Ibrahim Fayad | The Lithuania Tribune
Few Syrians would know about the significance and meaning of February 5th, 2011. That day was set by groups of activists as the date of a general strike and demonstrations in Syria. It was meant to be the trigger of a needed revolution in that country, as the anonymous activists announced via the social media platforms.
That day not a single demonstration took place and the call failed in mobilizing any group of people. The failure was expected, but looking at the historic moment the Arab world was living and the state of freedoms and economy in Syria – both perceived as the main catalysts of the Revolution – the failure was very disappointing and showed how the Syrian society was not ready for a revolution yet.
“How did it all start, then?” is a very valid question to ask. Many Syrians would answer “The regime started it.” Strange answer may be but it has a lot of truth in it.
A month later after the initially proposed date of the Syrian Revolution, security forces in Daraa city arrested a group of kids aging between 10 and 13. Their crime was that they drew graffiti on their schools’ wall. The graffiti said “The people want to topple the regime”. It was very popular phrase that was repeated in Tunisia and Egypt, the first hosts of the Arabs Spring, and was heard on TV stations that were covering those revolutions 24 on 24. Most probably the kids of around 10 didn’t know the meaning of those words neither they knew the nature of the regime ruling them and the extent of its cruelty at the time.
By their arrest, the regime wanted to show that its eyes are everywhere and that it’s serious about cracking down on any manifestations of dissent. Arresting the kids was like sending a message of intimidation to all Syrians that say “We’ll spare no one… Watch out”.
The word “arrested” doesn’t describe their state accurately. More precisely, they were forcibly disappeared and nobody knew what happened to them after the arrest. Few days passed without any news about them. This forced their parents to get together and decided to visit the security forces building. It was the building of what’s known as the military security forces and was headed by the cousin of the president. The parents of the kids were received very badly and were told nothing except that they need to “forget” about their kids and “go get new ones”.
The parents decided to follow the trending method of showing dissent and to protest. On March 15th, the first protest took place followed by small gatherings in Damascus, in the following days. Three days later, regime forces started using live bullets. They wanted to send a clear message; they will not allow things to spill out of control. On that day, March 18th, the first protester fell dead in Daraa city.
His funeral was a turning point. The funeral was huge and angry and it later turned to big protest. Security forces once more opened fire at the protest which resulted in five dead. The next day, five angry funerals turned to protests and the country entered the death cycle. Protesting, security forces opening fire, death occurs, angry funerals turn to protests, shooting, death and the cycle starts all over again.
It was the regime itself who pushed the people with its arrogant action, of arresting the kids, to protest. And it was the regime, again, that forced the people to continue protesting asking for justice for those killed only because they protested asking for freedom.
After two weeks of protests, mainly in the Southern city of Daraa, the regime decided under the pressure to release the kids. When they were released, viral videos of the signs of torture on their bodies circulated around the net creating the counter effect of the desired outcome of their release. Instead of containing the protests, people felt that they can force the regime to respond to their demands and rushed to the streets in bigger numbers. The Assad regime could give them the kids back, but freedom and political reforms was too much to be given to the people. Protests continued and the Assad regime chose to continue using death as its method of cracking down on protests.
During the first months of the revolutions the Assad regime tried to regain control of the street and to this end the president Assad gave few speeches. After each speech more people joined the protests opposing the regime. The Assad speeches and actions showed no intention to reform.
Non-violent protests lasted for more than 7 months. After those months revolutionaries confronted the unpleasant truth; Assad regime is not going anywhere by peaceful means of protests and strikes and the international community is not going to move a thing as it had not done so after 9 thousands were killed, by the time.
Revolutionaries took up arms and went on with their revolution. They had no other option. They could either go back home and forget about their sons and daughters who died asking for freedom, continue with the non-violent struggle and continue bleeding lives after already losing 9 thousands by the time, or take up arms and defend themselves. Fighting back was the only logical option and Syrian revolutionaries decided to go logical.
Today, when we look back at the beginning of the Revolution, the way it developed and its turning points, we see the regime present in every one of them as proactive player. It helped the revolution, indirectly, to start, it gave it all reasons to continue and it never failed in giving those hesitant a reason to join the protests and oppose the regime.
Ibrahim Fayad is a Syrian graduate student, activist and blogger. After completing his BA in English studies in Syria, Mr. Fayad moved to Lithuania to spend a year in the Institute of International Relations and Political Science, at Vilnius University. Since the eruption of the revolution in his country, Syria, he’s been actively involved particularly in supporting the emerging media outlets and citizen journalists. Most recently, he started working on a project that deals with Syrian refugees outside Syria.