Razan Ghazzawi: “How peaceful revolutionaries turned into relief activists in Damascus”
“With the start of a new academic year the regime has been emptying the schools from forced migrants. Where will those migrants who lost their homes go after regime shelled their cities and neighborhoods? You constantly feel helpless before these events.
There are families in Douma, a suburb of Damascus, living on 20USD a month, 20USD! Assad speaks of concessions, fine, these are Syrian citizens who are now homeless, isn’t this the state’s responsibility? The Syrian government has resigned all its responsibilities towards its citizens. Instead, the government is waging war against them.”
Ruba*, a relief NGO employee in Syria, explains how the urgency of the growing tragedy of forced migrants has forced many peaceful revolutionaries to work as relief activists:
“The regime is purposely creating a humanitarian crisis and forcing activists to deal with it.”
According to international relief officials, two million people in Syria are not getting the help they desperately need. A United Nations mission to Homs recently found that more than half a million people need aid, including health care, food and water. LCC relief report on July 2012 showed that donations come from Syrian citizens, which raises many questions on whether the promises of international relief groups or the so-called “Friends of Syria” are truly consistent with their actions.
Ruba donates part of her monthly salary, but still feels helpless due to the large amount of families in need of urgent aid. We spoke about how revolutionary roles are becoming more clearly affected by social status, where relief activists are mostly from middle class, while revolutionaries are mostly from a working class.
“We, the middle class, flourished during Assad’s era. We enjoyed new services, and we knew that our economic situation has gotten better, but only at the expense of the working class. The very people who are now leading the revolution are the ones who were neglected by the state. They lost their jobs and homes are scattered in gardens and schools depending on our aid: middle class aid. Our role in this revolution is completely different from theirs, we have privileges and a lot to lose; they don’t. We’re bunch of hypocrites.” Ruba leans her head back against the sofa and stares as water drops from the air-conditioning on her living room floor.
Omar used to be active in demonstrations and in revolutionary committees, became a relief activist when the revolution reached its armed phase. Omar was recently released from Air Force Intelligence where he was tortured and kept incommunicado for almost two and a half months.
“It took me some time to understand that now the security situation escalates every week, especially after Crisis Management Cell attack. Checkpoints became unbearable, raids and arrests are increasing, detention has become life-threatening. I used to be able to buy rice and sugar in bulk to help migrant families and no one would have been suspicious, but now I can’t.” Omar inhaled a smoke from his cigarette and rubbed his forehead, “I stopped my work because I won’t let them arrest me again; not for buying rice.”
A large number of peaceful activists feel that working as relief activists is exactly what the regime wants in order to distract them from their revolutionary work. It has become evident to Ruba, Omar and many others that relief activism is not an individual volunteer work anymore, but rather institutional. Syrians are fighting against the most vicious military dictatorship in the region on their own. Perhaps the world, especially countries and individuals who fear FSA, can pitch in and contain this humanitarian crisis; this will definitely revive the peaceful side of the revolution.
*All the names mentioned in this article are pseudonymous for the interviewed people’s safety.
Photo: A group of Syrians fleeing violence in their country, walk towards the Turkish border, near Reyhanli. (AP)
She has been detained twice by the Assad regime and is now under military trial. Razan is an English Literature graduate and got a Master degree in Comparative Literature from Balamand University in 2011. She started blogging under the name of „Golaniya 7“ years ago, but chose to write under her real name 5 years ago. She recently won the Front Line Defender’s prize for Human Rights Defenders 2012.blog comments powered by Disqus