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June 23, 2012

Syria’s Youth

Michel Kilo

Originally published on 23rd May 2012

Nowadays, Syria’s youth are facing unparalleled circumstances of a tragic and dangerous nature. Situations that were rarely encountered by the youth of any other country, be it Arab or foreign. It is enough to be a Syrian youth today to be a suspect, and in turn be chased or wanted, targeted for arrest and torture till death, or be shot at. What is interesting though, is that the party that is opposing these youth, just because they are the youth, subjecting them to ruthless suppression, is a regime that has long been boasting the youth of it’s President, that he would turn a new page in the history of the nation of Syria and its people, and that he would renew both society and state, all with his youthful mentality.

It would not be an exaggeration to state that Syria’s youth- who the regime used to claim are the pillars of hope and aspiration, and heaped praise at them in its speeches and slogans- are being subjected to an organized war that utilizes light, medium and heavy weaponry which has claimed tens of thousands of their lives until now. The regime has also locked away their finest in dungeons, prisons, sports stadiums, hospitals, warehouses, camps, and rented or appropriated homes. Meanwhile the number of the youth wounded have exceeded that of the collective Arab armies in their wars with Israel. As for the unaccounted for, or missing youth, their numbers have exceeded 70,000, and the number of those being chased by the security forces from one place to the other have exceeded 50,000. In that context, you have to be very cautious if you happen to be young in Syrian today; you would be considered an actual or potential enemy of the regime, and would find yourself in a confrontation with powers waging war against you. It is, enough to be young to be considered a suspect or on the opposing side and become a target.

The tragedy is that Syrian society is a young society with 79% of its population under 34 years of age, and most of those youth have been without any public involvement or were marginalized prior to the uprising. They are either unemployed (accounting to 70% of the total number of unemployed), have immigrated, are expatriates abroad, or are low-wage workers performing manual unspecialized jobs. This dire situation in addition to their deprivation of their rights and freedoms explains their contribution to launching the uprising and converting it to a persistent Movement, taking up the responsibility of leading it, as well as their courage, bravery, and their willingness to provide the necessary sacrifices for it’s victory. Their revolution has taken them out of marginalization and humiliation, and placed them in the heart of one of the greatest events of the ancient and modern histories of the Arab world. Realizing what this event required they put their lives on the line. Lives that due to the revolution have become the center of politics in Syria; they’ve filled the public domain, set its new boundaries and introduced unfamiliar mechanisms of action to it. Hence, eliminating them (i.e. killing them and terminating their existence) has become the aim of a counter policy that came from the top; a policy that is based on the notion that the only way to take them out of the political stage is to take them out of life itself. It can even be said that over the past 15 months, Syria has been witnessing a battle waged against it’s youth, by a regime that is outdated, worn out and has become a thing of the past. Even though this youth has no sin other than seeking, with a civil spirit and legitimate demands, their place under the sun of freedom, which according to most of the youth I have met prior to the uprising, they have decided to achieve or die trying. One evening, in one of Damascus’s restaurants, I came across a group of university graduates and was able to share a conversation with them. When I asked them what they wanted, they admonishingly replied: “How did you withstand forty-odd years of humiliation, in which you were able to live in the absence of freedom? We the youth would either life free or die, and we would reject for as long as we live, the option that you [the elder generation] have chosen: which is accommodating the ruler and silence over injustice for the sake of personal safety and living a routine stable daily life”. I warned them: “But you’re not experienced in politics, and the burden is too heavy!” Their eldest, a doctor, then replied: “Politics be damned, we are undergoing a war of existence, not a political battle! And if it is to be, then we would learn politics, but not according to your [generation’s] or your parties’ methods”.

The Syrian youth have thrust themselves in a battle, and it would never have occurred to anyone prior to 15 March 2011, that they possess so much spirit of sacrifice which they have shown in this battle, and no one would have predicted their readiness to die for the sake of freedom which they have perceived as the way to attain justice, equality and dignity. Youth from all poles and dominations, and religious and ideological affiliations have fought with this simple agenda over the past period, without complicating matters and losing themselves in the mazes of talkology. They have raised the flag of freedom and ventured on to the fields of battle and martyrdom. They accomplished two miracles in the process, which no Syrian could have ever thought would materialize. The first is a social /popular revolution, unprecedented and unparalleled in Syria, past and present. The second is that, until now, they have managed to make it last, and prevent it from being crushed at the hands of forces vastly superior both in military and organizational terms. They knew how to stop the regime from overturning the balances of power on the ground that are in their (the youth’s) favor, and thus foiled the regimes attempts at extinguishing the uprising. The first miracle materialized due to the creation of ingenious and surprising forms of struggle that have amassed very large sectors of the people behind the goal of Freedom. While the second miracle materialized because the youth did not waiver their demand for freedom, justice and dignity, and did not waste their time with the opposition powers and parties talk about the alternative regime and it’s forms, modes, component forces, about mundane issues, whether the alternative it is going to be democratic-civic or civic-democrat, or civic and democratic, or democratic and civic, etc… The youth have ignored this debate, which would be of no value if the regime succeeded in subjugating the revolution, and reminded those whom are concerned, that the opposition’s task lies in fortifying the public struggle and preventing the turn of power balances against it, through developing agendas, operational plans, and timetables for the phases that the struggle will encounter, prior to the overthrowing or the current regime and the attainment of the alternative democratic regime.

The amazing youth are experiencing injustice from two sides: the first of which is the authority that is targeting them with physical repression and slaughter. While the second are those who work to steal their role and circumvent their goals and sacrifices through confiscation and marginalization on one hand and overbidding and exploits on another.

Yet, the youth’s revolution continues, and with it continues their ability to attract segments of the civil society and win them over for Freedom. What also continues is their determination to achieve victory and desire to get rid of tyranny, and to pave new roads for the revolution and thrust new forces in its peaceful battle. It could even be said, that Syria has never been closer to gaining it’s freedom than it is today, due to the river of blood spilt by the youth on the path to freedom, their patriotism and collective community spirit, and the unity of their will, their rise above sectarianism and other social diseases, as well as their perseverance on death and suffering with their heads held high en-route towards Free Syria!

The youth have regained the spirit for their homeland; a homeland that has to place it’s potential resources in their hands, given that they have sacrificed all that is invaluable and precious seeking it’s freedom, and thus in the process proved worthy of it. They proved that by them and with them their country would be better than it was in any day of its ancient and modern history!

Congratulations to Syria, for it’s youth, who place it above all other considerations and calculations!

Michel Kilo is a prominent Syrian opposition figure.


Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper

Status of Humanitarian aid to the Syrian People (By Souria AlKarama)

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Intro from OTW

On the day their murderous gangs of paramilitia and hijacked regular army murdered 55 Syriansto keep  the thug in  power, the thug Bashar Assad and his co-conspirator and partner in crimes Asma, played humanitarias. A clip  Syrian TV shows the two criminals and their cohort seemingly packaging food supplies to the “victims of terrorism” in Homs. Of course, this has to be accompanied by one of the “Baathist” propaganda empty phrases, (see right corner of the image capture”. The phrase says لبينا النداء ، (we answered the call).

April 18, 2012, the repulsive criminal couple playing humanitarians on the day their gangs murdered 55 Syrians .

The repulsive cynicism of the Assad mafia gang knows no limit. Their forces routinely kill doctors and aid workers with all the telltale signs of an utter contempt for Syria and Syrians as demonstrated by the vengeful sniping of the best of Syrian youth who dare to defy this criminal gang’s intent on the murder and impoverishment of more and more Syrians . And yet, the two criminals go on a vogue photoshoot in a “releif centre” set in  a stadium after they have turned most of  Syria’s  staduims and sport-centers into collective punishment, humiliation and torture facilities.  Their  shamelessness knows no limit.

I have argued in my previous post that the regime, with its murderous “burn the country” campaign has succeeded in occupying a large number of activists with humanitarian relief, which reduces their ability to participate in the political and even military aspects of this revolution. At the same time, the scale of mayhem, and the hate and contempt to Syria  and Syrians shown by this mafia gang and their supporters has made even the slightest of humanitarian relief a heroic political and resistance act*.

I have asked my new friend, Souria Alkarama, who is heavily engaged in relief work in Syria to summarize the status of relief activities. My friend has kindly written the following post, which is being transmitted, un-edited, as I have received it. It is worth noting that many like my friend are working silently on this issue. You may not find them boasting about it, or writing with strong language as we do, but they are in fact among  the real silent, gravely endangered heroes of Syria. The tugs are after them in every corner. I salute them, and ask those who pray to pray for their safety and well being.

Status of Humanitarian aid to the Syrian People
(by Souria AlKarama)

When the Syrian uprising erupted some fifteen months ago, it was called the dignity revolution. Civilians marched to the streets in many parts of the country demanding freedom, dignity and reform. Unlike the other Arab countries that witnessed the so called “Arab Spring”, the Syrian revolution seems to be the bloodiest. The Syrian Regime showed, and still is showing, its ugliest face while cracking down on the protestors using unimaginable ways and tactics. These despicable tactics against the Syrian citizens led some activists to rename the revolution “The Bread Revolution”.

The one tactic this article is going to shed light on is what is called “collective punishment”. The Syrian Authority has continuously used this tactic against the Syrian civilians in those areas of revolts prohibiting medical supplies to many areas of the country such as in Daraa, Hama, Idleb and Homs. It was confirmed that the Syrian ministry of health offices in those cities have stopped distributing renal failure, diabetic, hypertension and asthma medications to those in need. They were turned away and told straight to their face, “let your freedom get your medication” referring to the number one demand of the activists in the street. In the same fashion the Syrian authority stopped supplying many cities and most villages with water, heating oil, cooking gas, and electricity. They went further in selected areas and stopped supplying the flour to make bread. Even garbage collection was put on halt in many areas which will deepen the humanitarian crisis especially in the heat of the summer season.

According to the International Red Cross statement issued last April, “more than 1.5 million Syrians are struggling to meet basic needs like food, water, and shelter. Tens of thousands of civilians are living in public buildings and the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is feeding about 100,000 so called “vulnerable Syrians”. Add to it more than five million unemployed Syrians. The worst of all this is the confirmed number of orphaned children. In the city of Homs alone after 6 months of military attacks and 6 weeks of random heavy shelling to various neighborhoods, at least 2000 children were confirmed orphaned. The reports coming out of Idleb in the north show that the number of orphaned children is even larger.

Under the ethical and moral pressure of all this suffering, many well-known international charities were able to help with limited capacities inside Syria. Due to the restricted regulations the Syrian Regime imposed on them, they turned to help the Syrian refugees who fled the country to Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, few Syrian non-governmental organizations were established by expatriate Syrians. These newly formed charity foundations were able to build an underground network of brave and dedicated men and women inside the country to coordinate the smuggling and the distribution of the funds, medical supplies and the humanitarian supplies to those in need.

The cash smuggled is used in several different ways. Part of the money was used to buy the food supply to arrange for what is now called “the food basket”. The food basket contains non perishable items like rice, sugar, pasta, cooking oil, canned food….etc. A detailed list of those families in need is compiled by the activists and then just before dawn the baskets are distributed to the families, one by one. Distribution of such items (food) is very dangerous and can carry unimaginable consequences should the Syrian security forces find out. Many activists lost their lives distributing bread and other kinds of food. These heroes paid the ultimate price so their fellow Syrians could survive. One activist, who distributes food baskets in Duma just outside Damascus, once, said “it is by far much better for a person to be caught demonstrating in the street rather than getting caught distributing food to the people. They (referring to the Security forces) want to starve our people”. Many brave activists lost their lives to a sniper or a bomb shell while distributing humanitarian aids. A physician from the city of Aleppo was shot dead at a check point near the town of Rastan, just north of Homs, because he was caught smuggling medical supplies in his car. A young man from Homs whose job was to distribute bread bags to couple neighborhood was shot dead by the Syrian security as he was attempting to smuggle the bread bags.

They also use the cash smuggled to subsidize the families who lost their breadwinner and to the families of arrested fathers, husbands or brothers. Detailed tables that show the martyrs first and last name, the number of dependents and their ages was created. Also the list include any distant family that maybe living in the same household. In many instances the ID number is used to identify the individuals in each family. Cash is given monthly to the family through an underground and well trusted network.

In addition, cash is used to buy medical equipment which is usually bought from a vendor inside the country. This medical equipment is used to furnish the field hospitals, (another underground network that consist of medical personal who can’t treat the injured in hospitals fearing the death squad who are roaming all hospitals especially in the cities with tense fighting like Homs and Idleb). The violation of medical neutrality and the targeting of doctors, hospitals, medics and ambulances is well documented and verified by many independent organizations such as ‘Physicians for Human Rights’ and ‘Doctors without Borders’. The main question is how much those newly formed “NGO” can do to minimize the magnitude of the crisis and suffering? The answer cannot be answered by simply saying: they can help or they can’t!

The magnitude of the humanitarian catastrophe is tremendous and requires well-funded international organizations backed by the international community to make a measurable difference. At the same time it’s very easy for a beginner humanitarian worker to feel very pessimistic of the outcome. A person needs to put things in perspective. If some things are not done perfectly, that doesn’t mean that we should be discouraged from helping.

On June 5th, 2012 there has been a breakthrough. The Syrian government has said it will let the United Nations enter the country and deliver humanitarian aid to people in need, a U.N. official said Tuesday. “After a long time of very intense negotiations, we now have an agreement in writing with the Syrian government on the scale, scope and modality of humanitarian action in Syria,” John Ging, director of operations at the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said in Geneva, Switzerland.

The sacrifice I witnessed in my brief time working with coordinating humanitarian aids to Syria is phenomenal. I bow with humility and pride to the brave Syrian men and women who dedicated their life to help their fellow citizens. These people cannot be defeated. I have witnessed courage equal only to that seen in movies and fairy tales.

By Souria AlKarama
June,  2012


Note from OTW: * Herein, I am reclaiming the word resistance from the Assad mafia and from their partners  such as Hizbullah and other bankrupt defunct nationalist, communist, and fascist parties throughout the region. I am determined on doing so as part of rehabilitating our political language.


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