In the initial excerpt from “Writing Revolution,” recipient of the English PEN’s translation award, Khawla Dunia delves into the interaction between subjective encounters and objective journalism.
Contrasting Perspectives On State Intervention In Deraa
On television, a woman states, “I requested State security to intervene and take my son away. He opposes the government and intends to participate in demonstrations. I cannot control him, but I believe he will be safe with State security.”
Similarly, a young man publicly disavows his father, who operates a website documenting events in Syria. Tears stream down his face as he speaks. The presenter, smiling, comments, “His tears signify his devotion to his motherland.”
State television reports that residents of the southern city of Deraa are calling for military intervention to eradicate the alleged traitorous, destructive, Salafist fifth columnists among them. Consequently, the army enters the city, sealing off its entrances and leaving behind silence and checkpoints.
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Actors, actresses, and individuals from the film industry urge the government to step in and ensure the delivery of sufficient nutrition and medication for the children of Deraa. However, they face accusations of betrayal and alignment with foreign agendas.
Communication Under Surveillance And Perpetual Fear
We communicate via phone in hushed tones, searching for mundane words to express our emotions, praying the recipient understands our message.
Likewise, Surveillance on our calls, homes, and friends is feared. We ponder if it’s time to flee our residence, questioning the safety of sleeping peacefully in our beds.
Every morning, we bid farewell to our loved ones as if it might be the last time, and each evening, we greet them again as if they’ve returned from distant lands.
We observe the alleyways, feeling their gaze upon us. As crowds fill the streets, we watch them, and they watch us.
Furthermore, We discreetly tuck folded notes into wallets and books, anticipating the opportunity to boldly display the written words: “No to killing! No to sieges! Stop the massacres!”
We attempt to piece together information from fragmented news sources.
We inquire with taxi drivers about the status of roads, seeking to navigate safely.
To discuss politics, we disable our phones and remove the batteries.
Similarly, We cautiously observe unfamiliar individuals holding new cameras, wary they may capture our images at public gatherings.
Then, We assemble for planned protests.
Our turnout is small. We retreat, exchanging knowing glances with fellow disappointed individuals who lack the courage to stand alongside us.
Complexity Amidst Little Victories In Syrian Protests
As the protests continue for three months, the situation becomes increasingly intricate, yet there are small triumphs along the way. One significant moment in Syrian history occurs on Azadi Friday, the Friday of Freedom, on 20 May.
Similarly, for the first time, a Kurdish term is celebrated proudly on the streets of Syria. I empathize with the Kurds’ elation, considering their enduring persecution and status as second-class citizens for many years.
Further, the demonstrators chanted “Azadi! Azadi!” – “Freedom! Freedom!” – as more of them were injured or killed. They declared on Friday that Syrians from all ethnic backgrounds and affiliations had embraced citizenship and the concept of a civil state. Bloodshed had brought them together in unprecedented unity.
Talkalakh Joins Protesters, Resulting In Casualties And Displacement
Talkalakh, located in the Homs governorate near the Lebanese border, joined the protest movement and witnessed a new wave of fatalities. As a result, residents fled to Lebanon, and the army entered the city while regime supporters symbolically scattered rice on their tanks.
On Friday, 27th May, the Syrian army initiated a “Guardians of Society” effort to bridge the gap between the protestors and the ordinary soldiers. Many soldiers who have lost their lives in clashes or have been executed for refusing to fire upon demonstrators were involved in this initiative.
These soldiers, drawn into the conflict against the protestors alongside security forces, police, and shabiha, appear profoundly helpless, torn between following orders and risking their own lives.
State Media Downplays Situation, Blaming Armed Gangs For Violence
State media continues to downplay the situation, asserting that everything is under control and attributing the killings of demonstrators, soldiers, officers, and security personnel to armed gangs. The death toll among civilians surpasses 1,100, with unknown numbers of casualties among soldiers and security forces.
Further, in regions with diverse ethnic populations, apprehension of sectarian strife dominates. Information reaches us mainly through rumors: reports of killings, reprisals, and public displays of corpses.
Supporters of the authorities passionately defend their stance. There were reports of celebratory cheers in certain areas as tanks entered neighborhoods inhabited by a different community.
Uncertain And Frightening Future In Syria
The direction of the country’s trajectory remains uncertain and daunting.
Due to the looming threat of arrest, I was compelled to vacate my residence, uncertain unfinished revolution if I may still face such circumstances. Many others, particularly activists and individuals who have spoken on Arab and foreign television channels regarding Syrian events, have similarly abandoned their homes.
Similarly, the detention of numerous opposition figures, activists, and journalists heightened the fear of arrest, with some individuals being taken hostage even when they were not present at their residences.
The authorities floated the notion of initiating a dialogue with the opposition, yet failed to outline any framework or criteria for participation. Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition in exile, spanning from the far right to the left, has opted to convene a conference in Turkey. This conference has raised numerous questions and instilled mistrust within Syria, particularly among the coordination committees actively engaged on the ground.
Evolution Of Demonstrations And International Response In Syria
From Fridays marked by fatalities to Saturdays filled with funerals for the victims, protests have expanded to occur throughout the entire week.
Likewise, authorities have imposed sanctions on a group of prominent figures led by the Syrian president and frozen their bank accounts.
Further, Despite this action, the authorities remain steadfast in their approach, offering no indication of a resolution to the crisis and refusing to make concessions to the demonstrators and their grievances.
Outrage And Mobilization Following Torture Of Hamza al-Khatib
The distressing case of 13-year-old Hamza al-Khatib, who endured brutal torture while in custody, has sparked outrage.
Moreover, after leaving his hometown to assist in lifting the siege around Deraa, authorities detained him on April 29, and nearly a month later, on May 28, he was returned to his family lifeless, bearing visible signs of torture and gunshot wounds.
This incident has fueled further protests by the opposition, intensifying fears among loyalists of potential reprisals.
The emergence of footage documenting Hamza’s ordeal underscores the role of transmitting images abroad in the Syrian revolution. It highlights the power struggle between mobile phone footage and the force of bullets.
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