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What’s next for Syria? – Reconciliation, Reconstruction, Regression

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“There is no national feeling. Between town and town, village and village, family and family, creed and creed, exist intimate jealousies…to render a spontaneous union impossible. The largest indigenous political entity in settled Syria is only the village under its sheikh and in patriarchal Syria the tribe under its chief.” These words were written by a British army colonel in his ‘Syria: the Raw Material’ review of Syria taken from his experience and travels throughout the Levant over a century ago in 1915, decades before the Syrian Arab Republic – or what’s left of it – existed as we know it now.

It must be remembered, of course, that the work by T.E. Lawrence was written at a different time and in a different context: there was no independent country named Syria, merely a collection of major cities – Damascus, Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Beirut, and Jerusalem – with countless surrounding villages and rural populations all under Ottoman rule. Lawrence’s reference to “An Aleppine always calls himself an Aleppine, a Beyrouti a Beyrouti, and so down to the smallest villages” displayed the undefinition, disunity, and patchwork nature of Syria in his day which rings true to this day with regards to its political and ideological tribes. The breakdown in Syrian society and the rapid descent into civil war in 2011 revealed these delicate tears in the very fabric of the country.

Civil wars, by their very nature, destroy all civic bonds that might have previously existed between communities and identity groups, forcing one to remember what the other did to them and their kin. A member of one community kills another, who then retaliates against the aggressor, making them, in turn, respond more harshly before other communities are trampled underneath and form their own web of alliances and enmities. What follows is a vicious cycle of injustice and pent-up vengeance, up to the point in which the original aggressor and victims can no longer be discerned. It is, essentially, the return to a state of tribalism in which every man from every village must take up arms and make the choice of which side to join. At such a point, there is little to no easy path to forgiveness and reconciliation after the atrocities have transgressed the bounds, and this is the case with........

© Middle East Monitor