Revolution Journal – April 2011
Shortly after the revolution started in Deraa, Samih Shokier, a Syrian singer, released a song that became the song of the revolution. It’s entitled “Ya Heif”, “Shame on You”. These two words are directed at the Syrian regime and whoever remains silent and indifferent about the killings.
Assad and Bouthaina promised the Kurds “more” rights, and for the first time in Syria’s history, they used the word “Kurd” instead of using the Arabic one, “Akrad”. The Kurds didn’t accept the “offer”, and revolted in March 2011. The word “Azadi”, Freedom in Kurdish, was introduced to the Syrian people.
The reports from the activists were solid and accurate; we were trying to find ways to find source in Deraa and Homs and start reporting and writing about what was happening. While were taken aback with everything, and since Deraa was under siege at that time, we started building out network of contacts slowly. Most of us were fired within days after Assad’s speech for refusing to contribute to the regime’s propaganda.
My mother was having here chemotherapy rounds every three weeks. She had one on the 4th of April and she insisted that I go with her to Hama thinking that I might be away from “troubles” i.e. the revolution there. I missed the nephews and nieces, so I went there. I had a feeling that it might be the last time I see them, and it was.
Demonstrations back then weren’t about overthrowing the regime; they were only calling for freedoms, lifting the emergency law, serious reforms… etc. I remember chatting with a “friend” who is still until now strongly Pro-Assad while I was still in Hama; she started with the “conspiracy theory” and I just said “Relax. People don’t want to topple the regime… they just want reforms and freedom”. I had a big fight back then with some relatives who were Baathists, so I decided to leave back to Damascus to be with my friends work productively for what we believed in.
Assad regime and its media were taken aback by the protests, so they started improvising. The official media The regime started flirting with Islamists to keep them away from the revolution. Assad issued a few decrees lifting banning “Niqab”  in public buildings and schools, and then he issued a decree to start “al-Sham Higher Institute for Islamic Studies and Research”.
They first showed a video of an Egyptian American confessing that he had arrived in Syria with money to pay some protesters and start the “riot” in Syria. Soon after he was released this video started circulating. [V.1]
Banias and al-Baydaa started revolting at the beginning of the revolution. The army attacked al-Baydaa and besieged it for days. Banias and al-Bayda women marched on the first all women march in Syria during the revolution. [V.2] Later, videos showing the secret police torturing civilians in al-Baydaa were all over the Arabic channels. Addounia TV got a call from an Iraqi guy saying “the footage is from Iraq… it shows American soldiers and Pêşmerge torturing Iraqi civilians.” Syrian official media and Addounia TV ran the video for days to support their claim that the Arab and foreign media are faking reports about Syria. [V.3]
The Syrian TV, Sana, Addounia TV, and local newspapers and news websites, continued their improvisation, which led us to start tracking their mistakes. Fortunately, soon after that decision, a video of a young man called “Ahmad Biasi” proved that al-Baydaa video was in fact filmed by a secret police officer in al-Baydaa. [V.4,5]
17 Apr is the Independence Day – it was also Palm Sunday. Every Friday had to have a “name” – we were trying to have “Good Friday” as the name of the next Friday, the 24th of April. On that day, the police destroyed 8 cameras belonged to 8 of our friends who were trying to film or photograph even the pro-Assad rally. On “Good Friday”, the death toll were more than 100 in one day for the first time; we were trying to verify the numbers when we heard that protesters were approaching Abbasiyin Square from Douma and Joubar. Gun shots were heard in Kassaa area. A friend of ours was there and told us “I was sure Syrian TV is lying, but now I am more sure that this revolution must win or we are all doomed!”. Secret police emerged from Abbasiyin Stadium, shot, killed, and arrested unarmed protesters to prevent them from reaching the square.
My first participation in a demonstration came suddenly without any planning as protesters marched in my area on a Friday afternoon. It was at least two hours after the Friday prayer but protesters chose not to march after Friday prayer because the residents of that area comes from different religions and sects. Most protesters were captured on videos and arrested a week later. I was amongst the detainees . Fortunately, we weren’t detained by the secret police; it was in a police station. However, they made us sign confessions that we killed police officers and they said clearly that these confessions will be used against us if any of us joined a demonstration again. Those who refused to sign were detained for months. Having a previous experience, I chose to sign, go out, and buy my confession later. After all, the regime is corrupt, and this was the main reason behind the revolution – at the beginning of it anyway.
We were starting to get harassed by the police wherever we go. Gay cruising was almost impossible, and despite the fact that the emergency law was lifted, we were often stopped by some idiots asking for ID’s and reasons why we were together. Some paranoid gay men didn’t like to say their full names, and at points it was an embarrassment to some when they found themselves required to answer questions about other friends. In short, the country was starting to turn into hell.
By the end of February, demonstrations were taking place in almost all major cities, except for Aleppo and Tartous. The death toll reached a thousand, officially. Foolishly, we thought that this number will cause a worldwide rage, however, more than 14,000 dead bodies later, Syrians are still dying and Assad is still in Damascus, while more than 200,000 Syrians are refugees in other countries.
Niqab: is the face cover some Muslim women have
[V.1] English: Egyptian Mohammad Radwan interview – American TV
[V.2] Women march/demo in al-Baydaa
[V.3] Addounia TV report
[V.4] Ahmad Baiasi on video in al-Baydaa – Arabic – not subtitled
[V.5] Ahmad Baiasi on video in al-Baydaa – – Arabic – not subtitled
[V.6] Song – Samih Shokier – Ya Heif (Shame on You)