Syria: The Fall of the Martyr City Khan Sheikhoun


Despite this setback, the struggle against the tyranny of the Assad regime continues!


By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 22 August 2019,




The well-known city Khan Sheikhoun in the north of Syria is about to fall to the forces of the Assad regime. Nearly all of its 90,000 population have fled the city which has been annihilated by Assad’s and Putin’s bombers. A number of heroic liberation fighters are continuing the struggle in several pockets of resistance. However, the sad truth is that the overwhelming forces of the tyrannical regime were able to make an important advance in the Southern area of the Greater Idlib region. [1]


Khan Sheikhoun has gained notoriety world-wide as it was hit by a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people of all ages in April 2017. [2] Despite its cynical denial, there is not the slightest doubt that the barbarous dictatorship of Bashar Assad bears full responsibility for this mass murder as it committed similar attacks on numerous other occasions in the past eight years.




Heroic resistance




The fall of Khan Sheikhoun is the most serious setback since the Assadist forces launched their massive assault at the end of April on the last enclave of the Syrian Revolution in the north of the country. [3] According to official figures, 949 civilians have been killed since then and More than 850,000 people have been uprooted since the regime began bombing Idlib in February. [4]


The mujahideen, as the liberation fighters are called in Arabic, have resisted heroically against the overwhelming forces of the regime and its most important backer, Russian imperialism. [5] Young volunteers from Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) have launched a number of martyr operations against the superior enemy. Hundreds, may be up to 2,000, rebels have died in the past three months defending their people against the tyranny. However, they have been also able to inflict high losses to the enemy.


We send our most heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the martyrs who have scarified their lives in the struggle against the tyranny!


However, thanks to the massive military assistance of Putin, the Assadist forces are far superior in terms of heavy weapons, artillery, tanks and air force. Russian and Assadist warplanes and helicopters are constantly bombing the villages and cities still under control of the rebels. Russia has not only military bases in Syria. Its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also admitted that Russia has military servicemen stationed on the ground in Idlib. [6] There can be no doubt that without the massive military support of Russia and Iran, the Assad regime would have been overthrown by a successful popular revolution many years ago!




Turkey’s role




The Turkish Erdoğan government plays a perfidy role. On one hand its claims to support the Syrian people against the Assad regime. As part of its treacherous Sochi deal with Russia, Ankara has established 12 military posts around the liberated territories in the Idlib region. However, its main interest is to make deals with imperialist Great Powers Russia and the U.S. It wants to subjugate the Kurdish people and it wants to receive modern weapons (like Russia’s S-400 missile system) as well as foreign investment. The Syrian people are nothing but change in order to achieve these goals.


Furthermore, the Erdoğan government has started to expel Syrian refuges and to send them back to Idlib. Since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in 2011, about 3.6 million Syrian refugees have come to Turkey. [7]


As a result, Turkey refuses to give substantial military support to the liberation fighters. As a matter of fact, the Syrian rebels could break the air superiority of the Assadist and Russian bombers if they would get some modern MANPADS (mobile anti-aircraft weapons). But Ankara denies this as it does not want to offend its friends in Moscow. As a result, the rebels are forced to aim with outdated anti-aircraft cannons against the killer bombers. HTS fighters even successfully brought down one of these warplanes recently and arrested the pilot. [8] However, such symbolic victories are only a drop in the ocean.




International solidarity movement




The duplicitous role of Turkey is a strong reminder that the popular masses must not rely on any capitalist power. Sure, the struggle for liberation needs modern weapons and one must try to get them from wherever it is possible (as long as no political strings are attached). But one must never subordinate a liberation struggle to the interests of a capitalist power!


The RCIT has always warned against any illusions in the Turkish government. We have denounced the Astana process from the very beginning as a conspiracy against the Syrian Revolution. [9]


We restate that the struggle of the workers and poor peasants must rely on its own organs, i.e. on democratically elected popular councils and a liberation army which is under control of the former. Furthermore, the Syrian revolutionaries must oppose all religious sectarianism (against non-Sunni minorities) as well as all forms of anti-Kurdish nationalism. A free Syria must be based on freedom and equality for all religious and ethnic groups!


In addition, the Syrian Revolution should be linked to other international liberation struggles – from Algeria and Sudan, Palestine and Yemen to Kashmir.


It is urgent to build an international solidarity movement in support of the ongoing liberation struggle in Syria. Socialists all over the world should work towards winning workers and popular organizations to join such a movement. Supporters of the Syrian Revolution must unmask the open or concealed support of the imperialist Great Powers and of many so-called “Muslim” dictatorships for the Assadist mass murder in Syria. Socialists also need to denounce the Stalinists’ support for the killer couple Assad and Putin. [10] They should also sharply criticize those leftists who have given up support for the Syrian Revolution in the past years.


The recent military setbacks must not dishearten the consistent supporters of the Syrian Revolution. Quite the opposite, the RCIT emphasizes once more that it is crucial that defenders of the Syrian liberation struggle join forces, irrespective of their political differences, and build an international solidarity movement!




* * * * *




The RCIT has published a number of booklets, statements, and articles on the Syrian Revolution that can be accessed on a special sub-section of this website: In particular we refer to:


RCIT: Save the Syrian Revolution! A call for international solidarity with the Syrian people in Idlib suffering from the barbarous onslaught by Assad and Putin! 04 June 2019,


Michael Pröbsting: Is the Syrian Revolution at its End? Is Third Camp Abstentionism Justified? An essay on the organs of popular power in the liberated area of Syria, on the character of the different sectors of the Syrian rebels, and on the failure of those leftists who deserted the Syrian Revolution, 5 April 2017,


Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings, February 2018, Chapter V,


Michael Pröbsting: Syria and Great Power Rivalry: The Failure of the „Left“. The bleeding Syrian Revolution and the recent Escalation of Inter-Imperialist Rivalry between the US and Russia – A Marxist Critique of Social Democracy, Stalinism and Centrism, 21 April 2018,




[1] See on this e.g. Alex Torrell: Syrian War Daily, 21st of August 2019,; Syria regime forces take full control of Khan Sheikhoun, 22 August, 2019; Suleiman Al-Khalidi: Tens of thousands flee Russian-led onslaught on opposition enclave, August 21, 2019; Syrian rebel militants regroup in southern Khan Sheikhoun as regime troops advance on key town, 20 August, 2019; Scott Lucas: Syria Daily: Anti-Assad Forces Retreat in Northwest After Turkey’s Intervention Blocked by Russia, Aug 20, 2019 |

[2] See on this e.g. RCIT: Out on the Streets to Protest against the Chemical Weapons Massacre by the Assad Regime! 5 April 2017,; Johannes Moraga: Syria: Was the Chemical Attack a “False Flag” Operation? Let’s make Syria the graveyard for Assad, Putin and Trump! Victory to the Revolution! 14 April 2017,; see also: RCIT: Syria: Another Chemical Attack Massacre by the Assad Regime! Support the Syrian Revolution! No to the Astana Conspiracy of the Putin-Rouhani-Erdoğan Alliance! No to U.S., French or Israeli Attacks! 09.04.2018,

[3] See on this e.g. RCIT: Syria: Defend Idlib against Assad and Putin! International Solidarity with the Liberation Struggle of the Syrian People! 08 May 2019,; RCIT: Save the Syrian Revolution! A call for international solidarity with the Syrian people in Idlib suffering from the barbarous onslaught by Assad and Putin! 04 June 2019,; Michael Pröbsting: Syria: Heroic Rebel Fighters Wage Bold Counter-Attack. 22.05.2019,

[4] Syrian rebel militants regroup in southern Khan Sheikhoun as regime troops advance on key town, 20 August, 2019

[5] On Russian imperialism and the Great Power rivalry in general see Michael Pröbsting: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, January 2019,

[7] Zeina Karam: As warm welcome chills, Turkey clamps down on Syrians, 2019-08-21

[8] See Tom Perry: Syrian rebels shoot down government warplane in northwest, August 14, 2019 /; Rebels down regime plane, detain pilot in northwestern Syria. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham downed a Syrian government plane and captured its pilot, in the first such incident in months, 14 August, 2019

[9] On the RCIT’s assessment of the Astana deal see e.g.: Syria/Idlib: For a Broad Rejectionist United Front against the Sochi Surrender Deal! 04.10.2018,; Syria/Idlib: Down with the Sochi Surrender Deal! Brothers and Sisters in Idlib: Reject the Deal between Putin and Erdoğan! Do not Hand over Weapons! Turkey’s Army is not your Ally! Continue the Struggle against the Regime and Russia! 18.09.2018 (6.30 UTC Time),; Syria/Idlib: News Confirm that the Sochi Deal Means Surrender! An additional Analysis: What are the Assadist and Russian Plans behind the Sochi Deal? What has been the Reaction until now of the Rebel Leaders to the Sochi Deal? 18.09.2018 (19.30 UTC Time),; Michael Pröbsting: Syrian Revolution: The Moment of Truth is Approaching! Rally to defend the Syrian Revolution against the Imperialist conspiracy called the "Astana Deal"! 20.09.2017,; RCIT: Syria: Defend Idlib against the Great Powers! Down with the reactionary Astana Deal! Defend the Revolution against the butcher Assad, against Russian and US Imperialism and the local Allies! Victory to the Struggle of the Workers and Oppressed! 04.08.2017,; Michael Pröbsting: Syria: The Astana-Deal Struggle Intensifies. Some Notes on Recent Developments in the Syrian Civil War and the Dangers for the Liberation Struggle, 28 July 2017,; RCIT: Syria: Condemn the Reactionary Astana Deal! The so-called "De-Escalation Zones" are a First Step towards the Partition of Syria and a Conspiracy by the Great Powers to Defeat the Revolution, 7 May 2017,

[10] See on this e.g. Michael Pröbsting: Stalinism: Assad’s Best Friends Forever, 3 July 2019,