Syria’s Youth

Michel Kilo

Originally published on 23rd May 2012

Nowadays, Syria’s youth are facing unparalleled circumstances of a tragic and dangerous nature. Situations that were rarely encountered by the youth of any other country, be it Arab or foreign. It is enough to be a Syrian youth today to be a suspect, and in turn be chased or wanted, targeted for arrest and torture till death, or be shot at. What is interesting though, is that the party that is opposing these youth, just because they are the youth, subjecting them to ruthless suppression, is a regime that has long been boasting the youth of it’s President, that he would turn a new page in the history of the nation of Syria and its people, and that he would renew both society and state, all with his youthful mentality.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that Syria’s youth- who the regime used to claim are the pillars of hope and aspiration, and heaped praise at them in its speeches and slogans- are being subjected to an organized war that utilizes light, medium and heavy weaponry which has claimed tens of thousands of their lives until now. The regime has also locked away their finest in dungeons, prisons, sports stadiums, hospitals, warehouses, camps, and rented or appropriated homes. Meanwhile the number of the youth wounded have exceeded that of the collective Arab armies in their wars with Israel. As for the unaccounted for, or missing youth, their numbers have exceeded 70,000, and the number of those being chased by the security forces from one place to the other have exceeded 50,000. In that context, you have to be very cautious if you happen to be young in Syrian today; you would be considered an actual or potential enemy of the regime, and would find yourself in a confrontation with powers waging war against you. It is, enough to be young to be considered a suspect or on the opposing side and become a target.

The tragedy is that Syrian society is a young society with 79% of its population under 34 years of age, and most of those youth have been without any public involvement or were marginalized prior to the uprising. They are either unemployed (accounting to 70% of the total number of unemployed), have immigrated, are expatriates abroad, or are low-wage workers performing manual unspecialized jobs. This dire situation in addition to their deprivation of their rights and freedoms explains their contribution to launching the uprising and converting it to a persistent Movement, taking up the responsibility of leading it, as well as their courage, bravery, and their willingness to provide the necessary sacrifices for it’s victory. Their revolution has taken them out of marginalization and humiliation, and placed them in the heart of one of the greatest events of the ancient and modern histories of the Arab world. Realizing what this event required they put their lives on the line. Lives that due to the revolution have become the center of politics in Syria; they’ve filled the public domain, set its new boundaries and introduced unfamiliar mechanisms of action to it. Hence, eliminating them (i.e. killing them and terminating their existence) has become the aim of a counter policy that came from the top; a policy that is based on the notion that the only way to take them out of the political stage is to take them out of life itself. It can even be said that over the past 15 months, Syria has been witnessing a battle waged against it’s youth, by a regime that is outdated, worn out and has become a thing of the past. Even though this youth has no sin other than seeking, with a civil spirit and legitimate demands, their place under the sun of freedom, which according to most of the youth I have met prior to the uprising, they have decided to achieve or die trying. One evening, in one of Damascus’s restaurants, I came across a group of university graduates and was able to share a conversation with them. When I asked them what they wanted, they admonishingly replied: “How did you withstand forty-odd years of humiliation, in which you were able to live in the absence of freedom? We the youth would either life free or die, and we would reject for as long as we live, the option that you [the elder generation] have chosen: which is accommodating the ruler and silence over injustice for the sake of personal safety and living a routine stable daily life”. I warned them: “But you’re not experienced in politics, and the burden is too heavy!” Their eldest, a doctor, then replied: “Politics be damned, we are undergoing a war of existence, not a political battle! And if it is to be, then we would learn politics, but not according to your [generation’s] or your parties’ methods”.

The Syrian youth have thrust themselves in a battle, and it would never have occurred to anyone prior to 15 March 2011, that they possess so much spirit of sacrifice which they have shown in this battle, and no one would have predicted their readiness to die for the sake of freedom which they have perceived as the way to attain justice, equality and dignity. Youth from all poles and dominations, and religious and ideological affiliations have fought with this simple agenda over the past period, without complicating matters and losing themselves in the mazes of talkology. They have raised the flag of freedom and ventured on to the fields of battle and martyrdom. They accomplished two miracles in the process, which no Syrian could have ever thought would materialize. The first is a social /popular revolution, unprecedented and unparalleled in Syria, past and present. The second is that, until now, they have managed to make it last, and prevent it from being crushed at the hands of forces vastly superior both in military and organizational terms. They knew how to stop the regime from overturning the balances of power on the ground that are in their (the youth’s) favor, and thus foiled the regimes attempts at extinguishing the uprising. The first miracle materialized due to the creation of ingenious and surprising forms of struggle that have amassed very large sectors of the people behind the goal of Freedom. While the second miracle materialized because the youth did not waiver their demand for freedom, justice and dignity, and did not waste their time with the opposition powers and parties talk about the alternative regime and it’s forms, modes, component forces, about mundane issues, whether the alternative it is going to be democratic-civic or civic-democrat, or civic and democratic, or democratic and civic, etc… The youth have ignored this debate, which would be of no value if the regime succeeded in subjugating the revolution, and reminded those whom are concerned, that the opposition’s task lies in fortifying the public struggle and preventing the turn of power balances against it, through developing agendas, operational plans, and timetables for the phases that the struggle will encounter, prior to the overthrowing or the current regime and the attainment of the alternative democratic regime.

The amazing youth are experiencing injustice from two sides: the first of which is the authority that is targeting them with physical repression and slaughter. While the second are those who work to steal their role and circumvent their goals and sacrifices through confiscation and marginalization on one hand and overbidding and exploits on another.

Yet, the youth’s revolution continues, and with it continues their ability to attract segments of the civil society and win them over for Freedom. What also continues is their determination to achieve victory and desire to get rid of tyranny, and to pave new roads for the revolution and thrust new forces in its peaceful battle. It could even be said, that Syria has never been closer to gaining it’s freedom than it is today, due to the river of blood spilt by the youth on the path to freedom, their patriotism and collective community spirit, and the unity of their will, their rise above sectarianism and other social diseases, as well as their perseverance on death and suffering with their heads held high en-route towards Free Syria!

The youth have regained the spirit for their homeland; a homeland that has to place it’s potential resources in their hands, given that they have sacrificed all that is invaluable and precious seeking it’s freedom, and thus in the process proved worthy of it. They proved that by them and with them their country would be better than it was in any day of its ancient and modern history!

Congratulations to Syria, for it’s youth, who place it above all other considerations and calculations!

Michel Kilo is a prominent Syrian opposition figure.


Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper

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