By: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.
It is amazing to me the lack of universal outrage over the horrible, evil, and dastardly violent happenings within the City of Aleppo in the country of Syria. Syria’s main partner of mayhem is Putin’s Russian war machine. It is equally horrendous of the lack of international will to fully engage the Russian president is his continually geographical creeping on other nation’s weaknesses. Syria is one very good example of this smiling treachery.
So, for those interested in some practically relevant and historic information that, in no small way, is at the heart of what is driving the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad in his relentless attempt to hold on to power.
Modern-day Syria is cloaked under the ancient history of what eventually turned out to be the massive Turkish Ottoman Empire of the late 13th century. Even before the formation of the Ottoman dynasty, there were remarkable historical highlights that have garnered the Syrian landscape, such as the Trojan War, which was fought 1,250 before the birth of Christ.
Homer was born there (700 B.C.) and Alexander the Great pushes the Persians of Syrian soil in 337 B.C. The Apostle Paul had several great evangelistic successes for early Christianity in the Syrian territory. There is even the birth of a politically-motivated, drug-induced assassin cult called the “hashishiyah,” who were a medieval Shiite sect known as the Nizari Ismailis.
When we move forward to modern-day Syria, we find France occupying the country for approximately 20 years right after World War I, until Syrian nationalists fought for their freedom from French rule. After just five short years, the independent governing Syria found itself under was a military dictatorship.
By 1954, that government was overthrown by the Syrian army. Less than 10 years later, the radical Arab nationalist Baath Party (the same political force that backed Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq) was in control of the country and, yet, three years later, in 1966, the army — yet again — deposed of that government.
Finally, this short history of coup after coup comes to a close just four years later in 1970 — after a bloodless coup, the military (moderate) wing of the Baath Party seized power. They were led by Lt. Gen. Hafiz al-Assad, who was elected president in March 1971 and ruled until his death in 2000. After the death of Hafiz al-Assad, his son, Bashar al-Assad, a medical doctor, succeeded him and is currently the head of the Syrian government.
The Assads’ real family name is سليمان Sulaymān, (which means “man of faith”) and its origin goes back to Ali Sulayman (1875-1963), who in addition to being firmly connected to the most powerful historical ruler of the old Ottoman Empire, also in 1927 changed his last name ironically to “al-Assad,” which means “the lion” in Arabic.
Syrian cultural understanding of its position of regional authority is a tangible goal. Make no mistake that the very real connection to the iconic Sulaymān name and its history of power and prestige is in play. The same tribalistic sense of power and harsh authoritative rule is also a factor in the al-Assad family’s notorious and enthusiastic support of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Syria provides training, weapons and safe haven as well as logistical support for both groups. The head of another anti-Israeli Islamist Palestinian group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine has headquarters in Damascus, Syria. Again, make no mistake that this “Lion of the Desert” or the ancient terrorism of “the assassins” or the wanting to revive the “Sulaymān” empire is part of the al-Assad family’s way of thinking.
This driving motivation is what prompted Syria’s incursion into Lebanon that has lasted decades. It is the same reason when Lebanon political leaders started to assert their rightful authority by wanting to get rid of Syrian forces from their country, the historical assassin system came back to surgically remove those people from leading the movement against Syrian power.
There is an advancing reality of evidence that if Bashar al-Assad perceives anyone as a threat to his base of power, he doesn’t care if they are Alawite, Christian or Shia….he will prompt the destruction as quickly as possible. For the hundreds of thousands of people who are identified as being openly against his rule, they know he will kill you. Because of this violent fact of life, millions of Syrian people desperately want to depose this family’s rule of violent intimidation and are fighting an uphill battle. Given the characteristic of the Syrian culture, their hope of removing themselves from the bonds of both practical and cultural tyranny will depend on many things falling into place over the next couple of years. Let’s hope that it won’t take another million lives lost to solve this evil rendition of the faulty nature of the human condition.
We will see how the United States government aggressively demonstrates…or not….it’s level of commitment to participate….or not….in the ending of the violence and holding the powerful individuals who have implemented these evil deeds accountable. Even if America’s government can find the political will to accomplish this righteous necessity there will still remain how to properly and appropriately encourage a consortium of international players to intentionally rebuilding of millions of lives.