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Addounia TV, Local Media, My Mother, Sami, Syrian Revolution Journal

Revolution Journal – June 2011

Revolution Journal – June 2011

Note: there were certain incidents that I couldn’t find links for until now., since I had to bury – yes, literally bury – my memory cards and external hard disk in a safe place before I leave. I can only access my online documents for now.

The most important incident was the petition calling for providing aid to Deraa’s children – something that was mocked and called later “The Milk Petition”. It was an initiative called for by a Syrian lawyer/children’s rights activist/scriptwriter. She phrased it carefully trying to avoid any conflict with the Syrian government. It simply stated that “children cannot be members of armed groups” and they needed milk and medical supplies. It also “urged” “the Syrian government to allow the aid raised for the children of Deraa to be delivered under the supervision of the Ministry of Health in Syria and the Syrian Red Crescent.” It was posted as a note on Facebook and an online petition late April, but both were removed later.

The petition was sign by around a thousand Syrian working in media and art domains by the first week of May. Addounia TV started a vicious attack against the petition on a 3-hour live broadcast, which hosted 3 half-ass artists and a leading director. A few days later, “Syrian Producers” issued an announcement calling to “boycott all those who signed the Milk Petition”. My closest friends and I were among those who signed. I suddenly lost my chance of seeing my TV series filmed and/or screened.

That sparked the idea of starting a campaign to boycott all companies supporting the regime. We started working on that late May. However, June was the month away from the revolution for me. I had already started working 12 hours a day for a TV series for children during the last week of May. The filming was scheduled for about a month, but many things happened during filming. I was denied a Schengen visa, the road between Homs and Damascus was being shut down frequently, and the regime invented regulations for withdrawing money from banks – one cannot withdraw more than 100 USD per day, withdrawals that are over 500 USD a week were subject to investigation, and only registered business owners can withdraw regularly.

Most of the people I was working with on the series were pro-regime. As soon as everybody found out that I was anti-regime, people who were anti-regime as well started getting closer, while people who were pro-regime started provoking me to find out how much I was involved in the revolution as I was the only out-spoken person there.

On the way to the location, I had to pass near the “People’s Palace” on Qasioun mountain. I used to take a taxi every morning from where I lived. Since most taxi drivers in Syria do not go by the meter charge, I had to negotiate with drivers every time. There is one particular story that I cannot forget.

One day, when the young taxi driver started his car after the regular negotiation, the CD player played “Ya Heif – Shame on You”, the song of the revolution. The taxi driver got scared and turned the music off. I tried to get his reaction and thoughts –

Me: That was nice music.
The driver: It was the radio.
Me: OK… good… Can you turn it on again.
The driver (changing the subject): What do you do in Dummar?
Me: I am working as a co-writer and a language editor for a TV series for children.
The driver (in a mean way – obviously thinking I am one of those who weren’t on the boycott list): OK. Good luck.
Me: Thank you. So… turn on the radio, I want to listen to that music.
The driver: It’s a nice quiet morning, let’s enjoy quietness.
Me (laughing): OK.

But, without noticing, I started humming the song’s tune. Then I said…

Me: OK. Now I can’t get it out of my head which will make it very hard for me with all those idiots onset.
The driver: What is that?
Me: Ya Heif… Please put it on. I love it as much as you do.
The driver (playing the song): You know if they find out that I have it, they might arrest me.
Me: I know. I am on Najdat Anzour’s [1] boycott list, this is why I am not having my name on the series and being paid shit for it, but we will win eventually… It’ll take a long time, but we will win.
The driver: Inshallah.

When we arrived, I wanted to give him what he originally asked for, but he insisted on taking less than he asked for. A few emotional seconds of insisting, but their memory is vivid until now.

In June, Al-Arour became under the spot light. He was on TV all the time, calling for a wider range of demonstrations – Addounia TV had to respond, as usual.

Adnan al-Arour is a former Syrian Army officer, who participated in the Hama Massacre of 1982. He is a Hama native, and, sadly, he is gay. This war criminal became a threat to the regime at a certain point, so they had to build a case of “homosexuality” against him and “disgracefully” discharge him. The amazing thing was that all the documents related to his case were presented on Addounia TV, which started the most annoying and dangerous homophobic campaign in the history of Syrian media.

Anyone who is remotely familiar with the regulations of the Syrian army would know that presenting military documents on TV screen is a crime. Hell, I wasn’t even allowed to scan my mother’s blood test results which she did in a military hospital in Damascus. However, those documents were on TV screen more than enough for any slow reader to read them and understand them. “Arouri” and “Araeir” became the new special Syrian anti-revolutionary slang substitution for “fag” and “fags”, respectively. Ali al-Shuaibi was introduced to the Syrian public and became the one holding the record of saying the word “louti” i.e. “fag” on TV. A new way of fighting the revolution was born – those who joined the revolution and those who support them are all gay – OH! Don’t I wish that to be true!

The series executive producers were from Douma, which was under siege and had no means of communication at all. Filming had to stop several times because we could not reach the producers. I was planning a visit to Istanbul, and I had to quit because I could not figure out how long the production would stop – nobody could.

I took my normal route to Istanbul – a bus to Aleppo, a taxi to Gaziantep, and a plane to Istanbul. Homs was different and I was afraid to go into the city at that time, but Aleppo, the city that had not had a demonstration until that point, was even scarier. Check points just before Aleppo, and a check pint upon arrival to the bus station. “Why are you coming to Aleppo?” was the question that people who are not from Aleppo would get. My “Huh, do I need a reason to travel in my own country?” worked well enough.

I joined Istanbul Pride, which was amazing, but I missed Hama’s demonstrations – two of them. I missed what became later the song of all demonstration, Erhal Ya Bashar. (Bashar, Leave!)

[1] Najdat Anzour is the Syrian director who was behind the boycott decision.

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