Posts Tagged ‘syria’

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.

Read more.


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


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.

 


Prix Ars Electronica – Digital Communities. The winners are…

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The winners of the Prix Ars Electronica 2012 have been announced  :  ) You can see the full list of Golden Nicas, Awards of Distinction and Honorary Mentions here. On the Digital Communities category, which focuses on the social and artistic impact of the Internet technology, the winners are:

Golden Nica to…

  • Syrian people know their way, a digital community of young Syrian digital artists, designers and activists that aim to both gather and provide inspiration for the Syrian struggle for freedom.

Awards of Distinction:

  • Dark Glasses.Portrait, a Chinese campaign focusing on the arrest of blind civil rights activist Cheng Guancheng that aims to raise awareness about  freedom of expression in the country.

When the organizers of the Ars Electronica festival contacted me to ask if I would like to be a jury member for the Prix Ars Electronica, I couldn´t imagine it would turn out to be such an enriching experience. I had already participated on a panel called “Public Square Squared: how social fabric is weaving a new era” at the AEC festival a few months earlier, but it was my first time as a jury member. I joined organizers Ingrid Fisher, Romana Leopoldsecer and fellow jury members Thomas Schildhauer, Wolfgang Blau, Yan Liu and Peter Kuthan, in the beautiful city of Linz for discussions on the projects that had applied in the Digital Communities category. We spent four days going through more than one hundred projects, most of them inspiring, some of them outstanding. Deciding the winners was hard, since all of the projects were in one way or another valuable contributions to their communities.

Photos of people who joined the "Dark glasses" campaign in solidarity with blind lawyer Cheng Guancheng, arrested by the Chinese government

During the four days of readings and discussions we took into consideration the impact of the award in the sustainability and scalability of the projects. We also regarded mobile accessibility of the tools and platforms within the growing trend of mobile users worldwide. We looked for innovation, both artistic and technological, and we analyzed each of the projects in relation to their social, political and economic context, since creativity and innovation face more challenges in highly repressive or underdeveloped contexts. Special consideration was given to open source projects and to bottom-up projects emerging from grassroots initiatives and responding to existing local needs.

Image of the touch screen based camera control interface Elphelvision, by Apertus Open Source Cinema

It was not easy, but by noon April 22 we had decided the winners. All of the awards recognized the value of freedom in the projects, one of them through an open source hardware/software initiative that is also a platform for film-makers, creative industry professionals, artists and enthusiasts supporting each other and advocating freedom: Apertus Open Source Cinema. The other awards were given to projects that represent the power of community and the citizen struggle for freedom of expression: The “Dark Glasses Portrait” from China and “The Syrian people know their way” from Syria.

The winners of the Golden Nica do not want the jury members to share their names or identities. “The Syrian people know their way” community has contributors who live in Syria and also Syrians living abroad. One of their digital artists was recently arrested in Damascus for his activism and there are no news on his whereabouts. In words of one his friends:

“He never got the chance to know that we won. He never got a chance to know that his designs are looked at from all over the world while he sits down there in the dark”

This award recognizes the work, courage and creativity of Syrian activists in their struggle for freedom, and is also a symbolic recognition of citizen creativity  in repressive contexts such as the Middle East and North Africa.

Congratulations to the winners and to the 12 projects that received honorary mentions:

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This post is dedicated to the Syrian people. To all those killed, arrested, tortured and harrassed for demanding freedom, justice and dignity. And very especially to Razan Ghazzawi and the staff of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. Join the Free the Freedom of Expression campaign on facebook to demand their release and that of all political prisoners.


Call Homs, Syria (and wish them a Happy Eid)

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This week Muslims celebrate the festivity of Eid Al-Adha, that commemorates Abraham´s sacrifice. In this year of revolutions, uprisings and changes, this festivity means even more for Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa. People in Syria, after months of unbearable loss due to the regime´s brutality, do not have much to celebrate. The town of Homs, where the uprisings began, has seen peaceful demonstrators killed every day since mobilizations began, and they continue to struggle against opression while they bury their beloved ones.  These days are a great occasion to show them support and solidarity, and we can do that through an awesome campaign organized by a group of Syrian expatriates who encourage people to do this:

1. Dial 0096331, then dial 7 random numbers

2. Say “Happy Eid”, or “Eid Said”, or “Eid Mubarak” + the country where you are calling from

3. If you know Arabic you can definitely say how you feel about Homs and share your best wishes for the town and for Syria. Please don´t mention anything political or that can be used against them.

The campaign is already huge and lines are collapsed sometimes, but I just managed to reach a Homsi home, and a sweet lady answered. I told her I was very proud of Homs and wished them the best. She kept saying “Shukran shukran shukran”.

Here´s an audio of a Saudi man who did the same thing. It´s very touching to hear, and for those who don´t understand Arabic, here´s the translation:

Salam Aleikom/ Aleikum Es-salam / Who´s talking? / This is Mohammad AlMudhem, from Saudi Arabia / Oh, son, you got the wrong number, / Yes, I know, sister. I´m calling you randomly,  to tell you just one thing. /Tell me, dear/ We stand with you in solidarity, with all our hearts /God bless you, my son/Listening to you makes me very happy, sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to wish you Happy Eid / God bless you, my son! / Best wishes and I hope you stay safe / Who´s talking again? / This is Mohammad Almudhem / God bless you, best wishes and longest life to you/ But tell me about you, is your family ok? / Yes, we are, thanks so much, God bless you, God bless you!

Follow the event on Facebook and the #CallHoms hashtag on Twitter.


Activism in Syria: the Internet and decentralized communications for social change

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Last week I had the opportunity to take part in a conference with a very challenging title: Social Media Heroes”. It was organized by Fundación Telefónica and Aerco, which did an amazing job, providing us with live streaming and simultaneous deaf-mute translation.  I admit that I was hesitant about the title in the beginning, but then I realized that I was going to have a unique chance to present a large audience with some very real heroes:  the Syrian activists who are risking their lives on a daily basis to make a difference in their country, to bring freedom and justice to a context of institutionalized unjustice and repression.

 

Syrians are doing an outstanding  job trough their use of technology and the Internet to register and share what is happening in one of the most closed and repressive countries in the world. They´re not only working on making change happen but they are also narrating and sharing their own history. In my presentation,  “Activism in Syria: the Internet and decentralized communications for social change” I went through some of the threats activists face, how they protect themselves and the continuing battle between freedom and repression online and offline. Please let me know what you think!