Archive for the ‘Syria’ Category

SyriaUntold and Open Democracy: Looking inside the Uprising

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At SyriaUntold we have started a collaboration with OpenDemocracy, which has given birth to a new section entitled Looking Inside the Uprising. Through this collaboration, we aim to bring together a multiplicity of voices to reflect on multiple cultural, social and political issues related to the Syrian movement after three years from its inception: the re-building of a collective memory; the creativity at the base of daily practices of resistance; the state and role of the media; the issue of sectarianism and its consequences, just to name a few main themes and discussions this initiative aims to promote.

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Syria Untold: the Syrian civic movement within its context

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These days everybody is talking a possible US strike on Syria. Politicians, media and public opinion are divided between the “yes-or-no to intervention” parties.

Yet, by doing so, we are framing Syria in the wrong way. We tend to treat Syria as a matter of foreign intervention, as a geopolitical game between super-powers. This way we forget that, more than two years ago, peaceful demonstrations started in Syria as a civil society movement led by Syrians, asking for reforms, freedom and dignity. Today, the civic movement that took to Syrians to the streets in 2011 remains viable, yet highly neglected by the geopolitical conversations and the focus on militarization that tend to ignore the grassroots movement on the ground.

 

 

Syria Untold is a project which Syrian journalists, activists and designers from inside and outside the country have been incubating for more than one year.

 

Our aim has been to frame information on Syria within its historical, political and social context, and to focus on Syrian civil society and the way it has been coping with the increasing violence and militarization of the conflict by producing actions of creative resistance, civil disobedience and self-management.

Given the present situation, it is more key than ever to take a close look at this civil society component which has been neglected by politicians and the media, therefore by the international public opinion shaped by the latter.

Syria Untold aims to provides an overlook of the current development in the Syrian civic movement and a comprehensive overview of its evolution, offering a comprehensive archive of material and an overview of the creators and groups working in the field. We aim to make non-violent, civil society building more visible and to frame it within a very complex picture.

Syria Untold brings you independent voices, stories from the ground, personal accounts of daily resistance. We focus on everything about Syrian civil society whose crucial importance has been lost in the polarization created by the “yes” or “no” debates, and we highlight the importance of grassroots projects and civil disobedience against all forms of extremism and violence.

Our  site combines content aggregation from social media and information collected and shared by grassroots activists with original content produced by our team on the ground in Syria, both in English and in Arabic.

We do  hope that you will find our project useful; yet, as it is a work-in-progress we would be happy to get your feedback and suggestions about how it could be improved along the way. We want to welcome journalists, human rights organizations and any groups and individuals interested in Syria to use our contents and materials. Everything we publish is licensed under a Creative Commons license that allows for its use and re-distribution as long as the authors and sources are properly quoted.

Please help us share Syria Untold`s stories with the world; help us bring Syrian civil society back at the centre of the international debate on Syria.

With our best wishes

 

The Syria Untold team

Our website: http://syriauntold.com/en

Twitter: @SyriaUntold

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/syria.untold

 


When I go back to Syria

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After an inspiring conversation with some activists from the town of Kafranbel today, I decided that as soon as I can go back to Syria I will visit this town and meet its amazing people, who have become a symbol of resistance against tyranny with their creativity and weekly banners.

So I decided to post this message on twitter:

Writing this made me think about all the other things I want to do once I can finally go back to Syria. I actually visualized how it will be, and it felt great after two years of loss, grief and nostalgia. So I decided to ask a few friends to answer that same question: What will you do when you go back to Syria? And this is how the #whenIgobacktoSyria hashtag started.

Two hours later there were hundreds of messages by Syrians living abroad and people who had visited Syria and wished to go back. These are two of my favorite (Syrian humor  : ))

Yes, Syrians put ketchup on pizza, sorry but it´s true! Many of the tweets refer to food (Syrians crave their hommos and shawarma and kusa mehshi), the smell of jasmin, the sound of the Adan (call to prayer) and the streets of Damascus, Homs, Aleppo…

Other tweets honor the martyrs and thank those fighting for freedom:

Others refer to the work Syrian expatriates will do in re-building Syria after the regime is overthrown:

And then, Salim Idriss, Chief of the Free Syrian Army, tweeted:

Not only Syrians are longing to go back. Journalist Daniel Neep tweeted:

I´m inspired by all the comments, memories and ideas. Let´s keep working to make this happen. Thanks!! And Free Syria.

 


Syria and citizen solidarity: International Conference on Non-Violence, Tunis

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Egyptian demonstrators hold a banner reading "From Tahrir to Sol, democracy for all"

My contribution to the International Conference on Non-Violence.

Tunisia, 1-3 November 2012:

Reactions to the Arab Spring and the way strategic powers have tried to profit from changes in the region do not leave much room for trust in governmental support. When we mobilize as citizens, whether it is in Egypt, Syria, Spain or the US, we are questioning the roots of power systems and structures, so it is not very realistic to expect we can go to those same systems and structures for support and solidarity.

Citizen solidarity

We should expect to count on citizen support and solidarity. We have shared this solidarity in a very exciting way, since mobilizations that started in Tunisia spread to other MENA countries and then, with different connotations, to Europe, the US, and the rest of the world. All these movements shared the same hunger for change, for new forms of representation, for a re-definition of the concept “citizenship”.

The differences between demonstrating in a democratic country such as Spain and in openly repressive countries such as Syria or Iran are obvious, and we can all see the repercusions in real-life time. We do share, however, a need for change, a will for change led by young people who do not feel represented by old systems and structures. This can be seen through the new narrative citizens are creating using new media within a context of growing distrust of traditional media.

Threats

Even though the common ground is clear and citizen solidarity has helped ignite change throughout the region and the rest of the world, over the last months we have witnessed attempts  (media, political) to divide us, to highlight what separates us instead of our bonds and shared values. Some of these attempts to divide us have succeeded.

Syrian activists have seen with great sadness and disappointment how our legitimate reivindications of freedom and justice have been undermined by geostrategic analysis that disregard the repression we have been facing for decades. We have been shocked to discover a so-called “anti-imperialist” discourse that distinguishes between people who have the right to rise against oppression and those who don´t.

Syria has gone from being an information black hole to becoming number one Youtube-video producer in the region. By recording and sharing with the world the events that they are witnessing, Syrians are risking their lives to send an SOS message that no one seems to be listening to, including the ones who have stood against oppression in other cases of human rights abuses. They say the Syrian revolution has gotten contaminated by international interests. Is this our fault? Do Syrians have to deal not only with being bombed, tortured, arrested, displaced,  humiliated? Do we also have to be held responsible for attempts by others to profit from our suffering?

Since March 2011 Syrians have been teaching the world a lesson of non-violence. Even though this movement was faced with crackdown by the government and there is now an armed rebellion that emerged months after the beginning of the revolution, non-violence movements and initiatives continue to exist in Syria, facing unprecedented brutality. There are countless examples, the “Stop the killing” movement is just one of them:

Syrian activist Rima Dali holding a "Stop the killing" banner in Damascus

The non-violence movement will continue to lose ground as mainstream media and political agendas focus on geostrategic and military aspects and undermine many Syrian voices on the ground. Syrian voices, MENA citizens´voices, citizen voices all over the world are now easier to reach than they ever were, and yet many continue to look for intermediaries and geostrategic analysis that disregard the Syrian context and dynamics.

Conclusions

1. Let´s listen to citizen voices. To different, diverse citizen voices. Especially to young citizens who are leading movements and changes that the older generations did not see possible. Here are just a few examples of sites and platforms I follow, but there are countless others:

Image from the group of art designers "Syrian people know their way"

2. Let´s silence governments who silence citizens. Governments who kill, torture and silence journalists are not reliable. Let´s not go to them for quotes and insights on how to solve the problems that they created.

3. Language is sensitive. Language contributes to configuring and (de)legitimizing our movements

  • Dictator                                   vs.                          president
  • Thugs / Mafia                        vs.                          police / authorities
  • Assad´s army                        vs.                          security forces
  • Neo-liberal                             vs.                          anti-imperialist
  • Human rights abuses          vs.                          sectarianism and hatred
  • Revolution                              vs.                          civil war

4. Let´s build our own networks

The Internet allows for bonds and interaction that were very difficult until very recently. Let´s use all the tools at our disposal to work together and join efforts. Coordination and citizen bonds have been crucial for revolutions to spread the way they did during 2011.

5. Let´s focus on the universal values our movements stand up for: freedom of expression, social justice, women´s rights, struggle against corruption, non-violence. Let´s not fall into geostrategic traps, let´s run away from the view of the world “in two blocks” (“imperalist” vs. “anti-imperialist”) which does not adjust to our complex and diverse realities. Human rights do not belong to any particular people, group or country, and those who abuse human rights do not either.


It´s my birthday

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It´s my birthday and I have the same birthday wish I´ve had all my life: A Free Syria.

Since it seems like this may take a while, I´ve come up with a smaller birthday wish: To collect money and send it to Syria at these extremely difficult times. To use my birthday to start my own fundraising for Syria.

I have friends in the country, people I trust they will make sure the money reaches whoever really needs it. I also have friends in the rest of the world who stand in solidarity with Syria and would love to help. So what can I do? I can mediate between you guys. Here´s how this works:

  •  Today I opened an account on Triodos Bank  (sustainable banking) so that you can make your donation easily. The only purpose of this account is this fundraising: This is the number:

Account: 1491 0001 25 2038245011

IBAN:  ES 211491 0001 25 2038245011

BIC: TRIOESMMXXX

Concept: Syria

  • On Monday, October 15, I´ll check the account and will transfer the money to different friends who live in Syria.  They will make sure this reaches people in their communities, people who are in real need in Aleppo, Hama, Homs, and the rest of the country. If you prefer to make your donation to my friends directly, you can contact me individually and I will give you my friends´ account numbers. However, since their situation is quite unstable and unpredictable I think it´s safer this way.
  • Once they receive the money I will write another post to keep you updated on where it goes.

How does this sound? So yalla, make your donation and make my day!

Love. – And Free Syria.

_________________________________________________________

If you have any problem with the account please email me at leila.nachawati@gmail.com


We have become like travellers

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Every time I feel pessimistic and overwhelmed by the suffering in Syria, I talk to friends and family who actually live there and I get the most amazing energy from them. They are stronger, braver, more generous, positive and optimistic than anyone I have ever met. Today someone I really love wrote something so beautiful that I have translated it for English readers. Enjoy:

We have become like travellers… with our suitcases always ready. We have learnt what are the things that we really need  and we have given the rest away.  Since we feel death coming from every corner we don´t keep extra food or money. We share it. We consume less. We waste less. We even walk more to avoid wasting oil, we´re becoming friends of nature. : )

Our relationship with each other has improved, we don´t worry about things we used to worry about before.

I offer my house to others and I may have to leave it any minute, so I keep it clean and neat.

I understand now why some people choose a life of travelling, because travelling makes you see your goals in life more clearly. It makes the world smaller in your eyes, and keeps you closer to God. We´ve learnt the hard way, it´s true, but we finally woke up to what we didn´t see before. We are suffering oppression and poverty, but we´re trying to change the world.

Wait for us, we are the Syrian people.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

أصبحنا كالمسافرين والرحالة
بما أن أشيائنا في الحقائب دوماً ….علمنا ماهو الضروري منها ووزعنا الباقي…
وبما أننا نشعر بالموت قادم من كل اتجاه …… لا نبقي فائض الطعام و النقود ….إلا و نتشارك بها…
استهلاكنا لكل شئ أقل …… نفاياتنا أقل
حتى أننا نمشي أكثر لنوفر البنزين …. اصبحنا أصدقاء للبيئة :)
علاقتنا مع بعضنا تحسنت …….. أمور الآخرة هي ما تهم الآن
حتى أن منزلي
أصبح أنظف ….

…. لأني قد أتركه لغيري وأغادر في أية لحظة
الآن فهمت لماذا اختار بعض الأشخاص حياة الترحال، فهي توضح هدفك في الحياة ، تصغر الدنيا في عينبك
و الأهم تقربك من الله
صحيح أننا تعلمنا بالطريقة الصعبة و لكن الله ايقظنا لأمور لم نكن نعيها من قبل ……
لكننا نحس الآن بالمظلوم والفقير
إن الله يدربنا و يصطفينا لتغيير العالم
انتظرونا نحن السوريون …..
قادمون

 


Tweet Week Syria: June 1-7

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Have you heard about Rotation Curation? It is the process of rotating the spokesperson on a social media account. It was originated in December 2011, when a project called Curators of Sweden was launched, handing the official Twitter account @Sweden to a new Swedish person every week. Each person managing the account contributed to manifesting Swedish diversity through their own voice and personality.

I loved this idea when I first heard about it and wished it would spread to different countries and contexts. Now this initiative has reached Syrians and is my turn to manage the collective account @TweetweekSyria. Starting on June 1st, Syrian curators will take turns in managing it, I will be responsible for that during the first week, June 1-7.

After more than a year since the beginning of the Syrian uprising, my personal Twitter account has become mainly devoted to news coming from Syria, where there hasn´t been a single day without a story of tragic death and a story of inspiring courage.

I lived in Damascus in the 80s. I have only returned for vacations since then, but I haven´t forgotten how I went to school dressed in the military uniform children used to wear until very recently. I haven´t forgotten the chants we repeated to honor the leader whom we were taught to view as immortal. I haven´t forgotten the silence and the whispering of adults when children where around. And I will not forget the first time I wrote about Syria, after years writing about everything else and carefully avoiding my father´s country. My country, too. I still have a hard time understanding where Syrians found the courage to break a wall of fear and silence that it took decades to build. My admiration for these people does not fit in a million tweets.

This week the @tweetweeksyria account will be tweeting in Arabic, English and Spanish, probably retweeting in some other (Romanic) languages. Please helps us spread the word about Syrian news so that we can keep attracting more people to the Syrian struggle, which is about freedom, justice and dignity, universal values that we should all defend together. I hope we will soon get to tweet these three words: “Syria is free”.

Meanwhile, here´s the first tweet I will be publishing from the tweetweeksyria account in a few hours:

We will never forget you, Bassel. #Syria #FreeSyria


(From the TweetWeekSyria blog)

Why Tweet Week Syria? #RotationCuration is a very democratic experience at its heart. There might be many reasons why such a program is important to Syrians and Syria in general, but the most important is that since Syrians are at the verge of drastic political and social change, we believe that offering a platform to which many people pay attention (Syrian and global citizens) and many Syrians can use to cast their voices and speak their ideas will hopefully be of tremendous value, through social media channels that are becoming mainstream.

If you’re Syrian and have anything that you’d like to say, or know of anyone who’s ideas you want to be heard, click on Nominate a Curator and submit a nominee.