reflections, syria

Urban farms and Pianos or, Reflections on Resilience

As the week wraps up along with Geneva 2, I am left thinking of what is overlooked, things to which no attention is paid. The media, news and otherwise, has been paying attention to every aspect of Geneva 2 reporting diligently what the talking heads have to say. Hundred of words have been written about the (f)utility of such events, hypothetical scenarios, what is best for the government, and what is best for the opposition, and very little about the people. Or, to be precise, very little about the people themselves, who are almost always used as pawns by one side or the other to score some sort of ideological or political victory. Even those who claim to have no concern but the people end up pushing this vague idea of ’the people’ around their mental chessboards, to yell “check!” at every opportunity they get. I, too, have been, am guilty of this.

Maybe Geneva 2 will be the tonic to Syria’s illness, or maybe it won’t. Most probably, it won’t be. But so what?  The problems in Syria weren’t constructed in secret, western boardrooms (despite what white men in Texas may believe) and they won’t be solved in western boardrooms either. But as Geneva 2 ends, and Geneva 3 is planned, and when these groups tire of meeting in luxurious Swiss towns, they’ll meet in Cannes, or maybe Dubrovnik… As all this plays out, different faces, same suits in the same luxury hotels, there will be a constant: the people.

Regardless of the outcomes of these political processes, people will live; Live through this, live through war, live through destruction and find ways to thrive because they have to, because this is what people do. For years, decades, centuries, through wars, disasters, catastrophes, people have persevered.

There is a tendency, when speaking of ravaged areas, to assume the inhabitants are subhuman or incapable of anything but receiving aid or having others speak for them. That because they exist in an atmosphere of death, they cannot truly be alive.

And this is perpetuated by the way tragedies are spoken of, by the way they are portrayed. No room for subtlety or nuance, no room for honesty, no room for anything but the vilification of entire groups of people whose shared characteristic is something as the neighborhood they live in, or their sect, or their support for a group.

This is what I am thinking of today. I’m thinking of the resilience people posses to pull through despite whatever odds are mounted against them. I’m thinking of attempts at normalcy within dystopia. Of any and all efforts to move on to push forward, to continue. Thinking of no matter how far a people are pushed, they spring back. With hardship, with sorrow, with despair, with unspeakable tragedy but they carry on.

I’m thinking of urban farms, seeds being planted all over the country be it on rooftops in besieged Homs

Rooftop farms in Homs

Rooftop farms in Homs

or of the men and women of Yarmouk clearing rubble to till land

Urban farming in Yarmouk

Urban farming in Yarmouk

Urban farming in Yarmouk

Urban farming in Yarmouk

Urban farms in Yarmouk

Urban farms in Yarmouk

or the make-shift farms in Deir Ezzor

of knitting collectives in Yabroud

of city clean-up campaigns initiated by civilians,

Clean up campaign in Darayya

Clean up campaign in Darayya

Clean up campaign in Rukn al-Din

Clean up campaign in Rukn al-Din

Clean up campaign in Raqqa

Clean up campaign in Raqqa

Clean up campaign in Raqqa

Clean up campaign in Raqqa

Clean-up campaign in Aleppo

Clean-up campaign in Aleppo

of communal kitchens,

of community-driven initiatives for those in besieged areas

of nationalist ballads belted out in the midst of rubble

of the small acts of kindness seen on the streets, of those who care for their elderly neighbors, of those who’ve opened their homes for others who’ve lost them, of the doctors and pharmacists who’ve stayed. of teachers who remain the classrooms no matter what, of the scouts of Syria, of those photographing the banality of their days, and of those photographing the ugliness up front, of the hugs, hurried kisses, blogs documenting love in times of war, little kids playing with make-shift toys. Of the humanity, pulsing throbbing bleeding ugly humanity.

Maybe what we are witnessing today are the death throes of a nation-state. And it is painful, gut-wrenching hurt and we have convinced ourselves that we are the first to witness such a thing and that we will be the last (a millennial, social-media caused problem, no doubt). But we’re not, and we won’t be. There will be more misery and more death and more destruction as time goes on. And births, and poetry, and music, and creation… as is consistent with history. Local tyrants will be replaced by newer ones, imperialist powers will shift and change, their powers waxing and waning as they have for centuries. But people, as always, will be people. And they’ll live.

Grassroots Movements

Update from ‘Steadfast Yarmouk’ and a Note

More than a month has passed since the actions of the Palestinian Camps in Syria, and the siege on Yarmouk Camp is still ongoing…

Today, September 13, 2013, despite the crippling regime-imposed siege on Yarmouk Camp, Damascus, the people of the Camp went out and protested after Friday noon prayers. They began in front of Palestine Mosque and marched throughout the Camp.

Women, men and children of Yarmouk at today’s protest [Source]

In their protest, the residents stressed Palestinian-Syrian unity throughout the ongoing conflict, called on the armed opposition to come to the front and break the siege. They also repeated calls from their “Breaking the Silence Campaign” to the Palestinian Diaspora to aid by working to lift the siege on the Camp and the southern parts of Damascus.

Video from today’s protest in Yarmouk Camp

Following the protest, Yarmouk was shelled with rockets, a daily part of the ongoing siege imposed on the Camp. Video here.

The people of Yarmouk have come out and protested following the receipt of heartbreaking news two days ago, regarding a well-loved activist: Khaled Bakrawi. Khaled Bakrawi was a 24-year old activist from Yarmouk Camp, born and raised in Syria but originally from Lubya, Palestine that was ethnically cleansed in 1948.


Khaled Bakrawi, Martyr.

Khaled Bakrawi played an integral role in rallying the masses in the struggle for justice. He was one of the founders of the Jafra Foundation and was extremely active in the Palestinian Youth Movement. During the commemoration of al-Naksa in 2011, Khaled was injured when Israeli Occupation Forces opened fire on the protestors. Despite his wounds, he remained steadfast in his struggles and organized for the internally displaced that made their way into Yarmouk.

Khaled Bakrawi had been missing, thought to be in Assad’s jails, since January 19, 2013. This was confirmed on September 11, 2013 when news of his martyrdom broke; he had been tortured to death. Khaled leaves behind a legacy of Resistance and compassion, one that any Revolutionary against the universal struggle of tyranny should hope to emulate. Rest in Power, ya shaheed.

A note

Despite siege, shelling, death and detainment, our Palestinian brothers and sisters have stood steadfast by Syrians and the Revolution. They have endured the brutality of the Assad regime for as long as we have, and have not wavered.

And neither should we, in our support of them. As such, it is the duty of Syrians in the Diaspora to say “NO” to normalization and partnerships with Zionists for the supposed sake of the Revolution. It is our duty as Syrians to stand against the regimes that have perpetuated the pain of our Palestinian brothers and sisters, to refuse “help” that surely comes at the cost of their freedom, their lives. It is our duty not to dirty our cause with the stain of collaboration, as our freedom and dignity will not arrive on the blood and pain of Palestine.

And lest we forget: “The nation of injustice is one; authoritarianism and Zionism

Freedom to all our detainees, in Zionist and Assadist jails. Long live the people.

Grassroots Movements

“Breaking the Silence” in the Palestinian Camps

On Thursday, August 1st the Palestinian Camps News Network Union in Syria announced the launch of a week-long campaign during the final week of Ramadan: “Breaking the Silence.”

"The week of Breaking the Silence from the Camps"

“The week of Breaking the Silence from the Camps”

Official promo video for the Campaign

Activists and revolutionaries have launched this campaign to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian camps in Syria, as they have been subject to violence during the uprising. The campaign organizers, who come from all 13 refugee camps in Syria,  hope to change the reality on the ground, and push forward nine goals:

1. End on the siege on Yarmouk Camp, the other besieged Palestinian camps, especially those south of Damascus;
2. Stop military operations from being carried out by the regime in the camps;
3. Put pressure on the internationationl community to carry out its duties towards the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and to place the camps under some kind of international protection;
4. Put pressure on the Palestinian Authority, PLO, and other Palestinian factions to pressure the international community to try to break the siege and stop the attacks on the camps;
5. Stress the unity of the Palestinian and Syrian people;
6. To remember the Palestinian martyrs, of which there are more than 2,500 (or 2.5% of  the martyrs of the current uprising);
7. To remember the Palestinian detainees in the regime’s prisons and put pressure on the regime to release them;
8. Establish the truth about the destruction, seige, and military operations that have taken place in the camps and;
9. Mobilize the Palestinian and Syrian streets, as well as global solidarity movements to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and their demands of lifting the sieged, stoping abuses and military operations from being carried out by the regime and restoring the rights of the palestinian refugees.

The activists behind the campaign have called on all Palestinian writers and journalists, and all Palestinian and Arab news channels to shed light on the plight of Palestinians in Syria through available mediums, and to promote the campaign. They’ve also called on Palestinian cyber activists to spread the word about the campaign via social media (on twitter, the hashtag is #ﺃﺳﺒﻮﻉ_ﺍﻟﻤﺨﻴﻤﺎﺕ_ﺍﻟﻔﻠﺴﻄﻴﻨﻴﺔ_ﻛﺴﺮ_ﺍﻟﺼﻤﺖ)  and to discuss the issues plaguing the camps: detainment, martyrs, and displacement. Finally, they call on Palestinian institutions and Palestinian activists to share their strategies and adopt their mobilization techniques by protesting wherever possible, and hosting sit-ins, to call on the world to stop the bombardment of the camps, lift the siege, provide relief and humanitarian support, and release the detainees.

In order to truly shed light on what is happening in the camps, the organizers have named each day of the week after one of the main issues, with all actions that day focusing on the issue.

Poster advertising the  days of action

Poster advertising the days of action

The first day of action, Saturday, August 3rd was called “Loyalty to our Martyrs” (twitter hashtag: #سبت_الوفاء_للشهداء) and highlighted the 2,500 Palestinian martyrs in Syria. This day was marked by a protest in Yarmouk Camp, and an online campaign in which pictures and names of martyrs were uploaded onto the Campaign’s event page and Facebook page.

Protest in Yarmouk Camp (for part one, click here)

The martyr Marwan 'Awdh from Khan Sheikh camp

The martyr Marwan ‘Awdh from Khan Sheikh camp

The martyr Lama al-Abtah from Yarmouk Camp

The martyr Lama al-Abtah from Yarmouk Camp

Sunday, August 4th is named “Sunday of the Detained” (twitter hashtag: #ﺃﺣﺪ_ﺍﻟﻤﻌﺘﻘﻠﻴﻦ) and draws attention to the more than 15,000 Palestinians detained in the regime’s prisons.

Monday, August 5th is called “Monday of  the  Besieged Camps” and it will highlight the two camps that are under siege by the regime: a blockade has been imposed on them, preventing food, bread, vegetables & medicines from entering the camps, with the means of communication and electricity cut, basically stripping the residents of all necessities of life.
The besieged camps are Dara’a, Yarmouk, Khan Sheikh, and Husseiniyeh camps.

Tuesday, August 6th is named “Tuesday of the Displaced Palestinians”, shedding light on what is being called the second, or ongoing Nakba: how more than 80% of the residents of the Palestinian camps have been displaced.

Thursday, August 8th will be “Thursday of Freedom” which calls on a revolt against all Palestinian factions if they do not move, quickly, to help the Palestinian people and ease the suffering of Palestinians in Syria.

And finally, Friday, August 9th will be “Friday of Breaking the Silence” in which the week of action will culminate in protests, sit ins at embassies, and everything possible to let the world know that the Palestinians in Syria have broken their silence about the despair of the camps in order to call on the protection of the camps and the people in them.

We who claim to support the Syrian Revolution and the struggle of the Syrian people,  must also stand with  our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and respond to their call of Breaking the Silence.  They have suffered with us under the iron-fist rule of the Ba’athist regime in Syria, and have stood steadfast by us. Their struggle is our struggle. And we can never forget: واحد واحد فلسطيني سوري واحد!

Solidarity poster by the Revolutionary Syrian Youth of Damascus

Solidarity poster by the Revolutionary Syrian Youth of Damascus

يا ظلام السجن خيم إننا نهوى الظلام..
ليس بعد الليل إلا فجر مجد يتسامى…
الحرية لمعتقلينا الفلسطينيين في سجون الممانعة
أحد الحرية للمعتقلين
الشباب السوري الثائر
دمشق 4/8/2013

 UPDATE (AUGUST 5th):  The campaign has been going strong on Facebook, albeit with little attention elsewhere. Since its launch, they’ve released two more videos:

“History will not forget Ahmad Jibril and his massacres; break your silence”

The first video, the video above, places blame for the massacres that occurred in the camps, specifically Yarmouk, on Ahmad Jibril who is the founder and leader of the PFLP-GC, a splinter group of the PFLP. The PFLP-GC had acted like an extension of the regime’s security forces in Yarmouk refugee camp, firing on protestors. The people had chanted for his, and the PFLP-GC’s, expulsion from the camp.

Promo video for “Monday of the Besieged Camps”

The second video is a promo video for “Monday of the Besieged Camps” and highlights the effects of the siege on the camps: checkpoints, heavy shelling on the camps, the large scale of destruction due to the shelling, and funerals turned protests for the martyrs.