Why aren’t we centering the voices of the fearless grassroots organizers, artists and other creatives in Syria, who are leading the liberation efforts?
If you look at the media coverage of Syria, you will see a dominant narrative that simplifies the struggle: a brutal dictatorship versus Islamic extremists. It casts Syrians by the wayside as passive, voiceless victims.
The popular media has completely taken away agency from the Syrian people and focused on militarization, radical Islamic factions and geopolitical concerns with absolutely no coverage of grassroots civil opposition. Where are the stories of unwavering resistance in spite of the regime’s brutal attempts to silence opposition? Why aren’t we centering the voices of the fearless grassroots organizers, artists and other creatives behind civil disobedience who are leading the liberation efforts?
On March 15, 2011, Syrians took to the streets, demanding the freedom to live dignified lives and an end to political corruption. They wanted democratic reform and freedom of expression. Then came an immediate clampdown from Bashar Al Assad, which intensified protests and led them to spread further across Syria. Rather than being faced with the possibility of a popular uprising, the regime used violent force against the protests. In 2013, factions of Islamic extremists hijacked the legitimate Syrian Revolution with ISIS, al-Qaeda and their vicious killings and human rights violations dominating the conversation.
In spite of increased militarization, the dynamics on the ground include that of the Syrian people’s fight for human rights, dignity and peace. Grassroots organizing, arts and creativity have meaning in spite of the violence, death and armed conflict. Syrian artist collectives, Syrian Solidarity Collective and musicians like Refugees of Rap and Omar Offendum are some examples of grassroots organizing and creativity that are not being covered in the media, but are doing the work towards liberation.
How can you help?
1. Learn about the issues
Take your cues from people who are working on the issues and have been rallying for the last six years. Don’t trust mainstream media and the false savior narrative of American imperialist intervention.
Books to read:
- Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin
- The Home That Was Our Country: A Memoir of Syria by Alia Malek
- The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria by Samar Yazbek
- Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline
- The Revolution “From Below” and its Misrepresentations “From Above” — The Case of Syria’s Neglected Society by Billie Jeanne Brownlee
- Documentaries to watch:
- Return to Homs, by Talal Derki
- The War Show, by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon
Who to follow on Twitter:
- Kareem Shaheen, a journalist who covers Turkey and the Middle East for The Guardian
- Rami Jarrah, a war journalist and activist
- Rania Abouzeid, an independent journalist
Alternative news sources on Syria:
2. Support humanitarian organizations founded and run by Syrians and the Syrian Diaspora
3. Actively work to fight Islamophobia and xenophobia
Apparently, American humanitarianism includes spending $83 million bombing innocent civilians — but doesn’t extend to letting them resettle into the United States. With a Muslim ban that restricts Syrian immigration and forces them to defend their worth and why they don’t deserve to die — coupled with racist immigration laws that continue to permeate our borders — there’s a grave injustice being committed against Syrians seeking refuge from this brutal war. The United States has only taken in 18,000 Syrian refugees since 2011 — compared to the 3 million Turkey took in in 2016 alone.
We must dispel the myths being perpetuated in the media and change the narrative surrounding civilians to include their humanity. Enough romanticizing of war. It’s time to step up and demand the end to all bombings and accountability of all war crimes committed by Assad. Nobody deserves to die at the hands of foreign bombs, chemical weapon attacks from their own government, or on a boat trying to escape war because of the rampant Islamophobia and xenophobia in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.
Daily resistance against tyranny continues in spite of the mainstream media’s refusal to cover it . We must continue to attend to narratives on the ground and center the Syrian voices who have been largely ignored for too long.
Featured image by Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu. Creative commons license.