On the Anatomy of Genocidal Regimes
Do you remember Hitler’s doctors? In Syria there are copycats of them.Dr. Zaher Sahloul
Koblenz: An attempt for justice in exile
With Syria entering the ninth year of its devastating war, and the sobering fact that Assad’s authoritarianism can hold its ground for the time being, hopes of a comprehensive investigation into the series of state-sponsored atrocities are fading. The outstanding role played by the Syrian state in this series of violence, described by the UN as the deliberate destruction of parts of its population, remains the elephant in the room, undermining any credible attempt for a national reconciliation.1.“Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic” : UN Human Rights Council (February 2016)
As the demand by leading European states for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal for the perpetrators in Syria failed due to a lack of agreement in the Security Council, new paths were taken in some European states to confront the growing demand for justice by Diaspora Syrians. Consolidated under the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism adopted by the UN, the national courts in Europe are enabled to investigate crimes against humanity committed in Syria since 2011 and to issue arrest warrants against the protagonists of violence in accordance with a principle of universal jurisdiction.2.“The road to justice for Syria goes through Europe” : Middle East Institute3.“International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to assist in the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for the most serious crimes under International Law committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011” : UN
The fact that the largest court case to date is taking place on German soil – a country that can look back on the legacy of two totalitarian experiences of domination – seems like a byproduct of the countries historical reflection.4.“Vergangenheitsbewältigung” : Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung An approach of international jurisdiction against agents of state-financed violence, which not only speaks from the own experience of totalitarianism, but can also be interpreted as an expression of national identity in the face of a globally growing authoritarian statehood.5.“The Rise of Global Authoritarianism” : Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung6.“From Nazism to Never Again – How Germany Cames to Terms With Ist Past” : Foreign Affairs
While in Koblenz the trial against two former agents of the notorious prison Department 251 of the Syrian internal security service, Ansar Aslan and Eyad A.,7.“Assad’s Henchmen: The Painstaking Hunt for Syrian War Criminals in Europe : The New Arab8.“Witness or Suspect? The Trial of Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib” : Syria Justice and Accountability Centre provides the torture victims of the Assad regime with exactly this window of opportunity for justice, a further arrest warrant against a Syrian war criminal was announced by the German Attorney General Peter Frank in July 2020.9.“German Court Opens First Syrian Torture Trial” : Reuters10.“Syrian security branches and person in charge” : Syrian Network for Human Rights (Published 2013), pp. 911.“German police arrest Syrian doctor for ‘crimes against humanity'” : Deutsche Welle Employed as a surgical doctor in a rehab clinic in the Hessian town of Bad Wildungen, Dr. Alaa Moussa is accused of crimes against humanity towards members of the Syrian opposition in the Homs military hospital for Department 261 of the regime’s military security service.12.https://twitter.com/Mosa13Mosa/status/1260878057600167936?s=2013.“Data of doctors tortured and killed detainees in Homs Military Hospital” : Zaman Alwasl
Using the anatomical knowledge of his profession, Dr. Moussa rendered his services to the execution of the Syrian state’s organized infrastructure of violence. Whether through the anatomically precise infliction of injuries to prolong physical pain or the intentionally mutilation of human genitals, the case of Moussa is a small insight into the surreal synthesis of the Hippocratic Oath and the absolute enmity of systematic extermination policy.14.https://twitter.com/FADELABDULGHANY/status/1275076580860063747?s=2015.“Syrian Doctor Who Involved in War Atrocities Turned a Refugee in Germany” : The Syrian Observer
While human rights lawyer Ansar al-Bunni and activist Wafa Mustafa give a representative voice to many affected Syrians in Germany, the investigators in charge receive more and more testimonies by a faceless mass of Syrian victims all over Europe.16.“Syrian victims of torture testify in German court” : Deutsche Welle17.“In Plain Sight – The search for Syrian war criminals in Europe” : Harper’s Magazine18.Anwar al-Bunni19.Wafa Mustafa The arrest of Dr. Moussa not only offers victims and relatives of political detainees the opportunity to generate further recognition of their suffering, but most importantly deprives those networks of former regime henchmen in Germany of their sense of impunity.20.“Nowhere to run: Syrian refugees face Damascus’ security apparatus in the EU” : Syria Direct21.“Syrians in Germany: Hatem Badawi, Former Security Agent Snitched on Protesters” : The Syrian Observer22.“Asaad Hanna“23.“The fight for truth and accountability in Syria has a female voice” : Syria Direct
From a German perspective, this involvement of medical professionals in a series of state-inflicted extermination policy inevitably evokes dark memories. Even if a direct comparison with the industrial murder of the Shoah is superfluous, it is not only the flight of guilty doctors from the responsibility of their murderous contribution that invites a historical perspective, but rather the misuse of medicine to cement genocide.24.“German Doctors and the Final Solution” : The New York Times
The following reflection is based on the assumption that the phenomenon of state-organized violence follows similar socio-psychological processes and is therefore interrelated with other histories of violence. When we speak of historical comparison, we do not mean equation, but rather the attempt to conclude from the similarities of collective violence about the social dynamics that led to this bureaucratically organized extermination.25.Evans. J. Richard 1991: Im Schatten Hitlers?, Frankfurt, pp. 125-135 The general question guiding this analysis focuses on the construction of the specific discourse that rationalized this practice of collective violence. We are attempting a process-tracing that investigates how the ultimate expression of political sovereignty leads ordinary people to become compliant instruments of a deliberate policy of violence in a collective state of exception.
The German road to genocide
If one refers to the comprehensive research on the role of the medical profession in fascist Germany, one gets a new perspective on their activities in the context of totalitarian statehood. The contribution of some German physicians not only gave scientific relevance to the ambivalent idea of the natural categorization of humans into races, but it was also the linguistic ground for the direct application of the Nazis’ biopolitical extermination from 1935 onwards.26.“Nazi medicine and research on human beings” : The Lancet (December 2004)
When the Auschwitz Commandant SS-Obersturmbannführer, Rudolph Höß, argued that “National Socialism is not much more than applied biology“, he was claiming this on the basis of a dominant research trend in biomedicine of the early 20th century, which tried to alleviate social grievances with biological explanations.27.Enoch, Simon. “The Contagion of Difference: Identity, Bio-politics and National Socialism” Publication by Foucault Studies (December 2004), pp. 55 According to the first Reich physician and permanent member of the “Committee for the Protection of German Blood“, Dr. Gerhard Wagner, this radical implementation pursues a higher national purpose. It is to transform the medicine practiced on the individual into a medicine that could free the national collective from all forms of social suffering.28.Enoch, Simon. “The Contagion of Difference: Identity, Bio-politics and National Socialism” Publication by Foucault Studies (December 2004), pp. 5629.Meyer, Beate 1999. “Jüdische Mischlinge. Rassenpolitik und Verfolgungserfahrung 1933 – 1945″, Hamburg, pp. 175
The concept of the “Aryan race” – in its full definitional arbitrariness and flexibility – became the medically positive construction with which the Nazis’ political antagonism defined their conception of a lower form of life. A vision of racial purity which, in addition to the mass destruction of all those considered impure, was to be supplemented by the Lebensborn institution with its attempt to become a mass production of the Aryan prototype.30.Thompson, Larry 1971. “Lebensborn and the Eugenics Policy of the Reichsführer-SS”, in: Central European History, Vol. 4, Issue 1, pp. 54-77
Even though the Jews were deeply integrated into German society until Hitler came to power, the Nazis were able to position them as a parasitic threat to an imagined German national body. The physician Alfred Bottcher and Dr. Eugen Stahle wanted to make this medical othering of the Jew in relation to a nonexistent homogeneous German descent scientifically visible by making the origin of the Jew recognizable through certain markers in the blood.
This discursive identification of the Jew as a widespread disease of the Germans was followed by systematic segregation and isolation of the Jewish population, based on the medical foundation of hygienic necessity.31.Enoch, Simon. “The Contagion of Difference: Identity, Bio-politics and National Socialism” Publication by Foucault Studies (December 2004), pp. 60-61 The practical implementation of this discourse manifested itself in Germany from 1939 onwards with the extensive stigmatization and exclusion of Jews in public life in Germany as well as the physical isolation of the religious community in the occupied countries of Eastern Europe.32.“Die Ghettoisierung der jüdischen Bevölkerung” : Holocaust.cz A policy that was justified, among other things, by the fact that Jews would have a biologically innate inclination towards crime, which would pose a social threat to coexistence in the German Reich.33.Kaplan, Gisela 1994. “Irreducible “Human Nature”: Nazi Views on Jews and Women.”, in: Challenging Racism and Sexism: Alternatives to Genetic Explanations, (Edit.) Ethel Tobach and Betty Rosoff, New York, pp. 194
The doctor and the Holocaust
While medical Othering contributed to a pseudo-scientific discrediting of the Jews and medicine was shifted from immediate application to the individual patient to a collective perspective, the authoritarian policies of the Nazis made new practices possible that would lead the people’s body to cure its disease. The representation of the Jew as a parasite recommended the use of disinfection measures, which were mainly implemented by the physician Dr. Viktor Brack, the then head of the euthanasia program Kommando T4.34.Enoch, Simon. “The Contagion of Difference: Identity, Bio-politics and National Socialism” Publication by Foucault Studies (December 2004), pp. 66
In accordance with this racial ideology, Dr. Fritz Klein rationalized his participation in the mass murder at Auschwitz as a contribution to the preservation of human life when he claimed it was his duty as a physician to “cut out the gangrenous appendix from a sick body.”35.Enoch, Simon. “The Contagion of Difference: Identity, Bio-politics and National Socialism” Publication by Foucault Studies (December 2004), pp. 67 It was the task of SS physicians like Klein to sort the masses of arriving people at the ramp according to who had the constitution to suffer the protracted death from physical exploitation, or who had to die the agonizing death in the gas. It was their responsibility to determine the amount of gas used, to decide when the chambers should be vented and to provide detailed records of the slaughter. The parasitic discourse with which the Nazis identified their enemies is mechanical, carefully structured into each of these tasks.36.Kronemeyer, Amanda. “Doctors of the Holocaust: An Examination of Both SS and Prisoner Doctors” Publication by Grand Valley State University (December 2015), pp. 4
The employment of the physician in the death camps was not only functional to the mechanical work of racial purification, but it gave the scientific interest of these individuals an almost inexhaustible pool of material for research on dehumanized individuals. An opportunity that earned the infamous SS-Doctor Joseph Mengele the nickname Angel of Death due to his horrific human experiments on twins or people affected by dwarfism.37.Zofka, Zdenek 1986. “Der KZ-Arzt Josef Mengele – Zur Typologie eines NS-Verbrechers”, in: Vierteljahresheft für Zeitgeschichte, Jahrgang 34, Heft 2, pp. 245-267
By the application of discursive dehumanization, National Socialism was also able to optimize the efficiency of its bloodthirsty war machine. Whether by exposing prisoners to ice water, forced transplantation of limbs, or deliberately injecting life-threatening bacteria, the victim of industrial annihilation was exploited to the last fiber of his/her being to ensure continued military superiority.38.Kronemeyer, Amanda. “Doctors of the Holocaust: An Examination of Both SS and Prisoner Doctors” Publication by Grand Valley State University (December 2015), pp. 5-6 Facing the final military defeat, the Nazi leadership expressed a desire to return to the Pervitin-soaked years of the Blitzkrieg by experimenting with high doses of performance enhancing-drugs on camp prisoners for military applications.39.Ohler, Norman 2018. “Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich”, London, pp. 270-27440.“High on Hitler and Meth: Book Says Nazis Were Fueled by Drugs” : New York Times
The doctor’s efforts to formulate the racial ideology of National Socialism served as a pioneer for new connections between biomedical research and politics. The scientific embedding of this dehumanization served as the intellectual glue that made it easier for ordinary citizens to rationalize their participation in mass destruction. As Sabrina Asad aptly pointed out in her essay on the Nazi genocide of the Roma, the Holocaust was not the work of some mad doctors without conscience, but of “sane and competent individuals who chose to act on an evil ideology because, in their twisted minds, it was the moral and rational thing to do in the pursuit of science.”41.“Scientific Porajmos: Nazi Experiments on Roma and the Myth of the Mad Scientist” : Mangal Media
What started on the macro level in the form of discourse as a preparation and, above all, normalization of paranoid antagonism, sediments on the micro level in an amplified mechanism of violence. An interplay of knowledge and power that turns civil elements into agents of a politics of death and turns genocide into a necessary response to social renewal.
The socio-psychological variables of genocide
In his comprehensive book The Nazi Doctors – Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton conceived a psychogram of the medically assisted genocide in the Nazi extermination camps.42.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 420-421
From the individual case of the un-matched mass killing of the Nazis, Lifton attempts to develop a theory of genocidal violence based on an interplay of socio-psychological variables and the resulting subjectivation of the individual. Lifton recognizes the experience of one or more collective traumas as the starting point of identitarian-organized mass violence, which is nourished by a radical-teleological interpretation of historical contexts. Withdrawn from any rational deliberation by the political leader and replaced by the emotionalized ritualization of social processes, genocide becomes “an absolute form of killing in the name of healing.”43.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 467 In other words, in the rationality of Nazism, the death camps became those institutions of bio-politics with which the hallowed community was to purge itself of all racial and ideological deviation.
In this context, society is no longer seen as an accumulation of the diversity of its individuals but is oriented towards the idea of a mystified, national organism whose identitary commonality is threatened by any subversion.44.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 470 Especially fascist domination feeds on this omnipresence of hostile elements within the society, whereas the leader takes advantage of the never-ending crisis to create a healthy unity of the national body. By creating an “experience of transcendence” based on a collective psychic state,45.Kurlander, Eric 2012. Hitler’s Monsters: The Occult Roots of Nazism and the Emergence of the Nazi ‘Supernatural Imaginary’, in: German History, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp. 528-549″46.Varishzky, Amit 2012. “Alfred Rosenberg: The Nazi Weltanschauung as Modern Gnosis”, in: Politics, Religion & Ideology, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp. 311-331 the self-perception of the individual “merges with the image of the endless life of one’s people.”47.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 473
The crisis is thus not only the prerequisite for the reproduction of tutelary claims to validity but forces the individualities within a society to adapt to a systematic conformity of all its elements.48.“Political Religions and Fascism” : openDemocracy Thus the idea of the threat to authoritarian statehood is fed in most cases by the propagation of a Manichean conspiratorial worldview, in which the agency of the individual is revoked to and subordinated to collective revitalization.49.Fay, Brendan 2019. “The Nazi Conspiracy Theory: German Fantasies and Jewish Power in the Third Reich”, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp. 75-9750.Fischer, Karsten 2018. „Über Wahrheit und Täuschung im verschwörungstheoretischen Sinne“, in: Vom Umgang mit Fakten: Antworten aus Natur-, Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften, (Edit.) Günter Blamberger/Axel Freimuth/Peter Strohschneider/Karen Weduwen, Paderborn, S. 65-78 This atmosphere of eternal war is the psychological and social foundation on which the institutions of violence can present themselves as the warden of the nation.
Within this murderous conditioning, the cure for the disease of the national organism in the form of genocide is “no single cause or trigger so much as a sequence of events and attitudes and problem-solving.”51.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 479 The Nazi’s final solution originated from the “smaller” genocide of euthanasia but made use of this experience to refine its technology, the staffing, and the structures of extermination in the death camps. A processual procedure trimmed for efficiency, which is subject to further institutionalization.52.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 4480-481
At the heart of this process, overlapping phases can be identified; the discursive processes of dichotomization, dehumanization, and denial, which precede or follow the act of destruction. The Othering of an abstractly defined group, which is based on identitary characteristics such as national, ethnic, sectarian-religious, or socio-economic, and which, based on a constant institutionalization of deeply antagonistic discourses, leads to the normalization of mass murder.53.Moshman, David 2007. “Us and Them: Identity and Genocide”, in: Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp. 116-117
While more and more scholars on genocide and mass violence are demonstrating that genocide is a practice mostly perpetrated by ordinary people.54.Arendt, Hannah 1994. “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of Evil”, New York55.Moshman, David 2004. “False moral identity: Self-serving denial in the maintenance of moral self-conceptions”, in: Moral development, self, and identity, (Edit.) D. K. Lapsley & D. Narvaez, London, pp. 83-109 Lifton differentiates between two agents of annihilation. One is the “killing professionals“, consisting of physicians, scientists, lawyers, and military leaders, who are responsible for the general organization of extermination.56.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 489-492 On the other hand “professional killers” who are responsible for the dirty work and are often recruited from groups of people with a criminal or socially deprived background.
Above all, the former are indispensable for the establishment of a genocidal bureaucracy, since it is not only elementary for coping with the exponential growth of annihilation but objectifies daily killing, employing a routine “dampening of language” and thus completely shields the human compassion of the perpetrator from practice.57.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 495-49658.Arendt, Hannah 2005. “Responsibility and Judgment”, New York
From genocratic to genocidal regimes: Assad’s Syria
Since the so-called corrective movement of the 13th of November 1970, Syria has been dominated by a dynasty whose ultimate claim for authoritarian rule is defined by the omnipresence of the “Zionist enemy” and an associated sequence of existential crises.59.“New Forms of Old Hate: Confronting Assad’s Anti-Semitism in Germany” : The Washington Institute60.Saouli, Adham 2018. “The Tragedy of Ba’thist State-Building”, in: The Syrian Uprising: Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory, (Edit.) Raymond Hinnebusch/Omar Imady, New York, pp. 16-2261.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 120-121 Confronted with a colonial past, the regional impact of the Palestinian Nakba and the military losses of the Syrian army against the Israeli forces, the life of the ordinary citizen in Syria is getting embedded in a construction of a collective memory, which is marked by a multitude of traumas. This narrative was used by the father Hafiz al-Assad to implement further authoritarian measures on behalf of national modernization and, above all, to maintain the successful mobilization against a growing number of enemies.62.al-Nashef, Tha’er/Winter, Ofir 2016. “Israel’s Imagined Role in the Syrian Civil War”, in: INSS Strategic Assessment, Volume 19, No. 2, 27-3963.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 67
Thus, in the discourse of the “eternal leader“, the 1982 military operation in Hama was not simply a fight against a mere opposition to his rule, but in the metaphoric of the bio-political analogy, a necessary immune reaction of the national organism to counter conspiratorial forces.64.Wedeen, Lisa 1999. “Ambiguities of Domnation: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemprary Syria”, Chicago, pp. 4765.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 36-37
“The Muslim brotherhood did not act against the conspiratorial regimes. The Muslim brotherhood moved because colonization, America and Zionism found us building the man who could challenge and triumph and achieve our national targets. Therefore, they wanted to cut off our way where they founded the Muslim brotherhood gang.”Hafiz al-Assad speech for the Iftar banquet in front of Ulema and religious scholars on 18.07.1982
The antagonism of this inner enemy in the propagated guise of a foreign-controlled Islamist fanatic is the blueprint that the Son exploits to give his rule the same glory of a mystical figure of salvation. This is an inheritance of authoritarian claims to validity to which, despite an apparent variance in the discourse, a constant institutionalization of violence is imminent.66.Ruppert, Sascha 2020. “„Assad or we burn the country” : Über die Denkstrukturen des Autoritarismus in Syrien”, München
In order to give adequate meaning to the genocide process we are witnessing in Syria, however, it is necessary to look not only at the sacralization of its leaders but much more at the conditions of the Othering that identifies the enemy. The blossoming of political pluralism, which is identified as a disease by the sovereign’s power of decision, is curbed by the socialization of the collective in a rejection of everything foreign and the conviction of superiority.67.Wedeen, Lisa 1999. “Ambiguities of Domnation: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemprary Syria”, Chicago, pp. 34-35
Yassin al-Haj Saleh ascribes various causes to the rise of Syrian fascism and the genocidal practice that mutated from it. Nurtured from the Baathist ideology of absolute Arabism, the Assad Dynasty formed the collective encouragement to violence on several layers of discrimination.68.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London , pp. 101-108 These are embedded in the social compulsion of homogenization and the resulting statutory suppression of all rights for an independent political representation of identities.
The consolidation of political representations was already being prepared by Hafez al-Assad after the so-called March Revolution of 1963. The study by Nikolaos van Dam – The struggle for power in Syria: Politics and Society Under Asad and the Ba’th Party, illustrates how the Druze representation in the power structure of Syria around one of the three leaders, Muhammad Umran, was marginalized by his Alawite colleague Salah Jadid in 1964 due to his conciliatory intentions towards the uprisings of middle-class against the politics of the Baath. The imprisonment of Umran not only sealed the definitive exclusion of a potential independent political representation of the Druze within the post-colonial establishment of Syria but also resulted in a purge of all those lower cadres in the regional offices that were part of the Umran patronage network.69.Van Dam, Nikolaos 1996. “The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society Under Asad and the Ba’th Party”, London, Chap. 470.Seal, Patrick 1990. “Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East”, California, pp. 96
The homogenization of the Alawite representation followed a similar pattern. While the political ex-communication of Salah Jadid was the most prominent example of the sect’s internal power struggle, Hafiz al-Assad secured his uninterrupted reign with a sophisticated policy of domination over the numerous Alawite power centers.71.Van Dam, Nikolaos 1996. “The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society Under Asad and the Ba’th Party”, London, Cap. 5 Hafiz al-Assad not only imprisoned all independent Alawite religious leaders and replaced them with his loyal peers, but obliged the various religious authorities of the sect to adapt to the rites of the Sunni religion.72.Yassin-Kassab, Robin/al-Shami, Leila 2018. “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”, London, pp. 115
Even if these processes were carried without explicit reference to sectarian backgrounds, the outcome of this reorganization of power structures inevitably led to a limitation of representation to the Assad self and thus inevitably to a dominance of the al-Kallasieh clan.73.“Not Alright With Syria’s Alawites” : The Washington Institue Yassin al-Haj Saleh concludes that within this form of social subjectivation the logical consequence prevails that it is sufficient to reduce political representation to the will of the leading father.74.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London, pp. 100
Coupled with the promise of security and stability, Saleh recognizes the structures of hatred that breeds under this seemingly harmonized society. In a society in which homogeneity is preached but natural difference within its details is denied any deliberation, an uncontrollable, subtle mixture of social explosiveness develops.75.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London , pp. 92-95 As recently outlined Ayman Abdel Nour,76.“The Syrian regime wheels and deals minorities to remain in power” : Atlantic Council it is not the sectarian differences of different interpretations of heritage and folklore, but rather the manipulative polarization of sect-based identity policies by the Syrian regime.77.“Playing the Sectarian Card”, Edit. Friederike Stolleis, Publication by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (2015)
The police state established by the Assad’s is described by Saleh as a political desert in which interpersonal trust can only arise on the basis of one’s own kinship and has made an inclusive as well as common form of national identity impossible.78.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London, pp. 247-250 It is precisely this privatization of state structures “that facilitates the reproduction and perpetuation of sectarianism.”79.“Assad’s “eternal rule:” the long prelude to genocide” : CRISIS80.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London, pp. 222-226
The authoritarian social space in which the promise of protection against sectarian discrimination was given and guided by Assad’s political suppression of all attempts to public deliberation in the name of modernization, was to become the replicator of a desire for homogeneity of one’s identity at the expense of the complete exclusion of the other.81.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London, pp. 22682.“The “other” and oral sectarian culture in Syria” : openDemocracy
This identity-based antagonism between sects gave rise to both a sense of superiority and a narrative of victimhood based on regional, sectarian, and cultural aspects. For instance, due the years of hegemony in Syria’s institutions of power,83.Pipes, Daniel 1989. “”The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria”, in: Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp. 429-5084.“Brothers in Arms” : Carnegie Middle East Center the Alawite identity is attributing itself very often with “modernity in general and secularism in particular”,85.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London, pp. 246 while the Sunnis have to live with the label of backwardness or the Kurds were associated as a constant threat to the Arab pureness.86.Cifci, Deniz 2018. “Political Incongruity between Kurds and the opposition in the Syrian Uprising”, in: The Syrian Uprising: Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory, (Hrsg.) Raymond Hinnebusch/Omar Imady, New York, Pp. 309-31287.Yassin-Kassab, Robin & al-Shami, Leila 2016. “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”, London, pp. 169-17088.“Group Denial : Repression of Kurdish Political Cultural Rights in Syria” : Human Rights Watch Absurdly enough, the self-image of the superiority of the Alawites in power becomes visible above all in the treatment of Alawite prisoners. It is not uncommon for those prisoners to be reminded during interrogations that they should actually be in the role of the interrogator.89.Ismail, Salwa 2019. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 191 Other experiences from Assad’s dungeons report that Alawite prisoners are forced to torture their Sunni fellow prisoners with the aim of provoking sectarian hatred.90.“The Ghosts of Tadmor” : Zenith
According to Saleh, the Syrian genocracy established around the Assad family began to develop apparently genocidal tendencies with the violent events in Hama in 1982.91.“Assad’s “eternal rule:” the long prelude to genocide” : CRISIS In this context, the assassination attempt in the artillery school in Aleppo in the summer of 1979 by Islamist militants, which is generally described as the starting point of the series of violence, was already consciously interpreted by the regime in a sectarian dimension. The burgeoning resistance against the authoritarian politics of the Regime was taken as an opportunity to remind Alawites of the repressive experiences of past centuries. This management of identity-related fears, derived from the experience of repression under Ottoman rule, is intended to condition the Alawi subject in an anticipation of violence, which promises to protect the religious community from a resurgent era of Sunni oppression.92.Ismail, Salwa2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 155-15793.Worren, Torstein Schiotz 2007. “Fear and Resistance : The Construction of Alawi Identity in Syria, University of Oslo, pp. 91-94
What may be true for the individual case of the Alawite identity, however, does not explain the performativity of this discourse vis-à-vis all other minorities that are available as agents of state-financed violence. For those segments of society, the image of the enemy rather feeds on a populist dichotomy that follows a globally accepted logic that that the underlying social conflict of an extremist ideology can be solved with state repression.
It is the basis for antagonistic Othering of disagreeable political enemies, which since 9/11 has adopted the Western discourse of securitization in order to legitimize institutionalized mass murder vis-à-vis the international community.
Carnage to the terrorist – Preservation for the Assad-self
The fact that the Assad regime describes every bombing campaign in opposition-held territory, no matter how cruel, as a measure in line with the international war on terror, must be understood in the context of the international community’s changed paradigms of security policy.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the phenomenon of terrorism has replaced the role of totalitarianism as a collectively perceived political evil, with the discourse being dominated by a dichotomy between state monopoly on the use of force and non-state subversion. The repressive security state plays a decisive role in solving the terrorist upheaval, not a deliberative approach to investigating this emergence of social struggles. A logic of political conflict management based on the flawed assumption that the preservation of the legal order can only be ensured by abolishing it towards certain zones or individuals.94.Agamben, Giorgio 2002. „Die Souveräne Macht und das nackte Leben“, Frankfurt
The permanent state of emergency introduced by the War on Terror since the global propagation of the events of 9/11 by the US, today represents for many authoritarian states the vital basis for unpunished policies of violence.95.“Terror, genocide, and the “genocratic” turn” : al-Jumhuriya
In addition to the fact that the mobilization and scandalization of radical Islamic groups must be assessed as the mainstay of authoritarian persistence of the family, the identity of a fanatical, head-cutting terrorist is precisely the basis on which the regime builds its lethal Othering.96.Dagher, Sam 2019. “Assad or We Burn the Country: How One Family’s Lust for Power Destroyed Syria”, New York, pp. 136
Similar to the social antagonism between Syrian sects, the discursive process of dichotomization and dehumanization is composed of several layers and connections to other discourses.97.Matar, Dina. “The Syrian Regime’s Strategic Communication: Practices and Ideology, Publication by International Journal of Communication (2019) It is, therefore, no coincidence that Bashar al-Assad describes the protests against his kleptocracy as a foreign-led conspiracy that “like germs, after all, multiplying every moment everywhere.”98.“Profile: Bashar al-Assad” : al-Jazeera
It is not only the stigmatization as a conspiracy that is supposed to clearly distinguish the questioning of totalitarian claims to power from the identity of the unity of the Syrian nation, but above all the analogy with a parasite that is supposed to deny the right to those who raised their voice for resistance.
Bashar al-Assad supplements this description by defining the various opposition groups of the first days of the Syrian Uprising as a movement infiltrated by radical Takfiris.99.Lesch, W. David 2018. “Bashar’s Fateful Decision”, in: The Syrian Uprising: Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory, (Hrsg.) Raymond Hinnebusch/Omar Imady, New York, S. 128-140 The image of the enemy that is drawn in this way is to be supplemented with the contexts that have underpinned the model of Western security policy for over a decade and optimized to the existential conflict with the domestic opposition to family rule.100.Spencer, Alexander 2012. “The Social Construction of Terrorism: Media, Metaphors and Policy Implications”, in: Journal of International Relations and Development, Volume 15, No. 3, pp. 393-419101.Ruppert, Sascha 2020. “„Assad or we burn the country” : Über die Denkstrukturen des Autoritarismus in Syrien”, München
Insights into a mosaic of identitarian violence
Boiling under the propaganda of a sect-free society, it is the socialized fear of the Islamist Behemoth that has been determining the regime’s social conflict management since the events in Hama. It is the rifts between the sects cultivated over decades that provide the leverage for the persistence of the regime, the fertile ground for state-sponsored identity violence.102.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 134103.“The Dark Path of Minority Politics” : The Century Foundation
According to genocide researcher Ugur Ümit Üngör, the “Shabbiha” militias, most of whom are recruited from pro-regime Alawite communities, are the nucleus of the identitarian mass murder on the streets of Syria. Despite the regime’s official denial of any involvement in their atrocities, it is their actions from Clock Square in Homs, to the events in al-Houla or the slaughter in the streets of al-Bayda and Banyas that must be interpreted as official symbols of the strategy of fear.104.Üngör, Ugur Ümit 2020. “Shabbiha: Paramilitary groups, mass violence and social polarization in Homs”, in: Violence : An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp. 59-79 It is the deliberate use of supposedly civilian elements in order to present state-infested violence in the guise of civil war.105.Al-Haj Salih, Yassin. “The Syrian Shabiha and Their State – Statehood & Participation” Publication by Heinrich Boell Stiftung (March 2014)106.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 172-182107.“A Case Study of “The Syrian Resistance,” a Pro-Assad Militia Force” : Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi Blog108.“Confessions of an Assad ‘Shabiha’ loyalist: how I raped and killed for £300 a month” : The Telegraph109.“These Are Assad’s Henchmen” : Business Insider
A number of authors, including myself, discussed the role of war economies and the resulting opportunity for some individuals to benefit from the state of conflict.110.Abboud, Samer 2017. “Social Change, Network Formation and Syria’s War Economies”, in: Middle East Policy, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp. 92-107111.Turkmani, Rim/Ali, Ali/Kaldor, Mary/Bojicic Dzelilovic, Vesna. “Countering the logic of the war economy in Syria; evidence from three local Areas” Publication in London School of Economics (July 2015)112.“The Factory: A Glimpse into Syria’s War Economy” : The Century Foundation Even though research on these structures is an incessant effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of the course of the conflict, in the case of Syria it must be remembered that this development should not be overemphasized as a by-product of disintegrating statehood.113.Heydemann, Steven. “BEYOND FRAGILITY: SYRIA AND THE CHALLENGES OF RECONSTRUCTION IN FIERCE STATES” Publication in Foreign Policy at Brookings (June 2018), pp.7-11 Thus, the perspective fails to recognize that the predatory exploitation of the ordinary population is a modality of governance of the Assad regime, which is fully evident in wartime.114.Al-Haj Saleh, Yassin 2017. “The impossible Revolution: Making Sense of the Syrian Tragedy”, London, pp. 240-247115.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 81-85 The emergence of semi-independent centers of power is the price the regime is willing to pay to ensure its long-term persistence.116.“The War Economy in the Syrian Conflict: The Government’s Hands-Off Tactics” : Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Like his father during the uprisings of the 1980s, who vows to crush the “vermin of the Muslim Brothers”,117.Munif, Yasser 2020. “The Syrian Revolution: Between the Politics of Life and the Geopolitics of Death, London, pp. 22 Bashar al-Assad adopted medical terminology to discredit the 2011-uprisings against his rule.118.Ismail, Salwa 2018. “The Rule of Violence: Subjectivity, Memory and Government in Syria”, Cambridge, pp. 37 Especially with regard to the regular recourse to a parasitic language to dehumanize the oppositional subject, the systematic use of chemical warfare agents against oppositional strongholds also reveals itself in a new logic.119.“Nowhere to Hide – The Specter of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria” : GPPI120.“The Syrian Regime’s Campaign of Fear” : Carnegie Endowment for International Peace It is the applied practice of sanitizing the germ-contaminated national organism that advanced the killing-healing paradox of the National Socialists.121.Haug Fritz, Wolfgang 1986. „Faschisierung des Subjekts: die Ideologie der gesunden Normalität und die Ausrottungspolitiken im deutschen Faschismus“, Berlin
According to Annie Sparrow’s research, it is the Darwinian idea of the survival of the fittest that guides the regime’s deliberate degradation of precarious public health institutions and thereby promotes the fomentation of once defeated diseases in the opposition-held areas.122.“Bashar al-Assad Is Waging Biological War—By Neglect” : Foreign Policy Inherent to this procedure is the systematic bombing of field hospitals in opposition areas by the Syrian and Russian air forces, the coordinates of which the regime receives through the UN de-conflict mechanism to protect humanitarian actors.123.“Russia quits U.N. system aimed at protecting hospitals, aid in Syria” : Reuters124.“Rampant human rights violations and war crimes as war-torn Idlib faces the pandemic UN Syria Commission of Inquiry report” : UN Human Rights Council (2020)
Russia’s recent withdrawal from this agreement must also be evaluated from this aspect, as the Kremlin knows how elementary the refusal of existential aid to the non-combatants in opposition-held territory is for the overall strategy of the regime. It is the absolute negation of the right to life, which makes every wounded person punished by fate to become a potential target of bunker-busting explosions.125.“The UN Made a List of Hospitals in Syria. Now They’re Being Bombed.” : The Century Foundation
However, it is not only the destruction of medical facilities but precisely their involvement in the destruction that makes the genocide in Syria openly visible. Bashar includes in his tyranny those institutions which in other contexts would have a purely civil character. Thus we come to the infrastructure in which Dr. Alaa Moussa was allowed to make his sadistic contribution to the repression of the protests in Homs.126.“Syrian Doctor Who Involved in War Atrocities Turned a Refugee in Germany” : The Syrian Observer127.“Homs, city of torture” : The Guardian
Protestors in the city of Homs, who were injured in the first days of the revolution by the arbitrary fire of the Syrian security forces, were hospitalized in the Homs military hospital. As a whistleblower confirmed to Channel 4 in 2014, these people became victims of the deep embedding of the Mukhabarat in all institutions of Syria. Participation in public criticism of the regime was punished by the refusal of proper medical treatment, systematic torture with electric cables or the use of wounded protestors as training objects for medical trainees.128.“Documentation of 72 Torture Methods the Syrian Regime Continues to Practice in Its Detention Centers and Military Hospitals” Publication by Syrian Network for Human Rights (October 2019), pp. 33-35129. A report by Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria for the Washington Post stated that the hospitals were “slaughterhouses” with the purpose to crush criticism of the regime in the very beginning.129.“‘The hospitals were slaughterhouses’: A journey into Syria’s secret torture wards” : The Washington Post
A look at Amnesty International’s report “Health Crisis: Syrian Government Targets the Wounded and Health Workers” from 2011 shows that this entanglement must not be reduced to individual cases but is an integral part of the repressive apparatus. Thus it is the doctor’s job to keep the patient conscious for endless interrogation.130.“Health Crisis: Syrian Government Targets the Wounded and Health Workers” Publication by Amnesty International (October 2011), pp. 7-18 The interview with Jett Goldsmith, who spearheaded the investigation against Dr. Alaa Moussa alongside Monica C. Camacho, provides insight into the regular involvement of medical personnel in Assad’s cruelest methods of torture.131.“Al-Jazeera : تحقيقات الجزيرة – “البحث عن جلادي الأسد
Referring to certain pictures of the Caesar Files, the faces of death show some suspicious traces where the investigators operated with the working theory that the victims’ tongues had been removed by a doctor present, and their mouths had been gauze-filled in order to reduce the excessive blood loss.132.Interview by International Review with Jett Goldsmith July 2020 In order to reduce the occupancy rate of overcrowded security facilities, a certain number of detainees are sentenced to death by injecting air into their arterial blood vessels, yet another act of cruelty overseen by physicians.133.Munif, Yasser 2020. “The Syrian Revolution: Between the Politics of Life and the Geopolitics of Death”, London, pp. 33
The horrible illustration that the Caesar files gave us about the regime’s extermination policies are insights into the chain of production of corpses that have been taking place in the infamous dungeon of Sednaya since 2011.134.“Syria’s Torture Photos: Witness to Atrocity” : The New York Review of Books135.“When death become a wish … testimonies from Sednaya prison during revolution” The exhausted bodies in the Caesar files not only inspire comparison with the tormented victims of the Nazi concentration camps but are subject to the same bureaucratic substructure, which is intended to emotionally and intellectually deamplify the moral responsibility for the genocide.136.Lifton, Robert 2017. “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide”, New York, pp. 480-481
Assad’s denial industry
But what meaning must these analogies and revisions of genocidal violence ultimately have for each of us?
One argument is that the reproduction of these events is intended to keep alive the memory that the perpetrators and international advocates want to make forgotten. According to Adnan Delalic, the active denial of genocide, which once again overshadows the memory of mass violence, follows a continuation of the murder through discursive methods. According to Delalic, the intentional obscuring of established facts is intended to create “an ambiance of uncertainty“, which is intended to blur the responsibility of this violence.137.“Wings of Denial : Mangal Media
Headed by a sophisticated social media strategy and institutionalized within Syria by the active historical revisionism of Bouthaina Shaaban’s Watan Document Foundation, a rat-tail of a global denial industry becomes observable.138.“Narrative war is coming” : al-Jumhuriya139.“The alternate reality that enables genocide in Syria” : TRT140.Prati, Giuli. “Between Propaganda and Public Relations: An Analysis of Bashar al-Assad’s Digital Communications Campaign” Publication by Columbia Journal of International Affairs (March 2015)
While the regime’s uninhibited propaganda regularly mocks the victims on national television and carries out systematic purges against the executing agents of its extermination machinery,141.https://twitter.com/QalaatAlMudiq/status/1278405826944929794?s=20142.https://twitter.com/AsaadHannaa/status/1255073953791574016 it tries to present its denial attempts to the international community in a more serious guise.
Alongside the various outlets of Russian state media as the head of this media strategy, denial of the state-led genocide is organized in the form of the supposedly independent Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.143.“The Syrian conflict’s anti-propaganda propagandists” : al-Bab144.“The ‘Useful Idiots’: How These British Academics Helped Russia Deny War Crimes At The UN” : Huffington Post145.“A UK Thinktank That Examines Propaganda Just Recruited A Pro-Russian Propagandist” : Huffington Post Although none of the members has any previous research experience in the field of the Syrian political system and its history, all members strive to free the regime from responsibility for the use of chemical weapons and to twist these allegations as a regime change attempt by the West.146.“Does Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have Western allies doing PR for him?” : The Millennial Source
One of the co-founders of the group, Tim Hayward, actually employed as a Professor of Environmental Political Theory at the University of Edinburgh, published several articles on his perspective on the violence in Syria since 2013. Encouraged by Chomsky’s criticism of the Western media, Hayward tries in a compulsive way to fundamentally turn victim-perpetrator relations in Syria upside down. Besides his attempts to question the validity of the official narrative on the Caesar Files and thus the responsibility of the Assad regime, he directs his criticism to the investigative work of the human rights organization Amnesty International.147.“‘Caesar’ evidence for atrocities in Syria: what does justice require?” : Tim Hayward Blog
According to Hayward, Amnesty International has based its reporting of crimes against humanity in the Syrian detention centers solely on the testimony of former victims to confirm these atrocities. The lack of independent third-party verification of these facts is evidence enough for Hayward to deny Amnesty’s methods any credibility and to condemn the organization as a compliant instrument of a Western regime-change plot against the Assad regime.148.“How We Were Misled About Syria: Amnesty International” : Tim Hayward Blog
An intentional mirroring of the victim-perpetrator relationships, which is evident, among other things, in their briefing notes on the chemical weapons attacks in Syria.149.“Briefing note: the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018, and other alleged chlorine attacks in Syria since 2014” : WG on Syria, Propaganda and Media Without providing a valid factual basis for this hair-raising speculation, the entire team is pursuing the working thesis that the bodies in the videos of the aftermath of the chemical weapons attacks were the victims of a managed massacre by local jihadist militias.150.“Who is Responsible for Chemical Attacks in Syria? Guest Blog by Professor Paul McKeigue (Part 2)” : Tim Hayward Blog
Composed of a dubious team of authors whose work is characterized by a high degree of conspiracist thinking and a penchant for global advocacy for authoritarian systems, the Grayzone News must be mentioned as another flagship in this denial process.151.“Grayzone, Grifters and the Cult of Tank” : Joshua Collins/Medium Some of the authors of the website are not only regular guests of authoritarian rulers, but offer their profession for the purpose of preparing state propaganda lines for a Western audience. By obsessively interpreting every popular uprising against authoritarian domination as the result of a regime change attempt by the West, the supposed journalists of Grayzone News not only deny the population concerned any political agency, but willfully turn a blind eye to state-sponsored politics of violence. 152.“The Venezuela Hustle” : Joshua Collins/Medium153.“Enter the Grayzone: fringe leftists deny the scale of China’s Uyghur oppression” : Coda Story
In a reaction to the implementation of the Caesar Act, publisher Max Blumenthal tried to refute the accusation of genocide in Sednaya by pointing out that the files also contain photos of dead regime soldiers.154.“How a US and Qatari regime change deception produced ‘Caesar’ sanctions driving Syria towards famine” : The Grayzone A finding that knowingly ignores the fact that the White Building in Sednaya is a detention center for all those soldiers guilty of insubordination.155.“Human Slaughterhouse – Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison, Syria” Publication by Amnesty International (February 2017), pp. 6
The iron necessity of Caesar
The recognition of the circumstances in Syria as genocidal violence is not only crucial for the course of future court cases against the perpetrators but also represents any normative sediment for the heavyweight of the Caesar Act, which will affect all sectors of Syrian society.156.“Is Regime Collapse on Syria’s Horizon? Evaluating Assad’s Grip on Power” : The Washington Institute
Already extensively discussed by various experts about its serious consequences on the already existential plight of the ordinary population – This act is at least the guarantee that European ambivalence is made as difficult as possible to strive for normalization with the perpetrators.157.“Will More Syria Sanctions Hurt the Very Civilians They Aim to Protect?” : War on the Rocks158.“Two views of Caesar” : al-Jumhuriya159.“Europe Doesn’t Even Agree on Assad Anymore” : Foreign Policy
If one refers to the affected voices within the Syrian civil society, the personal dilemma associated with the implementation of these sanctions becomes apparent. While everyone acknowledges that it is the civilians who will have to bear the burden of these sanctions, no one can deny the fact that it was Assad’s war machine and his highly corrupt nature that caused overwhelming damage to the Syrian economy.160.“How Caesar will impact Syrian civil society” : al-Jumhuriya161.Heydemanm, Steven. “The Caesar Act and a pathway out of conflict in Syria” Publication by Brookings (June 2020) The impact of Caesar will expose the regime’s propaganda that material hardships are a burden to be shared equally by all Syrians for the preservation of national sovereignty. That the elites around Assad’s patronage network won’t have to forgo any luxury in the years to come will be the most obvious proof that the social erosion of society is an inevitable product of the family’s decades-long policy of expropriating the Syrian state.162.“State of starvation” : al-Jumhuriya
If one listens to Syrians who were directly affected by the regime’s policy of violence, Caesar is their marginal hope that the countless acts of state-organized injustice will not be forgotten.163.“Syrian Activist, Fared AlHor: Caesar Act exposed the true face of Assad’s regime.” : IranArabSpring Blog164.“Fighting for graves we can visit” : al-Jumhuriya165.https://twitter.com/wwwael82/status/1280112238951641089?s=20 It should be reminded that the policy of discursive Othering implemented by the regime, has a serious impact on the fate of Syrians out of the physical reach of its weapons, due to their strategic partnerships with radical right-wing parties in Europe.166.“Why White Nationalists Love Bashar al-Assad” : The Intercept167.“Examining White Nationalist Support for the Assad Government” : The Fulda Gap
The assumption that lifting sanctions would benefit the protection of the ordinary population misses the logic of totalitarian statehood in which Assad’s Syria operates. A promise to protect what can apply today to the loyalist may tomorrow fall victim to the cannibalism of terror, as the fate of ex-regime tycoon Rami Makhlouf clearly illustrated.168.“The Syrian Regime Turns On Its Patrons: Rami Makhlouf’s Fall From Grace” : International Review169.“The Makhlouf Incident and the Infighting Within the Syrian Regime” : Center for Global Policy
In a speech in 2017, Bashar al-Assad expresses his self-confidence about the long-term intentions of his policy of violence, when he publicly proclaims that the fruits of his success are the harmonized and homogeneous society.170.“Bashar al-Assad Speech 2017” : SANA News171.“Syrian Residing In U.S.: Assad’s Speech About A Homogeneous Society In Syria Represents A New Kind Of Hitlerism” : MEMRI
“We lost the best of our young men and our infrastructures but earned a healthier and more homogenous society.”Bashar al-Assad 2017
With regard to this blunt insight into the goals of his genocidal practice, it is up to the observer himself to decide whether he falls for the propaganda twist of authoritarian statehood and allows Caesar to be sold as another attempt by the West to bring down Assad’s regime.172.“Regime preservation: How US policy facilitated Assad’s victory” : al-Jumhuriya
However, the fact remains that the key demands are linked to the repeal of the Caesar Act. Allowing any form of political transformation of the regime and the release of political prisoners remain the minimum demands that the West can make on a genocidal regime, given the extent of systematic violence. The historical experience of genocidal states shows that the eruption of genocidal subjectivation of the affected population and pacification of societal interactions can only be achieved by devaluing the perpetrators’ sense of superiority through accountability.173.“Lernen in Sachen Aufarbeitung von Völkermord und Diktatur” : Deutschlandfunk174.Armstutz, Mark R. “Is Reconciliation Possible After Genocide?: The Case of Rwanda”, in: Journal of Church and State, Volume 48, Issue 3, Summer 2006, Pages 541–565
Following the theoretical considerations explained at the beginning regarding the emergence of genocide as a potential reaction to collective trauma, an ill-fated view of Syria’s future opens up. As Yassin al-Haj Saleh recently explained in an interview with Al-Jumhuryia, the fact that there is no resolution, political transition, or recognition of suffering can only lead to even greater genocide.175.“Surviving monstrosities: An interview with Yassin al-Haj Saleh” : al-Jumhuriya
This socio-psychological condition is already present in the regime’s political institutions since the war has triggered a gradual transformation of the Baath into a militia party.176.Awad, Ziad Awad/Favier, Agnès. “Elections in Wartime: The Syrian People’s Council (2016-2020)” Publication by European University Institute – Middle East Directions Occupied by financiers of violence and those relatives of loyalists who have given their sons for the sovereign’s persistence, the regime enshrines those actors who oppose any change simply because they are responsible for the mass violence. It will be exactly those militias, prone to violence and radicalized in their identity-based world view who will obediently defend Assad’s cranial throne with all means.177.Favier, Agnès/ Kostrz, Marie. “Local elections – Is Syria moving to reassert central control?” Publication by European University Institute – Middle East Directions (February 2019), pp. 13-15178.“War Criminal Wins Baath Party Elections in Hama” : The Syrian Observer 179.https://twitter.com/AymanDas1/status/1279910188141752321?s=20
If we recall Lifton’s argument that genocide is a gradual process, in the case of Assad’s Syria the question should be asked what massacres are yet to come?
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