As thousands take to the streets today across Syria, in what has been dubbed the “Day of Defiance,” Al Jazeera ran a very interesting interview with Rami Nakhle, known online as Malath Aumran, who is part of an extensive network of exiled Syrian cyber-activists that is responsible for getting videos, images and news of the ongoing protests out of the country. (Hearing about their operation reminds me of Burma VJ, a powerful documentary about how Burmese activists were able to keep the world informed about the 2007 Saffron Revolution.)
Over the course of the now seven-week-old uprising in Syria, human rights groups are claiming that more than 600 people have been killed and 8,000 have been jailed or gone missing.
Despite this severe repression, there are many positive signs that the movement is only gaining strength and that protesters have broken through their fear. As one protester in Baniyas told Al Jazeera:
We are here today to say we don’t want to die. We don’t want to be humiliated and we will never stop… Killing us and invading us with tanks will never stop us. Our souls will ascend to heaven calling for freedom.
Importantly, protesters are also showing signs of unity and a remarkable nonviolent discipline:
In the mainly Kurdish town of Amuda in the northeast, people were chanting “The Syrian people are one” and “Freedom, freedom, peaceful, peaceful”.
One Syrian human rights activist based in Damascus also argues in the Guardian today that the brutal crackdown by the Syrian government is driving more of the middle class into the protest camp, which could be decisive:
Nevertheless, the continual mistakes of the regime have led the middle classes to shift position with each passing day from being silent supporters of the regime to supporters of the revolution. The Syrian government is fumbling, like all governments that faced and are still facing Arab revolutions have done, as they continue to escalate the situation to the extent of waging war on an unarmed population. Think Deraa, al-Rastan, Banias.
It takes effort to track the impacts of mass mobilizations like #MeToo, Occupy or Black Lives Matter, but understanding social change is impossible without such work.
By sharing our lived experiences, I have seen how incarcerated people can stop the pipeline funneling troubled teens to prison.
As the new ‘Rustin’ biopic shows, the great organizer of the 1963 March on Washington was always working to join more people together in the struggle for greater justice and peace.