6 Years Syrian Revolution
On march 18th a demonstration took place in Berlin to commemorate the sixth year of the Syrian revolution. Ameenah Sawwan was one of the participants and shares some thoughts and conversations on this date.
The sixth anniversary of the Syrian Revolution was on the 18th of March; nobody had expected that things would go this far and the number of years since the Syrian uprising started would grow that big.
And whenever we thought that things could not get worse in Syria, it surprisingly developed with even more bonus points for the Syrian Regime. From the beginning, Syrians have demanded to overthrow the Assad regime as a number one priority for a better and free Syria. During the last six years it was hard to stick to hope, when there were so many ups and downs. Things got more complicated for those of us who have the privilege of being safe outside of Syria because now we need to be responsible and speak up, but it’s not that easy to watch from a distance with the survival guilt.
Many of us are stuck between doing something to call attention on what is still being repeated back home or withdrawing in depression about the idea of the uselessness of any actions or reactions. This year the 18th of March was depressing since we couldn’t ignore the fact that while we as refugees are in a ‘safe place’ the crisis in Syria continues and we have to watch.
On the 18th of March, there was a demonstration in Berlin, on occasion of the sixth anniversary of the Syrian Revolution under the name Die syrische Revolution vereint uns/ الثورة السورية تجمعنا. On the way to the demo, I met my friend Usama who is from Homs. He was upset about the evacuation process that was going on in Al-Wa’er neighborhood in Homs. Usama, who lives in Berlin, was attending his first anniversary of the Syrian Revolution here in Germany.
“The people in Al-Wa’er might not be able to remember that they are being evacuated on the anniversary of the Syrian revolution because the situation there is too miserable to care about dates and calendars. They don’t care about being evacuated on the 18th of March or any other day because it’s the same and that will not change a thing about the horrible reality. It’s four years for the people inside a strict siege without even the basics for normal life circumstances.” Usama told me while we were on our way to the demonstration. Usama did not expect that the situation in Syria would last for that long and added “Maybe we are not having any effect on the situation in Syria with our demonstrations here outside the country, but I keep coming every single time because I feel I can’t stay at home and I’ll keep on coming.”
During the demonstration, I met so many friends and many other faces that I recognized from other protests for Syria here in Berlin. I saw a friend of mine, who is from Raqqa, standing there holding a sign which says “Freedom for the Syrian detainees.” My friend himself was detained for volunteering in a field hospital in one of the suburbs of Damascus back in 2011. When he was released, later on, he needed to flee Damascus fearing that he might be arrested again. He went to Raqqa where he worked for a civil society organization for eight months. But things were not that easy for him because ISIS started to grow in the area and his life was under threat again, so he fled to live on the Turkish-Syrian border. At the end, he was able to come to Germany through a research program with a German NGO. For my friend – who preferred not to be mentioned with his name – it’s the third Syrian revolution anniversary that he gets to attend in Germany.
“The last time I’ve been in Syria was in August 2014, for my first anniversary here the number of people who came was enormous. In the second year, we got fewer people coming to the demonstration. This year, I felt uncomfortable, and I’m thinking now: Could it happen that we could be coming here for years and years while Assad is still there and nothing is changing? Could we be like the Iranian opposition who go out on certain dates to remember the Iranian Revolution? I don’t know what to say, but I hope the war could stop that is the priority now. I hope that Assad and his allies could leave Syria, but stopping the bloodshed comes first. I can’t go back to a country that has the Assad family.”
In every demonstration I see Anas chanting in German, and all the demonstrators are repeating after him. Anas came to Germany almost three years ago and was able to learn German very quickly and for him It was a long journey from Syria to Germany. He first fled to Turkey, then Jordan, Turkey, Algeria, Libya, Italy and all the way to finally get to Germany. Anas spent two days in the sea between Libya and Italy, and he left behind his parents in Turkey and a brother who is still working in a field hospital in Syria. Anas’s younger brother was killed by the Assad’s forces air strikes on their neighborhood in Aleppo. Anas was a second-year student at the department of civil engineering at Aleppo University when he was participating in a demonstration at the University. He got shot in his two legs and one arm when the regime’s forces opened the fire on the demonstration, but he survived, while his colleague was killed immediately.
“ He was shot in the head; it was not a random shooting. He was killed on purpose. They were using shotguns, and I’ve got eight shots in my entire body. When I came to Germany, they removed six of them and I still have two which can’t be removed.” Anas explained.
Anas thinks that the time matter for the war in Syria has become a routine where at the beginning people thought that the regime would be overthrown in a week or two or maybe a month. Hope has always been in Anas’ life even though it’s been that long “ Hope will always be there, and even if the revolution demands were accomplished, the 18th of March will always be remembered because it will be the reminder for us of the revolution’s principles. In Germany, as a democratic country, we always get a permission for demonstrating. I hope that more people could come to such an event. Maybe fewer people are coming because some of them have lost hope or they are depressed because of the ongoing circumstances. They need to know that their voices could make a difference, maybe they could remember the story of Berlin’s Wall which proves that people’s will can make a difference.” Anas said.
Anas thinks that people in other countries have the rights that Syrians have been fighting for in the last six years, but they are not appreciating that. “People can vote freely here, but I always hear that some people don’t want to vote or be involved which is a bit disappointing for me. Their voices could always make a difference and democracy is a gift that is given to this country, and it should be appreciated.”
At the end of the demonstration, people were repeating the Revolution’s Oath which has become something regular every year. People were singing and chanting the same chants like during in the demonstrations in Syria in 2011. On our way back from the demo, Baha, a friend of us from Homs, was telling another friend and me about his trip to Germany through Egypt which took him seven days on the sea to survive and get to Italy. He was telling us about his experience with some of his sense of humor and he was able to make us smile after such a long day filled of mixed feelings. I looked at him and remembered all my Syrian fellows who are keeping it up through the most difficult situations that nobody can imagine.
The 18th of March is not only an anniversary of the Syrian Revolution but it’s a reminder for us to our resilience and strength. To remember the start and to remember also our good memories and good friends that were with us in this long term trip of six years. It’s just good that we are able to realistically deal with the situation and are aware that our paths are not going to be filled with blooming roses, but maybe the exact opposite, and we still want to keep going.
Here are some impressions of the demonstration on 18.3.2017. All photos by Inga Alice Lauenroth