An open letter to Syria's opposition: you have failed us

Subject: An open letter to Syria's opposition: you have failed us
From: Jasmine Roman
Date: 14 Mar 2013

Dear National Coalition, Syrian National Council and main political opposition groups: This is a simple letter from a Syrian, without political terms and complicated language.

Two years have passed and we have exhausted all our hopes, and you have taken part in many meetings, statements and pledges. Now it is only timely to reassess the situation and ask some questions that you are bound to face later, if not now.

When you were given legitimacy by the international community, did you believe that that made you the "legitimate" representative of the Syrian people?

Have you ever thought how we, mainstream Syrians, view your statements and your inaction? That it is embarrassing and humiliating for us when you keep praising certain donors, then turn us into beggars as you plead for more humanitarian assistance, for international intervention and for heavy weaponry?

You know that many Syrians don't want Bashar Al Assad's regime, but have you approached us to ask what concrete and pragmatic political, economic or social reformative programmes we do want?

When we critique the opposition, it is only because we need to have things right from the beginning, and you have put yourselves above criticism or accountability. You have taken on the same machinery and mindsets that the Baath regime has used. Your reactions to any analysis or criticism do not serve Syrians well. Nor do they help your own political future, in case you plan on having one.

Have you ever thought of the losses when you insist that the "revolution" will continue "even if half of the Syrians die"? When you say the president must go "regardless of the price"? Do I need to say that the price paid by all Syrians is already high and painful?

While we stand against militarisation, we know that the regime is brutal, and will always remain responsible for the turmoil. However, we know that more weapons will lead us only to more violence, destruction, revenge, radicalisation and anarchy.

Five thousand were killed in 2011 before the struggle became military; 60,000 died in 2012 and the bloodiest is yet to come. The regime is using Scuds, other missiles and advanced artillery, and you are asking for the same kinds of armaments.

Still, you insist that the weapons are going into the hands of the "good guys" and the "true" Free Syrian Army. We assume you send your children to schools and universities, you arm them with education and knowledge. But have you sent your own children to the battlefield?

When we stand against any kind of intervention, we know that the international community does not want to get involved; we did not have to wait for two years to realise this fact. We were keen to own our decisions and to contain our problems without outside meddling.

When we hear that your first priority is to topple the dictator, rather than to stop the violence, we hear that our lives and agonies are worthless. When we hear that you will not negotiate, we hear that you want to protract the conflict - and create more profiteers.

My questions are flowing now. They are haunting me.

One questions I posed at the Munich Security Conference last month was: "How do you evaluate the oppositions' performance, credibility and transparency?"

Opposition leader Sheikh Moaz Al Khatib and the other speakers did not answer my question. Either they didn't really have any response, or they knew that anything they could say would be uncomfortably inadequate.
When we hear about your corruption, and when you make no effort to demonstrate your transparency, we are reminded of the corruption of the regime.

When we hear that you consider Jabhat Al Nusra to be an essential component of the uprising, we see only more killing ahead. When you conceal atrocities by the armed factions and do not condemn them, even when the factions announce their responsibility, we wait for our death before our eyes.

When you keep silent about explosions, destruction, violations, looting, the targeting of shrines and minority groups and insults to religious symbols, we see that we will never have any place in our country, regardless of our religion, sect, ethnicity and political or ideological dogma.

When you keep silent towards the fatwas allowing strange forms of "marriage" to Syrian women, or forcing them into prostitution, we see only your unethical standards.

Finally, I have one simple question: what have all the political oppositions achieved for the Syrian people?
Members of various groups insist that the opposition is working hard, doing relief work, helping refugees. But I don't see that. And surely the uprising, with all its bloody sacrifices, was intended to provide more than humanitarian assistance.

If you claim to represent all Syrians, you must also represent Mr Assad's supporters. Can that be true?
We are not pro-Assad and we will not be lenient about his criminality and oppression. We wanted change, and we wanted the freedom and dignity that the early days of the uprising two years ago seemed to promise.
But now dignity, for many Syrians, has gone searching for bread and shelter. We are trapped among a brutal regime, a failing opposition, an international community with no political will and a beautiful country that we will need many decades to revive.

Opposition leaders: you have failed politically and you are failing the Syrian people. We don't want the Assad regime, but we do want our country.

Jasmine Roman is a pseudonym for a Syrian writer