How Syria became like this? What will happen now?

In order to understand the genuine nature of the Eastern Mediterranean, we should not look only at a map, but we should also look at its history as well as its secondary artworks. As Amin Maalouf was describing, in many of his books, the contribution that this region provided for “enlightenment”, he was also not been able to hide the pain he felt for being away from his homeland.

This may surprise you but many people who have greatly contributed to the world music, art and culture come from the MENA region and had to lead their lives under pseudonyms. France alone has its fair share of these artists who had to leave their own country to escape persecution, including Jacques Attali, Louis Althusser, Albert Camus, Daniel Auteuil, Patrick Bruel, Enrico Macias and Yves Saint Laurent. Isn’t that surprising?

But why did the light of the Eastern Mediterranean go off? How did we come to this? Why is Turkey there? We have to take a good look at the region’s history in order to find an answer to these questions.

Nasser’s 14-year rule over Egypt ended 50 years ago. Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein, a founding member of the “Free Officers Movement”, stood out as a strong political figure in Egypt until the day he took office as the second President of Egypt in 1956, serving until his death in 1970 as a result of a heart attack.

Nasser’s “United Arab Republic” dream made him very popular with the people of the Arab world but there also were a significant number of people who despised him as an oppressive leader. An Arab newspaper headline perfectly described the significance of his death, declaring: “One hundred million human beings, the Arabs, are orphans. Arab intellectuals who took refuge in Lebanon and the West had burst into tears of joy.

Syria was the quickest among other Arab nations in responding to Nasser’s “United Arab Republic” plan. Perhaps, Nasser’s pan-Arabism ideology was the one thing that held Syrians together in a country repeatedly hit by successful and failed coups. But, as I mentioned above, many Arab intellectuals had fled to Lebanon back then because of the oppressive regimes in Egypt and Syria where minorities had their assets and property confiscated by the State.

While the World has been taking a cautious approach to the cooperation between Egypt and Syria, Arab nationalists who economically and socially marginalised the minorities were drunk on victory. Before long, the alliance between the two countries would be broken. The Syrian government openly blamed Nasser for acting like a “colonial” power. With Nasser’s death, the plan was dead too. The very next year, Hafez al-Assad, an obnoxious symbol of an oppressive regime, became the President of Syria and served as the President until his death in 2000.

The first big action Assad took as President was to invade Lebanon, the new home of Syrian intellectuals, under the pretext of ending civil war. Until that day, Lebanon was known as one of the most liberal and the most enlightened country the Middle East. Occupying a large part of Lebanese territories for 6 year, Assad turned the light into darkness. Thus, was over the last era of enlightenment in the East.

“Fading hopes with the Assad Regime…”

Hafez al-Assad supported Iran over Iraq during the early days of the Iran-Iraq War. Signing a major arms deal with the Soviet Union, he laid the foundations of a new era in cooperation between the two countries. While things were going exactly as he wanted, a large number of Israeli troops were sent into Lebanon. As a result, Syria was forced to announce full withdrawal from Lebanon whereas Syria supported Egypt over Israel in the Arab-Israeli Conflict of the early 1970s. Hafez al-Assad had some difficult times in domestic politics because of his “leader who runs away from the problems” image. As a method to eliminate these problems, he committed some appalling acts of barbarism.

In 1980, Hafez al-Assad started to carry out barbarous acts of oppression which are still being committed today by his son Bashar al-Assad and his entourage. Hafez al-Assad besieged the town of Hama housing Syrian opposition figures. According to the Muslim Brotherhood, 35,000 died in Hama. It was already 1990s when the world powers decided that Hafez al-Assad was a major threat. At that point, Assad made a new manoeuvre.

With the dissolution of the USSR and The fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1990s, Hafez al-Assad made a historic move to accept then-President Bush’s invitation to attend a peace conference when he finally realized that no help would come from the “new” Russian Republic, he thus paved the way for Saddam’s overthrow and ended the Arab Ba’ath Movement (Arab Resurrection Movement).

Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria until 2000 when he died of a heart attack. Before his death, he had also showed his support for PKK in accordance with the US policies. As he had no other chance of survival, he ignited conflicts that dragged the country towards a civil war.

“From Assad’s heir toward Idlib…”

Bashar al-Assad was called back to Syria while he was being trained as an ophthalmologist in London. His older brother was dead in a car accident on the road to Damascus airport. Despite the supposed existence of democracy in Syria, Bashar inherited power following his father’s death. He married Asma as soon as he returned and moved to the presidential palace in Damascus with his wife.

Although Bashar has given the impression of a reformist at first, the fate of Syria remained unchanged. The totalitarian regime in the country continued with modern methods this time, which eventually resulted in a civil war. Millions suffered and forced to migrate under the Syrian regime which continued to support PKK and handle the United States, Iran and Russia simultaneously. As a result, Turkish Republic set aside its red lines it has been fiercely preserving since the foundation of the Republic and launched a military operation in Syria.

The killing of Turkish Personnel in Syria on Monday morning was nothing but an intimidation attempt by Russia using Syrian forces. The cause and the purpose of this attack which took place just before the President Erdoğan’s visit to Ukraine is self-explanatory I think. The fact that Turkey declared his support for the United States in the Ukraine-Russia conflict is quite probably the reason behind this attack.

The messages President Erdoğan delivered before his visit to Ukraine is a tell-tale sign of potential tensions between Turkey and Russia, which I believe would be more concerning to Russians. As fa as I’ve heard, Ankara will adopt a more moderate approach towards Moscow at this point.