Advancing a Free Society

Would Regime Change Bring Civil and Religious Freedom to Syrians?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Like most Americans, I have been cheering and praying for the brave souls who are fighting the dictatorial regime in Syria. But I had occasion to ask a young friend of mine, who has Christian family members living in Syria, his view. He provides a different perspective, which I have not seen expressed in mainstream discussion. With his permission, I am sharing it with a broader audience:

I have conflicting thoughts about the events in Syria. On the one hand, I hate the brutal actions that the government is taking against protesters, and sympathize with their protests against the dictatorial and repressive actions of the government. I know what it is like to live in fear, every day, of the secret police ("mukhabarat") and how nothing you say, even in your home, is truly private, and can cause you to come under the government's wrath. I had truly hoped that Bashar Asaad, with his British education, was reform-minded, and that he would have initiated greater freedoms, but after showing some signs that he would do so, he has gone the other way.

On the other hand, I am fearful of what would happen if this current regime is overthrown. The possibility of a civil war is all too real, and even if there are democratic elections, the moderate, tolerant candidates and parties are unlikely to be the ones elected. Some relatives were visiting this summer from Syria, and they said that the Christian community is truly terrified of Asaad being overthrown, because as a member of a religious minority himself, he has been their ally and protected their freedom to worship (of course it is a limited freedom, as they are not free to evangelize Muslims or anything of the sort, but a freedom nonetheless). There have actually been some demonstrations on Asaad's behalf by Christians. I know that living there, out of the all the things we feared, we never feared going to church, or church camps and events. Who knows what would happen to such freedoms if Sunni leadership, and possibly more fundamentalist Islamic leadership is instituted? Is it worse to live under a dictatorial, undemocratic regime where certain freedoms are restricted, but one still has the freedom to worship, or to live under a seemingly democratic regime which would endanger your freedom to worship?

So ideally, we would want a truly democratically elected government instituted which would preserve and enhance religious liberties and all other liberties, but I don't know if that ideal is possible in Syria at this point. I hope it is.

(photo credit: zz77)