By: Razan Hamad
After a long search over the Internet for the characteristics of a dictatorship to help me determine in which category Bashar al-Assad fits perfectly, I was introduced to the worst kind of dictatorship known as (Totalitarianism Dictatorship). This kind of dictatorship fits Bashar al-Assad and his regime and I will prove that to you in the following 10 reasons.
But first what is (Totalitarianism Dictatorship)?
Totalitarianism or Totalitarian Dictatorships are the most repressive of regimes, strictly enforce the absence of freedom, and relentlessly apply the power of the press, the courts, the bureaucracy, the army and the police against individual liberties. Totalitarian means total dictatorial control. The state involves itself in all facets of society, including the daily life of its citizens. A totalitarian government seeks to control not only all economic and political matters but the attitudes, values, and beliefs of its population, erasing the distinction between state and society.
For the record, a dictator guarantees none of the following:
- Freedom of speech.
- Freedom of the press.
- Free opposition political parties.
- Independent courts.
- Free and regular elections.
Here are the characteristics of this kind of dictatorship:
1- The one party rule: Single mass party through which the people are mobilized to muster energy and support. The party is generally led by a dictator and, typically, participation in politics, especially voting, is compulsory. The party leadership maintains monopoly control over the governmental system, which includes the police, military, communications, and economic and education systems.
The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party emerged from a split in the original Ba’ath Party in February 1966. From 1970 until 2000, the party was led by the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad. As of 2000, leadership has been shared between his son Bashar Al-Assad (head of the Syrian regional organization) and Abdullah al-Ahmar (head of the pan-Arab national organization) Bashar Al-Assad became the Regional Secretary of the party in Syria after his father’s death in 2000.
2- Censorship: Dissent is systematically suppressed and people terrorized by a secret police. Most repressive of regimes strictly enforce the absence of freedom and relentlessly apply the power of the press, the courts, the bureaucracy, the army and the police against individual liberties.
The secret Syrian police AKA Mokhabarat have had for forty years some form of neighborhood-block watches, requiring residents to inform on neighbors who exhibit any democratic tendencies. Secret police also watch for anti-dictatorship activity. Religious ceremonies often are not permitted to operate without a government license; dictators fear that worshipers might plot against them during private religious activities.
3- Social, political and economic oppression: gross abuses of human rights are common. Totalitarian dictatorships also tend to justify their abuses by claiming the total repression serves a higher cause, like material equality or superficial stability. Totalitarian dictators regularly teach both children and adults that freedom is a scary thing, or they redefine “freedom” as equality or stability. The arguments for totalitarian control become an “ideology,” a system of principles that average citizens are never permitted to question.
The Syrian citizen is taught to believe that his country is in a state of war with Israel and all economic and political oppressions are caused by this conflict while knowing that for 40 years the Syrian government didn’t fire a single bullet on Israel even with Israel occupying the Golan Heights. The Syrian regime declared the state of emergency for over forty years which was lifted recently after the Syrian revolution started; only to be substituted with the same oppression and injustice.
4- Executions without trial for political offenses: In the more repressive tyrannies, such speech could be punished by imprisonment or worse. Under the most severe oppression, a society may appear calm, but only because the punishment for dissent is swift, harsh and certain.
Tadmor prison was closed in 2001 and all remaining political detainees were transferred to other prisons in Syria. Tadmor Prison was reopened on June 15, 2011 and individuals arrested for participation in anti-regime demonstrations were transferred there for interrogation and detainment without trial.
5- In totalitarian societies, gross abuses of human rights are common: The arguments for totalitarian control become an “ideology,” a system of principles that average citizens are never permitted to question.
The regime’s media like Dunia TV channel and the Syrian TV channel and all their supporters have a famous sentence: (Is this the freedom you want?) They want us to believe that all the killings and bloodshed are the result of asking for freedom! An average Syrian citizen is not even allowed to question a governmental worker, the citizen has to obey and pay to get his basic paperwork done
6- The ruling political party either restricts the activities of opposition political parties or outlaws opposition parties altogether (each “party” simply is a group of people who agree on and organize around a collection of political ideas.) Dictatorships also allow the courts little or no independence; judges are expected to issue rulings based on what the dictator wants, even if the dictator’s wishes contradict the truth or the law. The National Progressive Front is a great example of that!
7- Hopelessness. Hopelessness in the people — no hope of a free election to change leaders, no hope of fairness in court, and no hope of a life lived with the freedom to speak your mind or challenge a bad idea. Taking a walk in the streets in Damascus will be a great proof of that and how Syrian citizens simply don’t care if they keep their country clean or not! If they are oppressed or not!! They see oppression and injustice and just look away.
8- Dictators often hold the top ranking military post; military is a main focus in a dictatorship.
Bashar al- Assad is the head of the military force with so many ranks before his name that makes you feel confused! The Syrian Military has been used before in Hama massacre 1982 to silent the Syrian people and give a lesson of how this regime reacts when it is challenged. More than 50 000 people where killed in Hama and now the army is used for the same purpose instead of its basic role of protecting the people and the Syrian land, knowing that the Golan heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967.
9- No restrictions or opposition for the leader, and protesters are punished harshly. The Syrian revolution showed us what it means to ask for basic human rights in Syria. Opposition rarely existed in Syria before March 15th and they are barely organized now due to many reasons including forty years of exclusion.
10- Human and civil rights are not protected in a dictatorship because a totalitarian society rejects liberalism, and this is a key pillar. A supreme ruler doesn’t care for the people because he doesn’t need to in order to retain power. Bashar Al-Assad legitimacy comes from his oppressive and well established intelligence system, that watch people even when they breath, and the regime’s security grip.
The Syrian people have been suffering for so long and with the start of the revolution they announce their rejection to all of the above! Freedom is very expensive and I believe we are almost their.