Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On Syrian political prisoners: a perspective never seen in US media

"As the crisis first unfolded in Daraa, Sheikh Sayasneh was invited to Damascus in an attempt by the authorities to de-escalate the situation. One of the key demands of the cleric was the release of prisoners, the majority of whom were Islamists. This pattern was often repeated throughout the early phase of the crisis. The U.N special envoy, Kofi Annan, took up this demand. He too insisted that all political prisoners be released. While many in the opposition are convinced that the release of salafists, such as Zahran Alloush, who was imprisoned for organizing prayer meetings, was engineered by Damascus to help radicalize the opposition, the truth is probably more nuanced. The Syrian State was desperately trying to stop the uprising by using both the stick (swift response against protestors) and the carrot (release of prisoners when urged). While one may still debate this argument and claim that the government’s secret intent was to turn the uprising into an jihad, the fact is that what Damascus sees today are insurgents and Islamist armed groups who want nothing less than to destroy the Syrian State and replace it with a one of their own design, one that would conform to sharia. They call it “more Islamist in identity”."