Communist party briefing three BACKGROUND TO EVENTS IN SYRIA POPULATION 22,530,746 ETHNIC GROUPSArab 90%, Kurds 9%, Armenians, and others1% RELIGIOUS Sunni Muslim 74%,Alawites 12%, other Muslims,Shia Druzeetc5%, Christian (various denominations) 9% POLITICAL FORCES PRO-GOVERNMENT National Progressive Front is dominated by the Ba’ath Party. Its subordinate allies are mostly Arab nationalist (such as Nasserist) or Arab socialist parties, ideologically close to the Ba’ath’s pan-Arab vision. It also includes the country’s two communist parties. Members: Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, Arab Socialist Movement, Arab Socialist Union, Syrian Communist Party, Syrian Communist Party (United), Social Democratic Unionists, Socialist Unionists, Democratic Socialist Unionist Party, Arabic Democratic Unionist Party, National Vow Movement. BA’ATHISM Ba’athist philosophy, namely that the Arabs belonged to a single nation and needed a single state in which to realise their “eternal mission”. It defined the Arab nation as stretching across all Arabic-speaking areas, including Africa. It supported full citizenship for women and promised to eradicate class distinctions arising from the unjust distribution of wealth. Citizenship could be extended to a non-Arab living on Arab soil provided he “detached himself from any racial grouping”. While Ba’athism used non-racist and non-religious criteria to define Arab citizenship and could thereby appeal to Sunni, Shia, Christian and others alike, the obvious weakness was its lack of appeal to the many minority non-Arab communities living within the Arab world, in particular the very substantial Kurdish population. , the Ba’athist version of socialism avoided concepts of class struggle focused
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on the idealist notion of a culturally based Arab spirit and so was opposed to “materialistic” communism. SYRIAN COMMMUNISM The split in the Syrian Communist Party in 1986 had the backdrop of perestroika, with the Faisal wing essentially sympathetic and the Bagdash wing opposed. Differences also centred on inner party democracy (the last three general secretaries of the SCP in order have been KhaledBagdash, his widow Wisal and now his son Ammar). Both parties have expressed criticisms of the ruling Ba’ath (within permitted limits) with the SCP focusing on economic changes and the SCP (U) on political and democratic reform. ANTI-GOVERNMENT National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces – formed in November 2012 with the Syrian National Council at its core. Organised and funded by the US and its NATO allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Primarily an exile group dominated by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Free Syrian Army – an umbrella term used by various militias al-Nusra Front for the People of the Levant - an alQaida-inspired terrorist group, denounced by the West but embraced by the SNC and FSA Kurdish Democratic Union Party – Kurdish nationalist party, linked to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Strongly opposed to foreign intervention, especially by Turkey. National Co-ordination Committee for Democratic Change – domestic opposition alliance mostly secular and leftist. Opposed to regime but generally against use of violence and outside intervention.
TIMELINE 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France agrees on share of Ottoman Empire provinces 1918 Ottoman Empire collapses after WW1 defeat; Arab Revolt sees proclamation of the first independent Arab government in Damascus 1920, General Syrian Congress declares a United Kingdom of Syria, covering undivided Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. 1919-1921 Alawite uprising 1923 Treaty of LausanneConfirms French rule over Syria-Lebanon territories 1925-27 Great Syria Revolt against French rule 1943 Syria and Lebanon become separate states 1944 Syrian Muslim Brotherhood founded 1946 French colonial rule ends 1947 Arab Ba’ath Party founded in Damascus 1948 Partition of Palestine, creation of Israel, First Arab-Israeli War
1966 Radical Ba’athist leader Salah Jadeed takes power, turns Ba’ath regime sharply to left. SCP emerges from underground 1970 Hafez Assad leader of the Ba’ath centrists takes power from the Ba’ath left 1972 Ba’ath creates the National Progressive Front, SCP joins. 1973 Arab-Israeli War Egypt and Syria attack Israel to regain lost territories. Syria loses larger area of Golan Heights. 1979 Armed Islamist group Fighting Vanguard massacres military cadets in Aleppo, begins terrorist campaign of bombings and assassinations 1982 Syrian army crushes Islamist rising in Hama. Thousands killed. 1986 Syrian CP splits. Both wings initially keep SCP name. Respective leaders are Yusuf Faisal and KhaledBagdash 1991 First Gulf War Syria opposes Iraq; Faisal SCP unites with other groups to form SCP (United) 2000 Hafez Assad dies, power passes to his son Bashar
1952 Arab Ba’ath Party merges with Arab Socialist Party to form Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party.
2000-2001 “Damascus Spring” Brief period of open debate and dialogue
1949 Three different military coups. Adib al-Shishakli eventually takes power
2011 Popular protests over legitimate grievances met with violence from government
1954 Democratic revolution overthrows Adib alShishaklidictatorship. Elections see first Communist MP in Arab world
2012-2013 Armed conflict erupts
1958 Nasser oversees creation of Egyptian-dominated United Arab Republic (UAR) comprising Egypt and Syria. Communist opposition leads to repression of CPS 1961 UAR breaks up acrimoniously 1963 Ba’athists take power first in Iraq and then on March 8 in Syria. 1964 Muslim Brotherhood supporters launch armed uprising in city of Hama, quickly crushed. 1967 “Six Day War” Surprise Israeli attacks see Israel take parts of Syria’s Golan Heights, Egypt’s Sinai, and Palestinian West Bank and Gaza.