To Leave or not to Leave, Seems to be the Question

My third article published for Arab World in Revolutions blog:

anonymous graffiti in Syria that says: “A country is not a hotel to be abandoned when the service gets bad – we will persevere.”

“The battle has reached to a bone-breaking stage; who will fall apart first?” Martyr Bassel Shehada.

The biggest talk now on the streets in Syria is that everyone is leaving, families, business people, and most importantly, activists. This problem has reached to a point where many in Syria are getting angry at their friends who left or considering leaving the revolution at this difficult stage, some even consider such a thought of leaving as betrayal to Syria.

“Let’s not kid ourselves, those who are leaving Syria are either well-connected or come from well-off families. Syrian economy is deteriorating, so if you can buy a ticket and spend money in some other country, it really means nowadays that you’re rich enough to do so,” said Somayya whose friends are leaving one after another, escaping regime detention campaigns.

“The regime is deliberately pushing the youth to leave, some activists’ names were on the wanted lists on the borders but now they’re not. The regime is leaking lists of thousands of wanted activists so they’ll get scared and think of escaping. It’s precisely because the regime wants us to leave that I believe we should stay. I think our mere staying in itself is resistance,” Sumayya affirms quietly: “to leave is to be defeated.”

Read the rest of it here.

How Peaceful Revolutionaries Turned into Relief Activists in Damascus

My second article for Arab Revolutions blog is now up!

A group of Syrians fleeing violence in their country, walk towards the Turkish border, near Reyhanli. (AP)

“With the start of a new academic year the regime has been emptying the schools from forced migrants. Where will those migrants who lost their homes go after regime shelled their cities and neighborhoods? You constantly feel helpless before these events.

There are families in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, living on 20USD a month, 20USD! Assad speaks of concessions, fine, these are Syrian citizens who are now homeless, isn’t this the state’s responsibility? The Syrian government has resigned all its responsibilities towards its citizens. Instead, the government is waging war against them.”

Ruba*, a relief NGO employee in Syria, explains how the urgency of the growing tragedy of forced migrants has forced many peaceful revolutionaries to work as relief activists:

“The regime is purposely creating a humanitarian crisis and forcing activists to deal with it.”

“We, the middle class, flourished during Assad’s era. We enjoyed new services, and we knew that our economic situation has gotten better, but only at the expense of the working class. The very people who are now leading the revolution are the ones who were neglected by the state. They lost their jobs and homes are scattered in gardens and schools depending on our aid: middle class aid. Our role in this revolution is completely different from theirs, we have privileges and a lot to lose; they don’t. We’re bunch of hypocrites.” Ruba leans her head back against the sofa and stares as water drops from the air-conditioning on her living room floor.

Read rest of the article here. Check the French translation of the article available here  and German translation here.

Al-Tal City, and Beyond

Below is the article I wrote for Arab World in Revolutions’ blog on Monde Arabe Arte TV.

Text on Banner says: Dear Revolutionary, your actions reflect revolutionary morals, let’s act responsible.

“He was a 17 year-old activist from Daraa. He had a little motorcycle which he used to go from town to town. He carried his USB memory sticks with videos to be uploaded. He was one of my main sources before he was killed by a regime sniper.”

That is what my friend, Abu Abdalla, told me on Skype while I was having a fine evening in Damascus. I stopped drinking my tea; then he told me that his friends are trapped in his hometown Tal, just northwest of Damascus.

On August 8th the Syrian National Council announced Al-Tal, a suburb of Damascus, to be a disaster city. The regime army besieged the city and cut water, electricity and communication supplies, including the internet. They started shelling it on Thursday August 9th and continued for weeks, which left more than 160 people dead.

I asked Abu Abdulla if it is possible to set up a conference chat with his trapped friends inside Al-Tal, and so he did. I had the privilege to interview Qusai, Ashor, and “Renewed Hope” the following day.

“Our city has been destroyed,” types Ashor, a relief activist and owner of a grocery store which has just opened now to secure food distribution for the besieged people who remain in the city. “In July last year,” he continues, “we distributed dates and water on regime forces[1], we organized a “Dignity Strike” in collaboration with shop keepers[2], we launched anti-sectarianism campaigns[3], we worked hard and we did an excellent job.” Ashor gives proudly examples of revolutionaries in Al-Tal, but is helpless about what the situation is turning into.

Read the rest of the article here.