Tuesday, 3 January 2012

From inside the Palm of a Revolution- Part I

Just as the dawn of the New Year has broken, the winds of change sweeping through the Arab World are still throbbing with the pulse of revolution. The Arab Spring has now whittled into the Arab Winter, and is well on its way to another phase of spring what with a couple of states still continuing in their crusade for democracy. Throughout this entire span of time, the revolutionary uprisings have pivoted around the youth in these countries. Robust, strong and vociferous, the contribution of the youth through digital media has been immensely significant in the course of these revolutions. One such youngster who blogs for Syria is Mariya Suriya. She is an interior designer who gave up her designing profession to turn to activism for her country. In a quick exchange of emails with me, for Delta Women, Mariya responded to a couple of questions on Syria, and activism. Mariya blogs here and can be followed on twitter as @Peace4Syria.

Mariya Suriya is A Peace Blogger and Activist from Syria

Your country is on the brink of change. Why did it take a revolution in Tunisia and Egypt to inspire the people of Syria?               
This is such a good question; the main reason would have to be the great repression people anticipated in case of a revolution, deep down inside each Syrian he/she knew what was to come ahead. Tunisia and Egypt, despite all, would not be matched by the Syrian regime we knew
so well. Our regime is closet in nature to those of Libya, Iraq [formally], N. Korea, and China. Other reasons would have to be connected to the geopolitical position of Syria, which will always
make things all the more complicated, and also the internal nature of the Syrian society in term of variety and sectarian issues. Yet, the relative ease with which it happened in Tunisia, and the spirit of the events in Egypt, our two sister countries, made most Syrians think “Why not?”, a “why not” that’s coming from a deep down place inside every human to reflect our natural yearning for freedom.

With news that Razan Ghazzawi has been arrested recently, as a girl blogger based in Syria, what are some of your biggest challenges? Do you feel threatened by anything?           
Firstly, I’d like to express how brave, strong, and important I believe Razan to be; she’s one of many heroes the revolution brought forth. She’s out now, but awaiting trial as we speak! Challenges are immense, you will either choose a fake identity and use all software programmers there is to stay as safe as possible, or be on the open but restrict your activities and comments to the absolute minimum and even then you’re in probable danger and constant fear. Very few are Razan-like! But they’re increasing. The worst that activists might face is not death, but torture! And what’s even worse is going after their loved ones just like what happened to our America based musician Malek Jandali whose parents were beaten up in their apartment in Damascus, and are therefore now with their son in the US. Furthermore, being a female blogger/activist or a male one makes no
difference. Our regime is not sexist when it comes to crushing the revolution!  

The Egyptian, Libyan and Tunisian revolutions have been described as very much a "youth"-led revolt and dependent on social media technologies like Facebook and Twitter for its success. Is that quite the same in Syria? As a young person in Syria, do you feel there is a difference in the Syrian situation?
I love this question! The answer is a big fat YES. Youth are at the core of all these revolutions aided by modern technologies. And this was actually the biggest surprise even to the young themselves!
Internet, being less physical and more about thoughts and aspirations, gave youth, who mastered it by default, new spaces and new means. Being largely uncontrollable and highly unpredictable, it created the perfect platform from which free flowing ideas and thought would then materialize. It, for a starter, was an eye through which people gazed into the world outside the bubble, and it looked juicy! Facebook in our case acted as an oasis where all met away from the arid areas of the regimes; specific calls for demos and protests were organized, ideas were shared and discussed, information was passed on to each other and to the media. We have groups and pages for discussions, workshops, and planning. Twitter played an extra role, in my own experience, of connecting us to the outer world, whereas Facebook remained to a certain degree local. What’s special about the Syrian revolution is that I can safely call it the “YouTube Revolution”, for YouTube played a key part in our case to expose the regime’s crimes and violations with the huge number of horrible images coming out to the open and moving the human part in all of us. These social sites, to a large extent, replaced the media that was forbidden from entering the country. Suddenly, we all became journalists, cameramen, and editors! In short, they have power, tanks, armies, and money. We have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and our high spirits!

Mariya was an Interior Designer before she took to Blogging and Tweeting for Syria

What do you feel about the West's stance on Syria? Do you think there is a need for military intervention?
This is definitely the most difficult question of all. The hypocrisy and double standards of our current world presents a dilemma! Upon years of experience, we believe that the west doesn’t really care about values of democracy in our counties even if that’s what they keep talking about, otherwise international intervention would have been the perfect solution. So, with that in mind, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I told you that you might hear 23 million answers to this question, let alone Syrians outside! It is true that in many protests there were calls for western intervention, but the silent majority which in large supports the revolts have all sorts of ideas, and interpretation are many; some call for a full military intervention, others want a no-fly zone, or buffer zones, some want aids to the FSA [Free Syrian Army formed by brave defected soldiers and officers], others call for international observers, while others believe it must remain an internal affair no matter what. Opposition is as divided about this as the normal folks. Personally, I believe and hope that we will make it with as little military intervention as possible, and the key word in the last sentence is “as possible”! We may or may not pay a heavier price on the short run, but on the long run we will be more independent and will experience greater freedom. It’s a revolution after all!         

A recent revelation showed that a Syrian blogger who claimed to be a girl was actually a man! What do you think is necessary for a reader outside Syria to rely on while evaluating the credibility of information coming in from Syria?    
As funny as it may seem to an outsider, I would really be surprised if post revolution period did not reveal more cases as such! Activists are having to take on fake identities because of the necessity that the current circumstances bring about, and as long as this doesn’t involve impersonating another real character, then it is okay for my money.  Credibility-wise, yeah this must affect the credibility more or less, but the grave intensity of the repression more than balances the
equation. In other words, I’m sure international organizations and human rights groups consider the tough situation we face in their quest of verifying and documenting information pouring in. Other
outsiders must take the same considerations in mind, and they can always rely on bigger media and organizations in any case.     

A recent image uploaded by Mariya on Twitter, with the caption in Arabic reading:
Strike dignity: The first day of publication Aladhara

Seeing how events are panning out in Egypt, do you think Democracy will be fitting for Syria? Is the walk up to democracy difficult?            
That’s easy to answer! Democracy fits anywhere, especially if it had not been imposed on a certain society, but had rather come from within. I’m referring here to the case of Iraq, where “American
democracy” could not solve problems in the country, but rather put salt on their wounds, not to mention why the US were in Iraq in the first place! Anyhow, in Egypt, as I read the situation, democracy’s road will be bumpy and dangerous; old powers will try to hang on and protect whatever privileges remaining, international powers will attempt to adopt the new born democracy to suit their needs, while insiders will have their own battles. Same goes for Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. Syria is no exception, yet the challenge in our country is greater because unity is vital. Democracy is not a bunch of rules and regulations, but a culture which we will have to grow into after years of the opposite. Therefore, it won’t be easy, but it’s the only guarantee for a more peaceful society. The most important thing in the post revolution era is to enforce just laws on all Syrian, because that will create a proper environment within which democracy can flourish.

By Kirthi Jayakumar

No comments:

Post a Comment