Delights of the Syria Revolution: Magazines, Films, Writings and Images Scented with Freedom

Rayan Majed

17 August 2012

Syrian Bear – Yumal [Bored] – Song about Syria translated into English

Syrians have managed to become proficient in many fields, all while facing systematic murder for nearly 17 months.  Syrian talent blossomed with the outbreak of the revolution, says Syrian activist Maher Isber who arrived in Beirut last September [2011], bringing to light their creative energies, cultural richness, courage and satirical spirit.

Women from Daraya

Under mortar shelling, Daraya’s girls and women meet up to cook and distribute food to the members of the “Free Syrian Army” and displaced victims who fled to Daraya from Homs and other affected Syrian areas, according to Farah (pseudonym), an activist from Daraya. Farah tells, through a Skype call, how the women work together, planning activities, suggesting ideas and making toys for the children, all while singing revolutionary songs filled with laughter, defying oppression and death.  On August 14th the women fashioned a tree incorporating the names of those imprisoned in the Syrian regime’s dungeons, and placed it where an olive tree, which the regime’s tanks uprooted, had stood.

Relieving the Displaced

Hundreds of Syria’s young men and women from all ethnicities and sects volunteered to provide aid to those affected and displaced inside Syria, knowing that their relief efforts are faced with sabotage, beginning with intimidation and ending with arrest, according to the “Syrian League for Citizenship” Facebook page. The association saluted those who work silently to relief their brethren, away from the spotlight, proving with their sweat and life the merit of their citizenship and humanity.


Documentary, Media and Artistic Works

Many Syrian activist are also keenly documenting the regime’s crimes, making the documentation of Death in Syria a career, as stated in a text written by Syrian human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh entitled “Experts of Death Documentation Like Us Do not Cry“. The Center for Abuse Documentation works on documenting human right abuses, the names of the martyrs who now total 20,184, and those in prison who number 27,938, in line with international standards as stated on their website.

Several sarcastic songs have also emerged since the outbreak of the revolution, as well as many films screened on TV channels and YouTube. “Over 200 films have been produced, shot and directed by first time filmmakers between the ages of 20 and 21, working in documentary film production for the first time” said Isber.


4 Minutes for Salamyeh

Appearing lately in every Syrian city are activists specialized in photography, snapping pictures that artistically document the destruction, the human tragedy and the will to survive. “There is: Lens of a Young Homsi, Halabi, Shami and Derani, as well as several others taking incredible images and competing amongst one another. These images have replaced the video footage utilized at the beginning of the revolution to document the killing and destruction” according to Maher Isber.

“There are also groups active in the field of journalism, publishing dozens of newspapers since the beginning of the revolution,” according to Isber. Of these, “Eneb Biladi” [Grapes of my Country] is one that is published by the young men and women of Daraya on a weekly basis, of which 28 issues have been printed. A Syrian activist from Daraya says that the magazine is distributed to homes, shops, cars and pedestrians during the demonstrations. Another example is “Talea’ana Ala al-Hurrieh” [Out to Freedom] which is a bimonthly totalling 12 issues so far, dealing with issues of the revolution and is published by the local coordination committees in Syria. The publication is printed and distributed within the Syrian cities and villages, as well as the Diaspora, according to its Facebook page. Finally, the first issue of the magazine “Graffiti” has been recently issued, which is a  monthly revolutionary magazine published in the city of Mesiaf, as well as the first issue of “Basmat Halab” [Aleppo’s Imprint].

Several other accomplishment also exist, including the establishment of the Union of Syrian Authors, the coordination of activities, and the making of satirical critical banners and caricatures to be used in demonstrations and circulated on social networking web pages.

Where were all these creative energies and talents hiding? How have Syrians managed to produce all these works of art and journalism and to undertake all these relief efforts and activities under the shadows of death and displacement, shelling and torture?

Maher Isber comments that the revolution has opened the way for young men and women to express themselves and circulated an air of freedom that was missing before, which has helped launch pent-up talents. Yet this creativity is not fortuitous, but is instead the result of the accumulation of numerous experiments and a youth movement that had begun in the year 2000. “Before the revolution activists would wait for the opportune moment to breach the wall of oppression.” Isber continues saying that the Internet and TV Channels at that stage played a key role in mobilizing the youth specifically, as they now owned a comparison mechanism which enabled them to discover their meager conditions, after they had been held captive to two local TV channels peddling the image of a single leader and a single enemy.


Youth Rebellion and Civil Movements since 2000

The movement titled “Damascus Spring” which had taken place in the year 2000 was not restricted only to the capital, but also extended to reach several Syrian cities according to the Syrian activist. The political activity taking place then was masked under a cultural banner:

“Intellectuals, dissidents and the youth were constantly searching for a framework for convergence. Therefore, Poetry Forums in several cities, as well as civil societies such as “al-Anayah belShagarah” [Tree Care], Cafes such as “Raoda”, film clubs and many others constituted suitable places to gather, debate and express.” Also in the same year several young musical groups were established, which would hold concerts and sing in public squares. The regime would at that point sometimes resort to suppressing certain activities or to ‘contain’ them. According to Maher Isber “At that point a musical group named ‘Mataljieh’ [Metallic] was founded by a group of young men and women. They were resolved, through their music and appearance, to break the silence and declare their rebellion. The intelligence services were constantly arresting them and shaving their heads, while some dissidents committed to more ‘serious’ forms of struggle would criticize them and accuse them of diluting the cause through their fads. All of the group’s members are today active in the revolution.”

Ibser continues, talking about “Abou Naddara” whose films became famous during the revolution, but who had also been active during the early 2000’s, and tried, through his film “al-Jedar” [The Wall], where he filmed a concert in one of Damascus’s squares, as a front to shed light on the issue of homeless children, which had become very prevalent at that point in the city.

Isber also talks about the multitude of political activity online through the website “al-Akhoiyeh” [The Brethren] which constituted an outlet for young men and women, and was a place full of debates concerning all subjects (corruption, religion, politics) even crossing red lines, especially between the years 2003-2004. “The regime had at that time not yet developed tools to detect such websites, or did not yet know how to handle them.”

Also organized between 2004 and 2005 were protests on the anniversary of the establishment of the Emergency Law, Isber mentions the protest which took place at Aleppo University, in which the doctor and activist Mohammed Arab was arrested. He was later arrested again on the second of November 2011, and has been on hunger strike for the past 30 days. Also worth mentioning is a protest that took place at Muhafazeh square in Damascus on the same date.

Maher Isber was arrested in 2006 due to his political activism, and was released by way of the amnesty law which was issued three months after the beginning of the Syrian revolution.

Isber believes that the Syrians who rebelled against their reality, as well as the creativity we are witnessing today will only double after the toppling of the regime. “No one [dictator/autocrat] will rule  this people ever again.” He adds saying that the Syrian civil society which had previously described those rebelling against the regime as ‘madmen’ is the one who is rebelling today. When Abu Ahmed, a Syrian vegetable vendor who has been married for a year and has a two month  old baby, was asked why he participates in the demonstrations, exposing himself to the risk of death, he answered saying that he does not want his son Ahmed to become a “Talaeh” [vanguard], which is the compulsory child branch of the “Socialist Baath Party.”

Original Article in Arabic was published in NOW Lebanon

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