Is Syria ready for the “Muslim Brotherhood Initiative”?

Is Syria ready for the “Muslim Brotherhood Initiative”?

I find the rapprochement between Syria and Turkey important in spite of all the reservations of the Baath regime. This is more than just a regime issue from the perspective of both Turkey and Syria.

Before anything else, the walls that were artificially placed between the people who have been intertwined by the common civilization of a geographical area must be torn down. The physical barriers that prevent the formation of a civilization perception of a culture must be removed. No period in history or any invasion broke, divided or tore apart the Middle East as much as the modern period has. For example, in no period including the ancient historical period preceding Islam did the twin cities of Aleppo and Antep remain this divided. Just as the pistachio nuts grown in Antep are known as Sam (Damascus) nuts because they are sold to the world from Damascus, similarly the fate of many ancient cities in the region are tied to each other.

Not only has there been economic separation, but also elements that nourish the same culture as the children of a common civilization have been separated from one another.

I think the significant part of rapprochement with Syria is the establishment of direct communication and transitivity between the citizens of the two countries who are relatives. However, this rapprochement has not yet shown any impact in a political sense.

Although a softer style of rule is being shown during the Assad Junior period than during the Assad Senior reign, there have not been important changes in the foundation. Politically Syria is trying to open up with an administration that is introverted and which has limited some freedoms and political participation. In one sense Syria is trying to implement a model to international relations similar to China’s trying to maintain its communist system politically while becoming capitalist economically.

It is obvious that this is not a sustainable model. Sooner or later Syria will have to review its political system and make peace with its own society and pass to an administrative model that at least recognizes basic political freedoms. For it is clear that it is not possible to both connect with the outside world and maintain this much of a closed system.

When opposition movements are mentioned, the Muslim Brotherhood immediately comes to mind. Especially after the events of the 1980’s, we are talking about a group declared to be the main enemy of the system and whose membership was enough to have one tried with the death penalty. And taking into consideration that the Syria regime is based on a minority, the importance of the Brotherhood factor becomes even clearer.

When looked at from this perspective, the Syria government’s making peace of some kind with the Muslim Brothers organization means the system’s extending a hand to the people. In spite of the Brotherhood leadership which has been outside the country for approximately 30 years and an opposition mass of more than one hundred thousand who have not returned to their country and whose property has been confiscated, signals coming that they want to become reconciled with the system and to struggle within the system show that the Assad government can not turn a deaf ear to this new situation for long.

It is uncertain how much longer an isolated administration can remain disinterested in a situation where a political structure which gave an armed struggle, particularly during the 1980’s, is giving signals regarding entering the system by forming a political party in stead of an underground struggle.

The Muslim Brothers recently elected new administrators. The new administration openly declared that they intended to struggle by establishing a political party. There is no doubt that coming from within the Hama struggle, the new leader Muhammad Riyad ?akla represents a turning point within the structure.

What is important is how Syria will respond to this change. More precisely, the subject of whether or not the Assad administration is ready for this “Brotherhood Initiative” will come to the agenda. Assad’s opening the borders in the name of embracing Muslims in Turkey means that the question of when he will embrace his own people will be on the agenda more often after this.

At this point an important duty befalls Turkey. This situation should be a good laboratory for testing Ankara’s mission of being a “model country” and to see how much it can influence an administration that has not embraced its own people and has prohibited the most basic human and political rights.

Otherwise, Turkey’s acting as if there is no problem to put on the table and entering strategic relations with Syria will not mean anything except to legitimize what has happened.

Syria’s allowing an initiative for the Brotherhood will mean at the same time that Turkey is testing its Middle East initiative.