By Abdullah Aydoğan Kalabalık / World Bulletin
The Syrian Socialist Arab Baath Party has been ruling Syria for 48 years with an oppressive style like that of Saddam and Qaddafi. The amount of oppression made by the regime on the people is increasing everyday, and security forces do not hesitate to use real bullets on demonstrators.
Because it was eliminated after 1973, the army was unable to take a stand against the rulers as in Tunisia and Egypt. In spite of policies opposing Israel that the regime used in order to stay on its feet, it is claimed that the Syrian army does not have a definition of the enemy.
Since the March 8th Revolution that took place in 1963, Syria has been ruled by the Baath Party. The National Progressive Front, which is comprised of the Baath and parties tied to it, comprises two-thirds of the Syrian Parliament with 250 seats. The remaining 83 seats have been reserved for independent parliament members. There are no opposition parties in the Syrian parliament.
Syria has been ruled by emergency law since 1963. On April 19, 2011, the Syrian government decided to remove the state of emergency. It is predicted that after President Bashar Assad confirms the decision, the 48 year-old state of emergency will become history. It is expected that Assad will approve the government's decision on this within a week.
Syria is ruled with the constitution accepted on March 13, 1973. The constitution gives the duty of the government's and people's party to the ruling party. The constitution also guarantees that the ruling party will be a majority in parliament.
The state president is chosen by parliament at the recommendation of the Baath Party and a referendum is held in the country for the seven year state president term of duty. At the same time, the Syrian state president is the general secretary of the National Progressive Front and Baath Party which is the coalition ruling the country. The state president also holds much authority in his hands like appointing the prime minister and declaring war and a state of emergency. The National Progressive Front is comprised of 7 parties under the leadership of the Baath Party.
The Alawis have been in power in Syria for 48 years. The Assad family belongs to the Alawi minority. Most of the important positions in the country are under the control of the Alawis. The same policies implemented in Syria were also applied in Iraq for years. Former Iraqi president Saddam Husain was a member of the Sunni Arab minority. One of the methods used for years in that region by foreign powers in order to guarantee dependence on themselves in countries ruled by dictatorship is that country's president being chosen from minority tribes and groups.
Democratic elections were held in Syria in 1943, 1949, 1954, 1957 and 1961. Since the Baath Party came to power after the 1963 military coup, the rulers of the country have totally put aside democratic elections.
The Baath Party holds full control of the country's political life by means of security forces and the army. The Baath Party has created two important means of oppression against the people. The security forces which include intelligence were given a green light and open check by the Baath Party on the issue of human rights violations. All methods of oppression and intimidation, including torture, are applied to opposition members by the Syrian security forces. A second method used by the Baath Party against the people is religious minorities. The regime has pulled non-Muslim groups in the country, particularly Christians, to their own side and minorities have become the cream of the crop in the country.
The election of Bashar Assad as president was an extremely interesting scenario. After the death of Assad senior, the Syrian Parliament met on June 10, 2000, and changed with jet speed the law that regulates the age limit for presidential candidates. The 40 year age limit was reduced to Bashar's age then of 34. After this change, the Baath Party offered a single presidential candidacy to Bashar. The election results showed that 97 percent of parliament members had voted yes for Bashar Assad's state presidency.
After Bashar began duty, the winds of change, freedom and democracy began to blow. Various seminars and conferences were held in different cities in the country during this period called the "Damascus Spring." As a result of different dialogues in this environment of freedom, interesting and beneficial ideas began to appear.
However, the "Damascus Spring" would not last long. People with ideas that were recorded by intelligence in the environment of freedom and thought would find themselves in jail after September, 2001.
Political parties playing or aiming to play a significant role in Syrian political life can be separated into two as those in the Baath Party and parties not tied to the Baath. Generally those parties not tied to the Baath Party have had to continue their activities outside the country.
Founded in 1924, the Communist Party became prominent with its serious activities in the country and its attitude of opposition. In particular, most of the officers and members of the Communist Party which opposed the union of Egypt and Syria in 1958 were arrested after the union of the two countries.
Experiencing serious internal strife during the years 1969-1972, the party was divided. The current leader of the Communist Party is Lawyer Riyad al Turk. He is known as one of the most important figures who are calling for democracy in the country. He is also called Syria's Mandela. He was among those arrested in September, 2001. He was freed in November, 2002.
In the 1982 Hama event Turk was blamed by his own partisans and members for not criticizing the Muslim Brothers. Turk held the Hafez Assad administration responsible for the Hama massacre and called Assad a dictator.
It was founded in 1942 by Dr. Mustafa Saibai. Its current leader is Riyadh al Shafka. The roots of the brotherhood lie in the Muslim Brotherhood founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al Benna.
Until 1962 the brotherhood entered the parliament in the country and was in coalition with governments. After the events of February, 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood was completely excluded from Syrian political life.
With legal article 49 which was effective in 1980, the Hafez Assad administration declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be an illegal organization in the country. Under the same law, those who showed inclination towards the Muslim Brotherhood were punished by death.
Joining the National Salvation Front formed by Abdulhalim Haddam, former assistant to Bashar Assad, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that they had separated from the front after Israel's attack on Gaza in 2009 and they suspended opposition to Assad.
After the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood threatened to call for civil disobedience and take to the streets if the tactics used by the Syrian administration against the people were not halted.
The officials of the Muslim Brotherhood have been living in exile since 1982.
NATIONAL SALVATION FRONT
It was established with the initiative of Abdulhalim Haddam, former assistant to Bashar Assad who left the regime, among nationalist and liberal opposition groups along side the Muslim Brotherhood in the Belgian capital of Brussels. The front's aim is to change the Assad regime by peaceful means.
The Muslim Brotherhood separated from the National Salvation Front in April, 2009, for various reasons.
MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE AND DEVELOPMENT IN SYRIA
It was formed by opposition groups that signed the "Damascus Declaration" in London in 2006. Its purpose is to garner acceptance by the Syrian people.
The movement aims to establish freedoms and to change the administration by peaceful means. In addition, it aims for the state of emergency to be lifted, for political parties to be formed in the country, for those in exile to return to the country and for political prisoners to be released.
It was founded in the USA by Ferid al Gadiri, an American of Syrian descent, after the September 11th attacks.
Gadiri presents his party as an alternative to the Baath Party and the Muslim Brotherhood. He aims to overthrow the Assad administration with the help of the USA and then establish good relations with Israel.
Syrians did not show much interest in Gadiri's party because it is cooperating with America.
NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT
It is comprised of five leftist parties. They are: the Democratic Arab Socialist Union, the Communist Party, the Arab Socialist Democratic Baath Party, the Arab Revolutionary Workers Party and the Arab Socialist Party.
ARAB SOCIALIST MOVEMENT
This movement split in two internally. One group joined the Baath party. The other group took their place in the opposition. The movement's leadership is headed by Abdulgani Ayyas.
The star of this movement shone during the 1950s in the time of Ekrem Havrani, the fiery politician who participated in all the revolutions in Syria. The movement's splitting and Havrani's open opposition to Egypt's leader Gamal Abdel Nassir caused the movement to weaken in Syria.
ARAB SOCIALISTS UNION
It was established in 1964. Aiming for Arab nationalism known as Nasiri, it brought together the Arab Nationalism Movement, the Socialist Union Movement, the Arab Union Front and the Syrian Socialist Union.
REVOLUTIONARY WORKERS PARTY
It was formed under the leadership of Tariq Abu al Hassan. It is a Marxist party.
COMMUNİST WORKERS PARTY
It was founded in the mid-seventies. It continued its activities secretly during the eighties. Hafez Assad applied heavy pressure on this party.
PARTIES FORMED BY SYRIAN KURDS:
PARTY FOR MODERNITY AND DEMOCRACY
It is a secular and liberal Kurdish party. It is not recognized by the Syrian administration. In the program of the party which was founded in 1996, the goals are resisting oppression, touching cultural roots and democratizing political life in Syria.
UNITED KURDISH DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF SYRIA
It was established in Syria in 1970. It is not recognized by the Syrian administration. It is considered to be an extension of the Kurdish Democratic Party. It aims for state oppression towards Kurds in Syria to be eliminated and for the regions where Kurds live to be ruled with national unity.
It also aims for respect for human rights and a Syria that is democratic and populist and where sovereignty of the law reigns. In addition, it wants permission for the media to make broadcasting in Kurdish.
The Kurdish issue will play a key role for all active actors in the region when it comes to the shaping of the Middle East. And the Kurdish issue has gained such importance that it won’t be left to the Kurds alone.
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