Where are Syria’s non-violent revolutionaries today?

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Protesters hold as capes the pre-Baath Syrian flag, now used by the opposition, during a rally outside Downing Street in London on March 15, 2014, to mark the third anniversary since the start of the Syrian conflict.(Photo: AFP-Andrew Cowie)

By: Ahmad Hassan

Published Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Since the outbreak of protests in Syria, many Syrian youths have abandoned their previous affiliations. The Revolutionary Youth Union, the Ba’ath Party’s youth wing, was pretty much the only game in town for young people looking for a breathing space. Some of its members, however, left it to join the weekly protests that were quickly extinguished.

Damascus: Here, in al-Midan neighborhood in Damascus, seven young men who were active in the protests and later on in the Local Coordination Committees are getting ready for an evening party. Local arak, an anis-flavored alcoholic drink, Syrian-made cigarettes, and dim lights are the rituals of a cool party, in addition to a pervasive sense of defeatism that hovers over their conversations.

College student Mustafa starts swearing and cursing the Syrian regime, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front because “they appropriated the most amazing revolution in history, a revolution sketched by protesters and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) with one hand.”

Radi, a realist as his friends describe him, replies: “Yeah... but the number of thieves in the FSA is not to be underestimated either.” The two men scuffle and one of them ends up crying. They all decide to leave the house “because we are loud and there are shabiha (pro-regime militias) among the neighbors.”

This is one of the points of contention among the early protesters who took to the streets to demand freedom before they grew weary of the validity of bearing arms, the suitability of “toppling the regime” as a slogan, and the impact of going along with the chant, “God is great” and other factional slogans.

Hassan, a young man in his 20s, says it was a mistake for him to carry arms but “it was the only option for the residents of al-Tadamon neighborhood. Talking about peaceful protests at the time was empty chatter.” Asked about his support for reconciliation now, the disillusioned revolutionary says: “There is no way out except through compromise. The Arabs and the foreigners duped us and supported only their brigades led by the peddlers of religion.” He concludes sarcastically: “By the way, I was an active member of the Ba’ath Party.”

With the militarization of the revolution, many protesters refused to bear arms. Some preferred to leave the country in order to escape the new reality where the non-violent protest movement was in decline. Ribal, who is in Jordan, now says: “I left because I couldn’t bear the situation of the revolutionary youth after the protests subsided. Life became a waiting game for a victory that is never going to come. Travelling was the only means of escape from this dark reality.”

Those whose circumstances did not allow them to leave, are living today the worst days of their lives. Some of them have persisted in their activism in non-governmental civil society organizations, whose numbers have increased during the events in Syria, or in the Coordinating Committees on social networking sites.

Salma, who was active in the organization Tajamou’ Shams, lays all the blame on the regime: “If the regime dealt with the protesters in a different way, we would not have come to this.” She adds in her conversation with Al-Akhbar: “We were a group of patriotic men and women participating in the protests and spreading the values of national unity. After the revolution became militarized, we had no role to play. The fighting destroyed the civil movement.”

Riham says: “Originally, I participated in one of the associations that helps refugees living in schools. I was teaching the children English. Now I am focused on children’s psychological well-being. I work with another group on activities especially for the children.” When asked who funds these associations, she replies: “I don’t care where the funding comes from. What’s important to me is that these activities relieve my conscience. At least I don’t stay home feeling useless.”

Away from excessive pessimism and optimism, Anas explains his view of what happened: “The peaceful protests faced the brutality of the security forces on one hand and were hemmed in by the militarization of the revolution on the other hand. Whoever feels pessimistic or too optimistic does not understand the current political conditions, that’s why he feels a sense of defeatism and drowns in absurdity.”

Anas’s friend Jawad chimes in: “Working to unify patriotic Syrians who reject foreign intervention and the current social and economic reality - and there is a lot of them irrespective of their current affiliations - will make the future of Syria and its people a bright one.”

Coordination Committees lose their momentum

The Coordinating Committees were one of the most important tools that the opposition relied on in their activism. Their role was not restricted to broadcasting the latest news. According to the admin of al-Qaboun Coordinating Committee Facebook page, the Coordinating Committees were “primarily a means for organizing. That is how we were often able to communicate with the opposition youth in the neighborhood and agree on the details of the protests.”

About the declining role of the Coordinating Committees today and the fact that many of them stopped working altogether, a young man who declined to be named says: “The reason is not that the admins of the pages slowed down or slacked off, but people didn’t interact with the committees. If we were to draw a chart of the rate of people’s interactions with the committees, we would notice a steady decline since the protests stopped.”

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

For the information of the so called "YOUTHS" you were the useful idiots that the zionised imperialist mafia USED and like a used condom you were discarded!

so stop ranting and take a good look at what YOU HAVE DONE TO OUR SURIYA - you damned jerks

US zionised bastard gave the monies and you just lapped it up like morons

I was at the protest to keep Suriya UNDAMAGED and with SURIYANS the 140,000+ that you dumb jerks killed
damn you

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