Yasmine lives outside Syria but works in the media office of the Local Coordination Committees. Because she was the heart and soul of the office, as described by her friends, shortly after the start of the uprisings, Yasmine started communicating with the youth of the revolution and the families of the detainees and the martyrs, as well as with various Arabic and western print, audio, and video media outlets.
“The beginning was very difficult,” she said. “Delivering a news story to the media on a certain demonstration or a protest was as hard as organising the protest itself. My team members and I were busy as bees. We were working on obtaining information and checking its credibility and then sending it to the media outlets, which were very sceptical at first as to the credibility of the news stories, and were even indifferent at some points.”
Despite the fact that the team includes activists who do not have former journalistic experience, with time it gained the trust of various media outlets.
“We used to correct our own mistakes and monitor our own performance,” she continued. “We had two main goals; the first was to check the accuracy of the information as much as possible, and the second was to see whether our stories were included in bulletins or carried as breaking news on one of the satellite TV channels. Our happiness and the happiness of the revolution’s youth was indescribable when a video filmed by the youth themselves was aired or when the news on a demonstration organised by them was featured.”
In the very beginning, dealing with the media outlets was not the only difficulty. The biggest challenge was to contact the field activists.
“At first, some used to hang up the phone while talking to me and others used to disclose the tiniest details, forcing me to hang up the phone out of fear that they might get caught,” Yasmine said. “With time, it became more than a neutral delivery of news. I started to live the revolution through the youth’s voices, which is something hard to convey to the world. At one point, an individual from Dael called me while he was taking part in a demonstration and said, ‘Yasmine, listen to the chants and slogans: Freedom, Freedom, Peaceful, Peaceful. Then he started to cry and I cried with him.”
Yasmine says that she “witnessed” via telephone the raiding of the cities and villages, the most moving demonstrations, the joy of the youth of the revolution and their anger, their first slogans and their most recent jokes.
Yasmine and her team of journalists are not neutral; they are biased towards the revolution. With time, a new world comprised of the stories of the activists and their small details – which could not be included in the news bulletins – was formed. We learned to feel the heartbeats of the revolution and to synchronise our heartbeats to its rhythm.
“Eighty year old Mr Omar from Hama used to tell me in every single phone call that he has been dreaming of this moment for more than 40 years,” she said. “When the tanks stormed into the city, he told me, ‘Yasmine, I will not be sad if I get killed, but I will not be able to celebrate with you in the great Al-Assi Square.’ Until now, ever since the invasion, I do not know his fate. I do not know whether he was detained or martyred or whether he is hiding and out of sight.
“When I had to talk to a child who had previously been arrested, I used to silently cry throughout the whole phone call. I would feel the oppression in his weak voice and sense his confusion in understanding the reasons behind all what is happening to him,” she continued.
“However, talking with mothers was the hardest thing ever. All of them used to ask whether their sons’ absence will persist, as if I had the power to release their sons just because I am spreading the news.
“I remember one of the mothers in Banyas city who had four of her sons arrested telling me as she was crying, ‘We will sacrifice everything for the sake of the homeland, but please deliver this medicine to my sick son and I will not ask for anything else; my son needs his medicine.’ The young boy’s relative told me to say yes and indeed I lied to the mother and told her, ‘I will deliver the medicine to your son.’ After a while, the young boy’s mother called me again and asked me whether I needed more of that medicine to send to her son.”
“When Jisr al-Shughour town was attacked, I was talking over the phone with an activist whose sister and four of his friends were killed,” Yasmine continued. “At that time, he was hiding in the bathroom of his friends’ house watching from his little window the destruction that took place in the city. Suddenly, he started telling me about the girl that he was in love with and how he used to steal the moments to meet her and call her, and how his only wish before he died was to see her. He started laughing and then crying and asked me a question that made me weep. He asked, ‘Miss Yasmine, do you think she is still alive?’
”It is not always easy to achieve a balance between the humanitarian side and the need to obtain information especially during times of crisis, invasion, siege, and martyrdom. Although activists are always eager to deliver information in a timely manner, however, the mission becomes a burden at certain points when it turns into anger, Yasmine noted.
“Once, I was asking one of the activists to give me the names of the people who were martyred in Jabal al-Zawiya city few days ago,” she said. “Suddenly, he accused me of treating martyrs as numbers and of wanting to know their names for the sake of publishing a news story. He hung up the phone before allowing me to tell him that I am hurt every time I hear of a martyr, and that I always imagine the life of the martyr, who is missed by a child or by a mother shedding tears over her beloved son.
“Once, I was talking to a person from al-Qamishli city about the demonstrations that were staged that day. Suddenly, he started talking to me angrily without any justification. He then became silent for a moment and told me that he has not seen his family for more than three months and that he really misses his daughter, who is almost my age.”
The revolution is not all about pain and tears, added Yasmine. In fact, it embodies the pure joy of liberation that is happening day after day. Yasmine said that she was always astonished how the Syrians created moments of joy, humour, and sarcasm from the rubble of their daily sufferings.
“Sometimes, I use the lack of information as an excuse to call them in an attempt to find tranquillity amid the flood of news on the siege, the shelling, and the martyrs,” she continued. “For example, Fadi from Homs city makes me laugh non-stop. Every time I call, he asks me why it took me so long to call him and starts yelling at me, making me feel as if I am talking to my boss at work. His laughter is always louder than the voice of bullets.
“Sometimes he laughs because of an awkward situation, but at least he reminds us that we are normal people and that we have normal lives. I once called an activist from Idlib city. His wife answered the phone and started interrogating me, asking who I am and why I want to talk to her husband. She then told me that he is taking a shower and that he will call me whenever he finds time before hanging up the phone!”
Yasmine is just like thousands of Syrians who are living abroad or are living in exile and who want to take part in the revolution as much as they can. I had to delete most of Yasmine’s stories because I could not reflect the simplicity and the depth of her words.
“After the start of the revolution, I was introduced to the inner person living inside me,” she said. “I would not have discovered my other personality if it weren’t for the revolution. Nowadays, I feel the pain of the Syrians at home every time I sleep or wake up.
“I owe my persistence to the wonderful team I am working with, including the activists at home and abroad, who always cooperate with each other.”
I asked Yasmine what she will do after the end of the revolution, she replied, “When that day comes, I will return to Syria and work on establishing a new Syria with the children of the martyrs and will tell them all the stories that their parents couldn’t tell.”
Yasmine believes that the new generation will establish the true Syria and put an end to all the decades of blood, killing, and oppression experienced by their parents.