In August I was asked to write an article about the Syria Revolution, a broad picture in a limited number of words.
I never really asked what happened with my article after I sent it to the editor. I forgot I had even written it. Then just now, I was looking through my laptop files and found it again. I’v decided I’m going to share it, despite the length and outdated figures (which I’ve corrected in certain places).
Holding a place in every single history book written about the ancient middle-east, today Syria has definitely secured itself entire chapters and columns in future history books about the ‘modern’ middle east – and you’d be absolutely crazy to question why.
Sometimes I wonder how history writes itself, or indeed how the future writes itself. How we got to where we are now after being one of the most ancient civilisations in the world, witnessing the rise and fall of empires – from the Greeks, to the Romans then to the Venetians- empires I’ve never heard of; Syria has witnessed them all, seen them rise then seen them perish. She’s seen them sparkle and fade. She’s seen the glamour and how they proceeded to ruins. She’s seen the X-rated and the PG. She’s had affairs here and there, a marriage, and a divorce.
And Syria was never home to just one people, she was home to the entire world. At unique points in history she cradled the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Assyrians, the Chaldeans, the Caananites, the Armenians, the Hattians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Nabateans, the Ghassanids, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Crusaders and the French. She was home to the prophets too, such as Sayyidna Yahya – John – who is buried inside the great Umayyad mosque in Damascus; whilst the Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to travel to Syria for trade when he was younger, and it was in Syria that his destiny as a prophet was first realised; and the place where it is mentioned that Sayyidna Isa – Jesus – will return from, is Damascus.
The legacy does not stop at the prophets, we have the companions too, where over 500 of them are buried in Homs alone, the most well known of them is Khalid ibn Al-Walid; the magnificent leader who’s mosque still stands tall despite everything that’s been happening around it. Then we have our great scholars, Imam Al-Nawawy whose 40 Hadiths book has a strong foothold in every household today, was from Nawa, which lies in modern-day Daraa. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, another great Islamic scholar and jurists who dedicated his life to understanding the Quran and prophetic traditions was also from Syria, Hauran. And the list goes on. Then we have the Ummayyads and the Ayyoubids, the Mamluks, Seljuks and the Ottomans – empires – vast empires, all of whom had control over Syria at one point, bringing to her a diversity of civilisations and embroidering into her drops of cultures here and there making her the multi-coloured sparkling jewel she is today. Or rather, the multi-coloured sparkling jewel she used to be..
For today the only colour on Syria’s map, is red.
Syria’s wounds have been sore for too long. Still fresh from the eighties where over 200,000 people were killed and over 17,000 imprisoned in a brutal crackdown by the regime. The regime tried covering the wounds time and time again with worn out plasters, but only succeeding in making them worse every time. The untold stories of the eighties left a mark in many households in Syria, my household being one of them. With an exiled mother and father who managed to outrun death at a price of never seeing their family again, for 32 years and still counting, the wounds have transferred from Syria, into my heart, every time I see the pain in my father’s eyes or the tears trickling down my mother’s cheek. The quiver in her voice as she bravely reassures my aunt in Aleppo that soon she’ll be reunited with her, not knowing whether she means in Syria or in the hereafter.
The tragic stories of the eighties were left untold by Syrians in fear that voicing them would lead to their fate. New generations were born, desperately trying to unlock the key on the older generations mouths, but alas. Meanwhile the vacuum left by the untold stories was filled up with lies by the regime, feeding the naive an altered version of the incidents and warning them to never speak of it again.
A Kingdom of Fear.
On February 4th 2011, an elderly man aged 74, named Ghassan Najjar, called for peaceful protests all over Syria demanding freedom and justice against the tyrannical Ba’athist regime. The night before the 4th of February Ghassan Najjar was abducted from his home, he was taken to the regime cells and was tortured. Anyone else who indicated any signs of wanting to protest were also taken, others were taken over mere suspicion. The protests never went ahead, and there was no sign of the elderly man for weeks to come.
Then on February 27th something spectacular happened. Young primary school children in the province of Daraa mimicked their counterparts in Egypt and Libya, and wrote graffiti on the wall – demanding the fall of the regime. The regime were informed. They stormed the school and took the children, arrested them and beat them up. When their parents demanded the release of their children, the officers told them “Forget you had these children, and go conceive other ones. If you’re not true men and cannot face your wives, bring your wives to us, we’ll know how to communicate with them.”
And the spark was lit.
Entire tribes in Daraa took to the streets demanding the release of their children, the downfall of the regime, and the sacking of the governor with no dignity who uttered those wordsto them. Their call was echoed in other provinces in Syria, as other cities too took to the streets demanding the same.
And thus the Syrian Revolution was born. The Kingdom of Fear was broken. Lit by a mixture of old and young blood, authentic Syrian tribes and modern bustling city people. Not differentiating between each other’s religions or nationalities, the revolution welcomed all people, as they strode side by side down the streets of Syria demanding dignity and freedom.
The Syrian regime’s answer to the people’s calls of freedom and dignity was nothing but expected. Brutal crackdowns, bullets. Bullets that didn’t spare my cousin his life, killed with 5 bullets in his chest as he dragged his nephew to safety. Fire. Bombs. Bombs that destroyed my other cousin’s shop, as his neighbour forced him out of it 5 minutes before it exploded. Shells. Shells which razed my aunt’s house down, my 65 year old aunt who spent a lifetime in that house was forced out, as it crumbled down on her, leaving her internally displaced, and because of the stress and agony of everything that had happened to her, the lack of medical supplies to heal her – left her eventually dead. And tanks. Tanks? Tanks that never made an appearance in the Golan Heights yet were out in an instant against the people of the land. Tanks which were never seen in the face of the real oppressor, yet were there on the streets of Homs, ploughing into my uncle’s house, leaving him homeless, like my aunt, and eventually a refugee.
[Speech after speech, meeting after meeting, and the regime has failed to provide the Syrian nation with anything it demanded – other than martyrs. Over 40,000 Syrians have been killed by the Syrian regime since the beginning of the revolution, and that number only includes those who have been named. This Ramadan the death toll rose above 3000. 3000 killed in 30 days.]
The Syrian people, proud of their rich history and ancestors – their great grandfathers who fought against the French when imperialism struck their side of the world – decided to fight back to regain their land and freedom, from the occupiers; the Ba’athists, who have polluted it for so long by spreading injustice and corruption everywhere.
They fought back in their own ways. Some politically, mostly those who are outside and cannot return to the destruction that is now their home have resorted to their pens and words, voicing the suffering of the Syrian people to those who still can’t hear them. Others have fought back with weapons.. with a destructed house, a slaughtered father, distressed mother, a raped sister and a detained brother – many young men (and women) in Syria have taken up arms to fight their way back to Freedom. People in Syria, United Kingdom, USA, Lebanon, Jordan, Japan, Switzerland, Spain, Greece.. everywhere in the world have contributed to the Syrian Revolution, making it their main aim to do whatever they can to bring down the dictator.
Stripped of hope by the rest of the world, and neck deep in their struggles, the Syrian people remain big in faith. Despites all they’re going through, and despite all assumptions and ‘analysis on the future’ conjured by distant analysts, the Syrian people have faith in the One God who will bring them justice and peace, eventually, at the right time. They have placed their hopes in the One Lord who will assist them through their struggles and make them victorious. For despite all the destruction and deaths happening in Syria, the Syrian people have sworn to never let Syria die. The eternal Levant which has been through every thick and thin, witnessed the birth of history and seen the fate of every oppressor up to date, will not allow any tyrant to bring her civilisation to an end. Syria will survive, even if when she’s at the brink of life and death, clutching her sides, gasping for breath- she will survive. She will overcome. She will rise high once again and see to the end of history. She will continue to witness the rise and fall of every remaining empire, until the very end.