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  • Rory O'Keeffe

'Defeat' of IS does not end Syria's war

Syrian journalist and activist Bahia al Mardini dismisses claims that Bashar al Assad has ‘won’ the war in Syria, and calls for democracy in her state, where she had, until being chased out in 2012, campaigned for the rights of political prisoners, many of whom were tortured in Assad’s prisons.

She says: ‘Victory cannot be written in civilian blood: the conflict has already claimed up to half a million lives, left one million Syrian children orphaned and displaced half the prewar population from their homes.

‘Assad and the Syrian regime must be held to account for their crimes, and so must the armed fighters whose brutality has matched that of the very dictator they pledged to replace.

‘Victory will only come when Syria enjoys true democracy. That means we need to believe in the justice of international institutions and the compassion of our international friends to help us negotiate for a freer Syria.

‘A choice between the barrel bombs and chemical weapons of Assad's military and the beheadings, rape and torture of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is no choice at all. If the world remains united in the stance that Syria deserves better than Assad and better than terrorism, I hope we will get the ending we deserve.’

It is also worth noting here that despite the best efforts of Russia to paint it as such, the Syrian war has never been a tale of ‘Assad vs IS’, and that therefore, however hard Assad and his allies push the idea that they have ‘won’ (this of course relies on us forgetting that the US and SDF also fought against IS in Syria), the opponents of Assad remain, and are very likely to continue to fight.

Even if Assad and his allies were to defeat his opponents (and this is significantly complicated by the fact that Hizbollah appears to have agreed to withdraw from Syria as soon as IS is defeated, as part of of the political settlement between it and Lebanese PM Saad Hariri – though, as noted previously, it is far from impossible that it will stay in South Syria to ‘guard against’ a return of IS, which would effectively free Iranian and Syrian fighters, and the Russian air force, to move north and fight rebel groups) the war would still, realistically, not necessarily be over, as it is likely that some Arab and Kurdish groups would move to desert guerrilla tactics.

Equally, of course, because this was never a war ‘against IS’, even a peaceful Syria, with Assad at its head, will not be safe for most Syrian refugees, who fled him and his regime, to return to live in.

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