Adopt a Revolution – the Direct Link to Syrian Civil Society
One thing was clear from the very beginning – Adopt a Revolution doesn’t talk about revolutionary Syria, it talks to Syrian activists with the aim of finding out together how the unarmed fight for democracy and civil society can best be supported from Germany.
Elias Perabo visited Syria in 2011, met activists there and was an enthusiastic supporter. Overthrowing the Syrian system is possible – we must support the revolutionaries! Along with his longstanding friend and colleague Ferdinand Kuiva, he founded the Adopt a Revolution organization, based in Leipzig. The Syrian-German team now consists of fifteen people.
One thing was clear from the very beginning – Adopt a Revolution doesn’t talk about revolutionary Syria, it talks to Syrian activists with the aim of finding out together how the unarmed fight for democracy and civil society can best be supported from Germany. Even this approach is unique in Germany. “Become a sponsor of the revolution” is their rallying call. It’s not people, though, but projects that can be adopted.
Just under 900,000 euro has been donated since 2011 for underground schools, fraternity centres, educational projects, newspapers and networks, especially for students. This is the only way, they say, to support the resistance against the Syrian dictatorship and the jihadists and to foster civil society in Syria – despite the war. At the same time, the continuing dialogue helps people in Germany to find out about what’s happening in Syria, thus overcoming widespread fears of the unknown.
In the light of broad lack of knowledge of conditions in Syria, the organization has made knowledge transfer another of its central goals. It has now become an important information source on the situation in Syria with its major variations from region to region, both for the German Foreign Office and for the “mainstream media”. The group’s most recent coup was in autumn 2015 – the first representative survey to document new arrivals’ reasons for leaving the country.
Some 900 people arriving from Syria were interviewed – a feat political institutes have not yet achieved. The Federal Press Conference invited Adopt a Revolution to a presentation of the findings, which then made their way into national and international reports from German newspapers like Bild, taz, and FAZ to the US magazine Newsweek. Angela Merkel also referred to them on Anne Will’s nationwide political talk show.
The overwhelming majority stated they wanted to return to Syria. That was unthinkable, however, as long as Assad and his allies remained in power. The reason for their flight, therefore, was primarily the Assad regime rather than Daesh (also known as Islamic State). This finding contradicts the widespread international assumption that the Islamists are the central problem and once again raises the question of why international efforts are focused on the Islamists and not on alternatives to the dictatorship.
Adopt a Revolution, says Elias Perabo, will continue its work in 2016. It’s obvious that the situation is getting increasingly difficult after five years of war. But: “All those who risk their lives to create places in the midst of the horror where people can work for Syria’s democratic future deserve our help. Syria’s civil society is trying with all its might to defend the right to stay in the country. They need our support to continue to do so.”