The 99%? Manifesto: Twenty million Syrians deserve to have a real choice

March 23, 2007

In an effort to provide a more inclusive platform to all Syrian dissidents and opposition members, wherever they happen to be; and in the hope that such platform will serve as a necessary and useful conduit for the Syrian Opposition to clarify the nature of its goals, aspirations and stands on all major issues of concern to the Syrian public and the international community at large; and with an initial intent to monitor and challenge the legitimacy of the upcoming parliamentary and municipal elections as well as presidential referendum in our homeland, we, the authors of this Manifesto, being ourselves members of various opposition groups and including independent activists and dissidents, declare our strong and unequivocal commitment to the following concepts and principles: 

1)    Syria is a homeland for over 20 million citizens who live inside the country and several million more who live in various diaspora communities scattered all over the world. Syria belongs to all these millions and not to any one group of them, regardless of its basis of support (communal, national or ideological), regardless of the demographics involved (that is, whether the group involved constitutes a numerical minority or a majority) and regardless of the grievances and justifications proffered to explain away its domination or desire to dominate the political process.

2)      Syria is nobody’s private estate, and should never be treated as such. Its affairs should never be run as a family business, and decision-making processes therein should always be transparent and based on public debate and endorsement through free, open and publicly and internationally monitored elections, judicial, legislative and executive.

Elector Cartoon 3

Syrian Elector Cartoon (Tharwa Team): While actual balloons have not being used during the 2007 presidential referendum, intimidation was always part of the game. This is what this cartoon tries to highlight.[/caption]

3)      Despite its theoretically large membership, the Baath Party still falls woefully short of representing all Syrians. As such, pretenses to popular democracy, as prescribed by the Constitution, cannot be supported in practice – a state of affairs that cannot be remedied through amending one or another of the Constitution’s articles, seeing that the Constitution as a whole is intentionally riddled with statements meant to justify and enable authoritarian rule. For this reason, a new Constitution needs to be elaborated and approved through a popular and locally and internationally monitored referendum.

4)    Current elections and referenda, therefore, cannot be considered legitimate and/or binding on the Syrian people, as many segments of the population continue to be under-represented or not-represented at all in the current system of governance.

5)    Furthermore, the current Constitution allocates to the President of the State well-nigh dictatorial powers, ones that are supplemented by enduring extra-constitutional reliance on military support and the manipulation of communal fears and mistrusts, as well as continuing crackdowns against civil liberties through the activities of the myriad security services created by the regime and given a free hand through continuing invocations of emergency laws, first declared and never lifted by the Baath coup leaders on March 8, 1963. This situation is unacceptable and has lead to the degradation of the national fabric of the Syrian state and society and had exposed them to various dangers resulting mainly from the corrupt and adventurous policies of the ruling clique.

6)    For these reasons, we call upon the Syrian people to either boycott all upcoming elections and referenda¸ cast an empty ballot, or straight out cast a negative vote against the regime leaders and their nominees.

7)    Moreover we call upon the Syrian people wherever they happen to be to open their minds and hearts to the possibility and necessity of change, and to look more favorably and pragmatically on the various activities conducted by opposition groups in the country and abroad and to support and take part in these activities whenever possible. Popular participation in the opposition is a popular guarantee against any possibility of future corruption and oppression. Additionally, it is only through such participation that opposition leaders and figures will learn how to modify and nuance their positions in order to accommodate popular will and views, and how more credible and popularly acceptable opposition leaders can eventually emerge. The future of Syria rests with the people of Syria, and the future leaders are to be found among the multitudes now roaming the street. Each one of us is a potential leader.

8)    Yet, we, Syrians, should never entrust the rule of our beloved country to leaders who refuse to be held accountable to the public and seek to bolster their image and support through sham elections. Real patriotic leaders have no reason to fear their people. Real patriotic leaders have no problem with power sharing and transfer in accordance with the will of the people. Real patriotic leaders will not rob their country blind or put up with corrupt practices for any reason. Real patriotic leaders will not put their egos ahead of the national interests and will not stand in the face of popular will for change. Real patriotic leaders are the leaders that we deserve and that we can produce only when we insist on taking an active part in the political process in the face of all risks and odds. Real patriotic leaders sprout from amongst our ranks and not descend upon us like manna from Heaven. A better future is not built by wishful thinking but by hopeful action, and by dreamers not by daydreamers.

Long live Syria, free and prosperous.