The synergy among the Syrian society and public affairs has not come back yet and this isn’t the result of the staleness of the society nor the ego of public workers.. The heritage of the 80s decade is an agonizing pain, the taming, prompting and barracking policies that continued for generation after another in addition to the household pedagogy that is dually based on fear and negativity due to the previous era.. Not to mention the economic and social crises that are gradually growing deeper and worsening especially that the society could not go back to the openness and freedom atmosphere they were used to as well as realizing there are other new entities in society. The reality is quite the contrary of that except for a few months that were metaphorically called the “Spring.”
The opposition and social activists are an added factor, an important one, to all what was previously mentioned complaining that the new young generation is reluctant of practicing public affairs thus, the Syrian democratic movement is lacking the youth’s blood. This has become a common issue that we hear in several occasions despite the fact that the approach they use to deal with this issue contradicts what they say about, as what we saw coming later.
In fact, the youth movement was not absent in the past five years but rather there were several occasions which promised a better future if were not sieged and many attempted to demolish them. This was conducted under the assumption that the people meddling in politics and public affairs was some sort of prohibited intrusion.
The investigator asked: “What do you call each other?” and I didn’t get him so he explained: “Like how do you refer to them, you say comrades, brothers or what?” I wondered and naively said to him: “We say the youth.” Once I said that, he told the notary: “and they agreed to use the term (youth) to call each other!”
The previous passage was part of Hassan Khalil AlKurdy -one of Daraya’s released detainees- testimony before the Field Military Court.
The thing that was done by the youth of Daraya area who have solid and enlightened religious background discouraging violence and believing in civil and social work as means of change. What they have done was a movement worths appreciating.
“These youth from Daraya and their scholar was mainly running the Assad Institution for Memorization of The Holy Quran at the Anas Bin Malik Mosque in Daraya. Later, they transformed the institution from one that only teaches Quran to a comprehensive institution for doctrinal education. Therefore, they have moved from only teaching to discussing the street’s issues and interacting with the public..” another part of the previously mentioned testimony. Parts of that public interaction were campaigns to clean the area, to condemn bribery, to renounce violence and some silent sit-ins to condemn the American conquer of Iraq.
Although those activities were civilized, presented mature goals, aimed to address the others and to deliver their messages in a simple yet creative ways, they preceded the civil movement of the Syrian society. The movement chose boldface headlines and and “big issues” as its bases thus lacked interaction with broader sections of the society taking into consideration the security conditions which limited their activities to a great extent.
In May 2003, more than 20 young men were detained in Daraya after a series of security summons and discommodes. While most of them were later released in batches, there are four of them still imprisoned spending their 4-year sentences issued by a Field Military Court under the accusation of starting an “unlicensed religious organization!!” These are: a college assistant dean (28 years old), a college graduate (26 years old), a mechanical engineer (28 years old) and an accountant (26 years old).
In a different context resembling the revival of the Syrian colleges that were dead for so long, around 400 students from different colleges participated in a sit-in on February 25th, 2005 at Aleppo University. The sit-in was in objection of an ordinance stating that the government is no longer obliged to employ the graduates of Engineering in public departments. This adds more importance to their movement because it was the first student protest after a very long time. The student were calling out and loud for issues concerning their future and lives. For years, these decisions were made on behalf of them by the “Syrian Students National Union” and its subsidiaries. Additionally, the collaborative spirit that united those who participated in the sit-in from various colleges and political parties; some students were from AlBa’ath ruling party and others were independent.
There was no way that the Syrian authorities would turn a blind eye on such movement even in the most lenient situations at a place supposed to be the most active, productive and loud!! The peaceful sit-in was opposed with suppression and detention of several students who were released hours later. After that, some of the students were transferred to “Discipline Committees” which issued final termination verdicts against 5 students, temporary termination verdicts against 2 and warnings to 4 others. The terminated students were studying at Medicine, Engineering, Law and Literature colleges.
On March 24th 2004, eleven college students; from the universities of Damascus and Aleppo; were detained in a cafe at the University of Damascus amongst whom were a few of the previously mentioned terminated students. Some of the detained students were released on May 5th, 2004 but 2 of them were kept in detention, transferred to the Supreme National Security “Court” under the accusation of “Antagonizing the Revolution’s Goals” and they were released only a few months ago.
Antagonizing the revolution’s goals?!! a sublime accusation perfectly suiting the “danger” of such demanding students movement that is meant to be extinguished.
Meanwhile were the incidents that started in Qamishly city after the cursed soccer match and the Kurdish rebellion that succeeded it in several Syrian provinces. Kurdish students at the University of Damascus went out in massive demonstrations condemning those incidents and the resulting losses in lives and assets of the Syrian Kurds. In this case, we cannot deny the particularity of the movement and its ethnical motivation yet we cannot deny that it was sparkled among college students and in the dormitory where they follow strict rules concerning rights, freedoms and activities outside the Ba’ath party or the Syrian Students National Union. Similarly, dozens of Kurd students were detained and most of them were tortured and mistreated as per human rights reports. After that, they were released and many transferred to “Discipline Committees” that issued verdicts of final termination against 11 of them in addition to 16 temporary termination including expulsion from the dormitory. Many subsequent termination verdicts were issued later on against other students.
It has been customary in Syria as means of controlling the social movements to use two styles synchronously or successively: the mere security style as well as the use of “law” to confer a legal aspect against the committed violation. There is a series of laws and pre-prepared ordinances to fulfill this mission.
On the level of student activities, sections 1,7 and 9 of the 134th article in the execution list of the University Structure Law state that activities against college’s, dormitory’s or any other facility’s rules, participation in political functions other than the dominating laws and regulations, distribution of flyers, or posting any sort of advertisement without a pervious permission of the university’s chancellor entail “punitive and disciplinary" procedures.
It is worth mentioning that all verdicts against the students who were finally or temporarily terminated from universities during the former activities were based on this particular article.
The internal lists of every college or institution contain similar laws. For instance, in the internal structure list of a scientific institution in Syria we find the following:
Article 39- The following violations also entail all the punitive procedures mentioned on the previous article (ranging from temporary to final terminations):….. C- Membership of any unlicensed student organization inside the institution….. H- Distributing flyers or issuing bulletin-board newsletters without getting permission from the concerning authority.
Article 40- Temporary or final termination of the institution are the entailed verdicts against who commits or provokes for any of the violations mentioned in sections A,C or H of the previous article.
As a consequence, there has been an obsession that any student activity could turn into an anti-government conduct. We can clearly deduce that from the type of questions directed to the students when being investigated by “Discipline Committees” such as: “what are the political arguments they had in objection of the Syrian regime, what do they think of the ruling Ba’ath party in Syria, what do they think of the regime and the general situation in Syria!!!” like a preemptive defense against a possible “threat” and for the sake of extinguishing this disease, they have burned out the entire crops (figure of speech).
If Damascus’s first Autumn started with the detention of the ten activists, we may say that the incidents following it were the Autumn of youth movement. Unfortunately, there were no initiatives to sustain the movement or clarify its vision. In fact, it was just the opposite and things worsened towards impotence and dispersion amid a strict security siege that is ready to act against any activity starting from sweeping the streets and conducting a meeting to organizing a political party.
One wonders where is the Syrian democratic movement from the issue of helping the youth to find appropriate settings for their activities and why the young generation abandoned the democratic movement?
It is undeniable that all the new political parties and social institutions are persistent to involve the youth to refresh their activities and confer a vibrant aspect to them. This is truly how it has been done; on the surface level; they have never discussed what role the youth could play, what new things they could add to the movement and what settings they need to prevent their transformation into an overaged youth. Therefore, we did not see young faces assuming responsibilities in any of these organizations and institutions eliminating the chance of revitalization, creativity and pulling more youth into the movement instead of abandoning it.
As a matter of fact, not all the doors are locked but also we cannot say that the roads behind these doors lead to a positive outcome.
On the one hand, the radical political Islamic movement is opening arms to embrace young faithful men who have great potentials but exploiting that in the worst forms.
On the other hand, there is a huge spread of the Satanism phenomenon which mainly attracts, as per an eye witness, the upperclass youth besides some socially and financially underprivileged members.
Another phenomenon is immigration which is mainly caused by the receding economic conditions and not to forget another important factor that is the feeling of being useless and insignificant. The siege surrounding the young generation in Syria is truly multifaceted. Breaking this siege requires discussion of the current security conditions then elaborating on freedoms and basic human rights. This would give everyone the chance to cooperatively participate though it could also call for a long posture by the young Syrians who are interested in public affairs to ask several questions. The sort of questions like, if this group holds the responsibility of dispelling their energies, being unable to innovate their own ways and styles of political work in the past 5 years, limiting their options and not letting them to practice in activities of public nature or others that focus at self realization and development.
In my personal opinion, this young group is running in circles around the Syrian democratic movement and keeping a distance from it due to the aforementioned reasons. The youth is also criticizing the movement, waiting for it to renovate or start an initiative and by time, they have developed the inability to provide a vision different than theirs. Consequently, they are neither satisfied to join the movement nor able to provide a vision that suits them..
The deficiency from which the movement is suffering and the urge to do everything for the sake of everyone to save the country from a public meltdown at all levels has led to overlooking the personal characteristics of young Syrians. And by personal characteristics, I mean self development in order to better serve a bigger cause. For instance, it is insufficient to only believe in the principles of freedom and justice to become a human rights activist just like watching the news does not make one a political activist and comprehending poetry does not make one a poet. It is now the time for the young Syrians to wholeheartedly define their goals and what abilities and energies they have to accomplish them.
At any rate, the giant was awakened and showed up from his hideout after long hibernation to find himself surrounded by an authority fearing his awakening more than anything else, a political opposition movement captivated by its own contradictions and internal problems and a society that prefers to stay still rather than rising against the tyrant regime and starts bloodshed.
However, all three parties do not realize that this peek by the giant will be followed by an actual rising which cannot be delayed further. What is hard to predict is what is going to sparkle it and how far it can reach amid this public indifference and three-dimensional oppression. Moreover, we cannot predict the negative forms this rising will turn out to and represent.
Nowadays, our homeland desperately needs blood running back in its veins, the young giant is looking for the magical antidote to break his handcuffs and quickly putting those keys inside the locks.