SJP Statement on Syria
In making this statement we acknowledge the violent and long history of prescriptive interventions by the West in non-western regions and politics. We intend to speak from a humble position of recognition hoping to avoid being implicated in the historical legacy of colonialism and imperialism. We recognize that the following statement once again privileges voices outside while silencing those inside, but we nevertheless feel compelled to release this statement as SJP students, given that we believe that previously issued statements may be interpreted as speaking for us. In essence, we are articulating for ourselves how we understand our role in ongoing situation in Syria and hope that it begins a process to find ways to be in more meaningful solidarity with the revolution.
We were dismayed by a recent statement issued by a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter in regards to the ongoing siege and violence in Yarmouk Camp. The need for SJPs and all those struggling for social justice to openly affirm their condemnation of the Assad regime has never been greater and is long overdue:
Syrians rose up in revolt due to the Assad regime’s decades of denial of freedom and self-determination in spring of 2011, and the militarized response to those protests is the earliest catalyst of the violence that rages today. The crimes of the Assad regime are horrific, ranging from the use of bombs on civilians to the mass imprisonment, torture, and arbitrary murder of thousands of people. It is simply inconceivable that the Syrian people will ever enjoy the prospect of a free and open society while the Assad regime remains in power. The crimes committed by opposition groups fighting in Syria do not diminish the overarching oppression and injustice of the Assad regime or the underlying cause that the Syrian people began openly demonstrating for in their peaceful protests. While people may disagree over strategies and tactics, just as they do in the Palestinian struggle, even with criticism of those who purportedly represent the Syrian and Palestinian people, there is no sense in whitewashing the Assad regime’s crimes. Insisting on this point does not imply support for western invasions and bombings, nor does it condone any other state’s actions in Syria.
Palestinians in Syria are part and parcel of the community of Syrian society; what Syrians have endured under the regime, so have Palestinians. As such, the situation and role of Palestinians for the past three years cannot be extricated from that of Syrians. Rather than cynically expressing apolitical solidarity with Palestinians in Syria and remaining silent about other Syrians, and rather than issuing meaninglessly vague support for the Syrian people, we clearly declare that we support the revolutionaries that began protesting in the streets in March 2011. We support the people’s revolution that continues to this day despite the efforts to starve and bomb it, despite the interference of outside groups and fanatic organizations, despite the failure of opposition leadership to adhere to the values of the revolution or prosecute it competently, and despite the silence from too many solidarity groups in the West. As Omar Shaban writes, “‘solidarity’ with the refugees in Yarmouk, and similar calls for ‘return and liberation’ mean absolutely nothing without expressly condemning the Syrian regime for its atrocious acts, and demanding, alongside their brothers and sisters in Syria, its removal from power.”
Groups like SJP believe in the power of the people, and as such we believe in the power and agency of the Syrian people to determine and advocate for their own future. External interference, both in support of the Assad regime and in support of various opposition actors, comes with an agenda and undermines Syrians’ self-determination. So long as Syrians are resisting injustice, we will stand by them.
As of 1/24/2014, this statement has been signed by:
SJP Loyola Chicago
SJP University of Illinois at Chicago
College of Staten Island SJP
LUC Students for Justice in Palestine
KU Students for Justice in the Middle East
SJP-University of Southern California
SJP at AIC
Students for Justice in Palestine UM-Dearborn
SJP at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Saint Xavier SJP
Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of California, Irvine
SJP – Arizona State University
Rutgers – New Brunswick
Christ’s Way Church, Portland, Oregon
SJP DePaul University
Students Allied for Freedom & Equality – University of Michigan
Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)- Portland State University