by Mohja Kahf, Fellowship of Reconciliation
No matter what your position on the potential US strikes on Syria (I'm against), all I ask is, DON'T be a hater who denies the existence of the grassroots youth who began the Syrian revolution out of hope for real freedom and out of their rising expectation for real change, hope that had nearly died in the fifty-year police state that has ruled Syria. Try to remember to have some compassion for a Syrian who might be in the vicinity, before you mouth off in the abstract on the issue; we face news every day of our friends and our relatives being killed and imprisoned. Take time to get to know about a few of them, the Syrian rev youth activists who started it all, in hundreds of towns across Syria, before you speak about Syria based on what happened in Iraq or Lebanon or Country X.
In SYRIA, this is a REVOLUTION (and yes I understand it meets the technical definition of a civil war, yes it does, AND, yet, still: This is a Revolution). In SYRIA, a Revolution has been happening, and the will to freedom that began it will not simply be erased; it is a bell that cannot be unrung in the hearts of young Syrians. It is a consciousness change. That is why Syria is not now and will not become, despite all the [chaos] that has ensued inside the revolution, "like Iraq" (and by the way, I marched in the United States against the Iraq War, and over the years have written and published pages of poems based on the unimaginable sufferings narrated to me by Iraqis).
In SYRIA, a broad spectrum of twenty-somethings across every province were inspired by Bouazizi's self-immolation, by 26-year-old Asma Mahfouz' call to Tahrir, by the movement for Khaled Said, a young activist murdered by Egyptian police in 2010, NOT by some US president's call for regime change as in Iraq. By the will to "live like human beings," as one after another has told me when I have met them and asked for their stories. ASK for their stories, please. They will TELL you what motivated them to risk their lives as they did. Syria's revolution youth hit the streets out of grievances they have EXPERIENCED, in their own bodies, in their own lives; this revolution was not begun by some Syrian version of Iraq's Chelebi, nor by established oppositionists, but by geographically widespread rural and small-town women and men of ALL sects, young people whom the CIA never even heard of, coming together in a new spirit. They are nobody's proxies, no matter how much outside agendas want to make them somebody's proxies.
And please, do not create a callous denial narrative that erases the masses of mainstream Syrians in this revolution, as if they don't count, in favor of the Salafist extremists who are trying to take it over from its fringes as, thousands of miles away, you run screaming "Taliban! Al Qaeda!" wringing your hands but not knowing in the slightest the measure of their (nasty) influence. Do not abandon those revolution youth—whether they are still in the civil resistance or have joined the secular, mainline armed resistance—who are now themselves beset by the Salafists even while still fending off the brutal regime. For example, I just Facebook-chatted with a friend inside, one of the original protesters, who refuses to flee Syria, and incidentally he is Alawite, who has received death threats by name from the regime, and from the Nusra front on the other hand.
Above all, do not become so ethically ugly as to deny the massacres the regime has committed against civilians, or become a dictator-defender. Bashar is a Butcher; let's establish that as a common fact between us, no matter your other views. I have spoken out against atrocities committed by the rebel sides; they ARE heinous, AND they in no way come close to the horrors committed by the regime, which vastly outguns all the rebel sides. So the "symmetry" thing, where you say "oh, they’re all about as bad as each other" is ethically reprehensible. If you don't have time to educate yourself, at least refrain from that moral repulsiveness, please. Do not commit the inhumanity at this time of getting on a devastated Syrian's last nerve, by denying our bloodied dead, or our desperate need for justice.
Here are some links for further reading:
- The Syrian Revolution, Then and Now (PDF download)
- International Crisis Group's analysis of the potential US strikes
- The Syrian Nonviolence Movement (English and Arabic pages)
- Kamishlo House (secular, nonsectarian, democracy activism)
Please write for the release of nonviolent Syrian prisoners of conscience HELD OVER A YEAR, many over two years, by cutting and pasting the text under each picture in this album, on a Revolution page that ALSO reports prisoners held by extremist groups on the rebel side.
This story and photo first appeared Sept. 5 on the website of the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Photo of unarmed protesters in Damascus by Rukn Eldeen, November 2012.
Born in Damascus in 1967, Mohja Kahf came to the United States with her parents in 1971. She is the author of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf (Perseus, 2006) and E-mails from Scheherazad (University Press of Florida, 2003). She teaches Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic literature as associate professor at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Her video on the Syrian freedom movement can be seen on YouTube. She tweets for the Syrian revolution @profkahf.
From our Daily Report:
Amnesty to Egypt: drop charges against blogger (on Asmaa Mahfouz)
World War 4 Report, Aug. 17, 2011
Tunisia: court drops charges in case that triggered regional protests
(on Mohamed Bouaziz self-immolation)
World War 4 Report, April 20, 2011
How Sections of the Left Came to Abandon Syria
by Martin Pravda, International Socialist Network, UK
World War 4 Report, August 2013
Reprinted by World War 4 Report, Sept. 6, 2013