching in Kurdish (but facing a crisis of qualified teachers), and Kurdish cultural centers have been established. These are all significant gains for a long oppressed people.
In YPG controlled territory, the dominant political party is the communist influenced Democratic Union Party (PYD) which is the Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has long been fighting against the oppression of Kurdish people by the U.S. backed Turkish government. U.S. weapons have been used to carry out warfare against the Kurdish population and a U.S. operation captured PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan who now sits in a Turkish prison.
In Syrian Kurdistan, Vice chairwoman of the ruling Democratic Union Party (PYD), Asya Muhammed Abdullah points out, "For 30 years we Syrian Kurds have been fighting for our rights, that's why so many of our friends have been arrested and tortured to death by the regime."
Yet Kurds have also been the victims of the U.S. and Turkish backed Free Syria Army. Instead of pretending the FSA's imperialist backed counter-revolutionary forces represent a "revolution", as fake Trotskyist outfits like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) do, legitimate Trotskyists call for the military defense of the Kurdish and Assad governments from U.S. imperialism. Unlike the ISO, Lenin was very clear on the right of nations to self-determination.
In addition to the national liberation achieved by the PYD, sweeping socialist revolution is also needed. Sixty percent of the oil wells of Syria are currently in the hands of the Kurds. The other 40% is controlled by the Islamists of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Free Syria Army. Economically, Syria’s Kurdish region depends on electricity produced in Arab regions. In terms of practical economic considerations, the revolution liberating Syrian Kurdistan cannot be limited to Kurdistan because neither the Turkish backed Islamists nor the Assad regime are friendly to Kurdish national self-determination. Within these contexts, the PYD’s program is far too modest to address essential revolutionary tasks, including long-term national liberation. The needed program is one for the overthrow of capitalism as well as for the overthrow of all of the capitalist regimes in the region including those of Assad, the FSA, and Jabhat al-Nusra. Victories for national liberation must be deepened to include the overthrow of capitalism and extended beyond Kurdish territory with the advocacy of socialist revolutions that can establish a united federation of socialist republics of the Middle East which would include Kurdish, Arab, Turkish, and Hebrew speaking republics.
Despite the deficiencies of the PYD’s program, their achievements have brought real gains for the Kurdish people. Yet, those gains will remain precarious without a sweeping socialist revolution.
For Socialist Revolution in Syria
The Ba’athist Assad dynasty’s oppression and opposition to the national rights of Kurds is in direct contradiction to the program of Lenin and Trotsky who, upon taking power in the October 1917 Russian Revolution, ended discrimination and oppression of national minorities. Language rights of traditionally oppressed nationalities were encouraged rather than outlawed. For instance, the Kurdish minority of the young Soviet Union under Lenin and Trotsky’s leadership created a Kurdish Republic where children learned the Kurdish language in school. After Stalin’s conservative wing of the bureaucracy crushed those who agreed with Lenin and Trotsky’s ideas, some of the original gains of the Russian Revolution were lost. For instance, Stalin crushed the Red Kurdistani Republic of the USSR. Yet, not even Stalin could destroy all of the gains of the Russian Revolution, and most of the language rights and republics that were created under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky remained. In fact, the socialist planned economy was used to create preferential investment in the historically less advanced republics, helping raise-up the economies of those republics with the rest of the USSR.
In addition to helping liberate oppressed nationalities, the USSR’s planned socialist economy was used to turn one of the poorest countries in the world into an industrial powerhouse, capable of defeating two major imperialist invasions (including smashing Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich) and then rebuilding to provide everyone with a guaranteed job, health care, and education.
In contrast to a socialist economy, while parts of the Syrian economy were nationalized under the Ba’athist Revolution in the 1960’s in Syria, much of Syria’s economy is owned by capitalists. This is in part due to the pro-capitalist reforms carried out since the Assad dynasty took power in 1970, overturning a number of gains first made when the Ba’athists took power in 1963. For instance, there are several privately owned banks. In contrast, in a socialist society there would be a fully state run banking system that, instead of making private profit, reinvests in the economy where needed to meet human needs. This is a critical ingredient to building a socialist planned economy. That ingredient is missing under Bashir al-Assad’s capitalist regime.
While many claim that Syria has a socialist economy, not enough of the economy is planned to sufficiently meet human needs as is possible with a planned socialist economy. For instance, Syria has had both a public and a private sector that builds housing. In a truly socialist economy, proper investment by the state in building housing would better meet needs for housing while providing jobs. The continuation of a capitalist sector in the Syrian economy, on the other hand, produces a corrupting wealthy capitalist class that prefers little to no investment in the state run economy. These kinds of problems under Syria’s mixed economy are reasons why Syria hasn’t adequately dealt with housing problems or meeting other human needs. This is also why Syria hasn’t eliminated unemployment, unlike what was done with a number of socialist economies aster fully overthrowing the capitalist system.
Of course, the massive refugee crisis produced by the genocide carried out by the Free Syria Army is creating a far worse housing crisis today. Likewise, the imperialist economic sanctions against Syria in support of the Free Syria Army have also hurt the civilian population greatly.
Similar to housing, Syria’s state run health care system has been on the decline. While Syria’s population increased by 18% between 1995 and 2001, the number of hospital beds in state run hospitals declined. Meanwhile, there was a big increase during that same period of capitalist healthcare provided to those who can afford it. While life expectancy increased dramatically after the Ba’athist revolution, the growth of capitalist health care, decline in public investment in socialized health care, and the return of a two tier system of health care, one for the wealthy and another for the rest, represents a capitalist attack by the Assad regime on the people’s health care no different than what has occurred under the neo-liberal policies of any pro-imperialist capitalist government in the world. Life expectancy for Syrians in 2006 was only 72 years, far better than many countries that are completely under the thumb of U.S. imperialism, but far worse than what has been achieved under Cuba’s socialist health care system.
Also unlike the deformed workers states, Syria under the Ba’athists has not brought the gains to education found in “communist” deformed workers states in terms of women’s liberation and literacy either. For instance, Cuba and China have provided their entire populations with good universal education which has brought literacy rates for the entire population, including women, to nearly 100%. In contrast, under the Assad dynasty, big improvements have been made in education, but illiteracy has remained a problem. Women’s literacy in Syria in 2004 was 78%. While far worse than the deformed workers states, this does reflect a 200% increase in female literacy since 1970, and is far better than what has been produced by the U.S. imposed mjahideen, Taliban, and Karzai dictatorships of Afghanistan. Those U.S. imposed governments have produced a female literacy rate of 12% in 2012 after destroying the pro-woman and pro-literacy PDPA government of the 1980’s.
Whatever may be said of the deficiencies of the Syrian Revolution, over and over again the U.S. imperialists have shown their counter-revolutions to be far worse than what they overthrow. The genocidal and U.S. funded counter-revolutions in Libya and Afghanistan are prime examples. Both the Assad government and the Kurdish democratic government should be defended from imperialist attack and sectarian Islamic counter-revolution, while at the same time giving no political support to Assad’s capitalist dictatorship.
Leadership must be built to overthrow Assad's capitalist government in a proletarian revolution, not in an imperialist sponsored capitalist counter-revolution led by chauvinistic religious extremists. What is occurring in YPG controlled territory is far different than what is being done by imperialist backed Islamists of the FSA who have attacked Kurdish territory. Revolutionary leadership in Syria must distance itself completely from the Free Syria Army which has carried out many atrocities against civilian Kurds, Christians, and Alawites and has promised genocide against Alawite and Shiite communities. They have also set-up sharia (Islamic) law everywhere the FSA has taken power. Unfortunately, the fighters of the “Trotskyist” Leon Sedov Brigade of the Free Syria Army are giving their lives to bring these Islamists to power. This reflects a tendency among those types of fake Trotskyists to support any uprising in an opportunistic manner, no matter its program, to avoid the hard work of fighting for an authentic revolutionary socialist program and party.
Forward on the Revolutionary Socialist Path Laid Down By Lenin and Trotsky!
US, EU, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel Out of Syria! End the Imperialist Sanctions!
Down With the Anti-Kurd, Anti-Alawite, Anti-Shiite, Anti-Woman, Anti-Secular, Sectarian Religious Fanatics of the Free Syria Army!
For the Defense of Kurdish Liberated Territory!
For A United Kurdistan as Part of a Federation of Socialist Republics of the Middle East!
For the Overthrow of U.S. Imperialism through Socialist Revolution in the United States!
Steven Argue is a member of the Revolutionary Tendency.
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Photo, Senator John McCain with Mohammad Nour, identified by two Shi'ite kidnapping victims as the chief spokesman and photographer for the Free Syria Army's Northern Storm brigade in the operation that that kidnapped them and 9 other civilian Shi'ite hostages a year ago. Attempts are still being made to release the 9 other Shi'ite hostages.