The Syrian revolution against the despotic regime has now been going on for more than eleven months, breaking all records in the Arab Spring arena. It is the uprising that has gone through the highest degree of violence and the one that counts the largest number of children shot dead by security forces and the largest number of children tortured in prisons, and the largest number of detained people…but it also the one that is the most creative. Through their creativity, the Syrian people are surprising the world. This creativity is taking different and changing forms ranging from gatherings, dance, songs, jokes and mockery to pacific demonstrations.
The strong grip of Syrian security forces, the cruel sanctions inflicted upon anyone who challenges the regime and the culture of fear taking root in Syrian society all make acts of protest, whether they are mild or naïve, real acts of heroism. Their value is due to the importance of the risks the people who undertake them are exposed to. These risks vary from prison to psychological and physical torture and being shot dead and can be extended to the victim’s family, elder and young members included. Certain forms of acts of peaceful protest used in Syria today have been borrowed from revolutionary situations happening in other countries but most of them have been realised locally. The most widespread are:
A demonstration is normally when a large number of people gather around an objective that brings them together and they express this by shouting slogans and banners. However, since the armed and security forces and others are on the lookout for any collective street mobilisation, a way of enabling people to protest without leaving their homes became necessary. This is what domestic demonstration is about: the inhabitants of a given district, especially those with narrow streets where the houses are very close to one another, agree on a particular signal or moment to start shouting the slogans they previously chosen beforehand, from the interior of their houses, windows open.
“Allahu Akbar” (God is Great)
“Allahu Akbar” is the most used slogan in demonstrations. It is actually a conventional expression for multiple uses beyond its religious meaning.
Thus, a drinker who delights of good wine can use this expression to express his pleasure. Just as a spectator in a stadium can proclaim his admiration for the goals kicked. However, the latest find in this area is the agreement on a particular hour where the inhabitants start to fight over anything that comes to hand and that can emit shrill sounds: kitchen utensils, gas bottles…in a way that scares the policeman posted in the street and that reinforces the feeling of unity and strength in the neighbourhood.
Colouring water-jets and water bodies
Large cities, especially Damascus have water-jets and water bodies built in squares, roundabouts and crossroads. Apart from the opportunity of creating such edifices in a country that suffers from water scarcity, there is no doubt that the appearance of springs of water gives a certain aesthetic to the city and gives people a feeling of serenity. In order to remind citizens that go to these ornamental facilities of the daily bloodshed in the streets, some youngsters that protest have infiltrated some places in the city centre and poured red dye. A few moments later, all fountains began to pour out a scarlet liquid as if the earth was rejecting its blood overflow.
Fontaine teintée de rouge à Damas
Broadcasting songs of the revolution
A number of songs have appeared during the past few months. The young revolutionary sing on famous tunes or on tunes they have composed themselves. The best known, entitled “Go away Bashar” owes its fame to the fact that its author, Ibrahim Alkashoush, inflamed the enthusiasm of thousands of demonstrators in the streets of the city of Hama thanks to this song. The security forces arrested the singer to take revenge and his body was found two days later by the river with a cut throat.
The youngsters also took the habit of placing cassettes equipped with loudspeakers on the roof of a building in a commercial area while closing the door leading to the terrace. Others placed them in briefcases that they close, leaving an opening for the diffusion of sound. Then, at some point, whether at a rush hour when the streets are full of passers or in the evening, thanks to a remote control, they set the soundtrack in motion. The sound the breaks out and echoes in the neighbourhood making the security agents mad with rage, unable to immediately determine where the sound is coming from and only manage to break the door open and seize the equipment after the song has been broadcasted several times. As soon as the song is silenced, another song begins from another building in the vicinity or another suitcase placed close by. The policemen start searching again and so on and so forth.
In Damascus, in the main avenue that leads to higher areas close to Mount Cassiun, young people have gathered hundreds of white table tennis balls on which they wrote anti-Bashar El Assad slogans. After school, when the streets are crowded with passers-by and cars, vans open their trunks to let the balls roll down the asphalt. At the bottom of the avenue, passers-by and children pick up the balls of the opposition coming from nowhere.
Damas vue du mont Cassioun
Mobile phone strikes
These strikes are of particular importance in Syria as the two mobile phone companies belong to people who are close to the regime.
Through Internet, social networks, Facebook, Twitter and others, young people agree to refrain from using their mobiles for a number of hours everyday. This kind of strike was invented to reduce the profits of the above-mentioned companies in order to impact the funding allocated to security forces.
Air balloons and aerostats carrying anti-regime slogans
These balloons are sent in the air and carried by air currents from one place to another until policemen shoot them down.
These are just a few acts of peaceful protest currently used by young Syrian revolutionaries. If they are welcomed by the revolution’s supporters and a part of the silent mass, that is quite big in Syria, these acts are causing the wrath of security forces and arousing feelings of revenge that pushes them to react in a disproportionate way to this sweet and rather childish irony of these ways to protest.
For instance, in an inflamed area, the security forces have sent a similarly sound equipped van broadcasting Allahu Akbar exclamations. The inhabitants have responded from their houses. The policemen hidden in doorways then rushed inside the houses from where the exclamations came from to arrest the inhabitants accused of participating to the revolution.
The violence of these reactions has reached its peak in the small town of Deraa in the suburbs of Damascus. In this small town, during the summer when the temperature reaches unbearable levels, some young demonstrators distributed plastic bottles of cold water with a rose to the security forces who were ready to repress the protests. As usual, these scenes were filmed by security forces whose arrogance was broken by the demonstrators’ peacefulness. About two months later, after verifying the identity of the organisers, the security forces arrested and imprisoned them, subjecting them to such a horrible torture resulting in the death of Ghiath Matar who initiated this act and causing serious injuries to his companions. Rumors even report other deaths.
The revolution started as a peaceful protest has retained the same character claimed by the majority participants. This is a constant principle of the revolution and an essential condition of its continuity and success. This is why new forms of peaceful protest continue to emerge. However, the regime that refrains from resorting to any solution other than a security one, refuses to listen to and to see the reality of the uprising, confronting it with an increasing violence hoping to drag it to its side, the military confrontation where the regime holds its strength. Despite the emergence of certain insignificant armed cases, so far, the revolution has not fallen into this trap. Yet, who dares bet that it will remain peaceful in spite of the regime’s excessive violence?
Translated from Arabic by Nabiha Abdelmoumen