The story of an impossible revolution
We share an important documentary made by the Camara Negra Collective which looks at the Syrian revolution and counterrevolution, giving voices to the grassroots activists who continue to struggle for freedom from tyranny and oppression. In Spanish and Arabic with English subtitles.
“I belong to this revolution that surpasses national borders. I love all revolutions. I love the revolutionaries that understand its meaning, its morals, its aspirations and its vision.”
AntiNote: Early in March 2011, inspired by the images coming from Tunisia and Egypt, around fifteen school children were arrested for writing “The People Want To Topple The Regime” on the walls of their schools. In their beautiful naivete they wrote their names under their messages of hope. The mukhabarat (secret police) broke into the houses of the children and arrested them In the dark of the same night. Among other verbal abuses, the chief of intelligence Atef Najeeb told the parents to forget about their children. The first demonstrations broke out, the first victims of a genocidal regime had to be buried, more protests followed. That is where the uprising started. Out of solidarity, for freedom and justice, self-determination, and personal emancipation.
The Syrian revolution did not follow any blueprints. Nevertheless, and contrary to the constant misrepresentation, it remains a struggle for self-determination, liberty and a breaking point of the fear towards an all-powerful regime.
This is where the Syrian revolution conveys countless lessons for revolutionaries around the world. For us here at Antidote, this is expressed first and foremost in the ongoing discussions between an old, dogmatic “left” that refuses to recognize that it is about to become oblivious and marginal to protests and uprisings, so stubborn that it rejects everything that does not fit its approved textbooks, and a radically decolonized, ideologically emancipated and de-centralized left, which represents a fluid and ongoing project, where theory has to stand the test of its context and its time.
Last but not least, it is in the light of the Syrian struggle that we reflect and recognize our own shackles, our own dictators and regimes, and our own fears. And this is why we express our solidarity with those embracing diversity, supporting struggles, searching for allies, striving to become accomplices, wherever humans rise up and shake off the shackles of fear towards oppressive regimes.
The absence of dignity is the driving force of any revolution, that devotes itself to the desire of acquiring a life worthy of being precisely lived.
Ash-Shab Yurid Isqat en-Nizam!/ The People Want The Fall of The Regime
Website of Camara Negra: http://camaranegra.espivblogs.net/
Chants for bread and social justice didn’t emerge out of the January 25, 2011 revolution. Long before 2011, a strong protest movement existed against the economic policies of former President Mubarak and his regime, which gained momentum in 2006 through the protests and strikes of labor workers in Mahalla al-Kubra.
AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Transcribed and printed with permission. Listen to it in its entirety:
On 2 May 2015, host Chuck Mertz of This is Hell! Radio (Chicago) spoke with activist Salma Kahale about the Syrian revolution—using that very term, in fact, which has so shamefully disappeared from many of our vocabularies when we talk about Syria.
As the conflict entered its fifth year two months ago, we posted on our Facebook page a compendium of articles—including several from our own archives—by activists who persist in using the word. These were our thoughts at the time:
It isn’t the Syrian Revolution that failed, we have failed. Failed to inform ourselves, to share the importance of the continuing Syrian Revolution and to stand in solidarity with it. One day we will recognize the legacy of a struggle for justice, freedom and self-determination that has very few equals throughout history. The heroes of the Syrian Revolution are well and alive and remain forever an inspiration for courage and resistance and humanity.
Today we salute all of those who struggle for freedom and justice and remember the 15 arrested schoolboys of Daraa who on March 6th 2011, inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, sprayed the following words on the walls of their town and brought Spring to Syria.
“As-Shaab / Yoreed / Eskaat el nizam!”
(“The people want to topple the regime”)
With this in mind, we have also interspersed in this interview a small selection of photographs by the Damascus-born journalist Rami Jarrah, whose Facebook and Instagram feeds are must-follows, as is the independent media organization he co-founded in Syria, ANA Press. He has recently been making stunning portraits of children in Aleppo, and even as his photographs have been attracting more and more attention, he has been unfailingly generous and kind in granting permission to use his work. Captions are also his.
Long Live the Syrian Revolution!
Chuck Mertz: There is a peace movement in Syria. A new coalition, involving tens of thousands of activists and dozens of organizations, has a plan to stop the bloodshed there.
Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 27 June 2014 episode and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:
“Human rights really only make sense when we think about them in a world after empire.”
Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is historian Samuel Moyn. Good morning, Samuel.
Samuel Moyn: Hi, thanks for having me.
CM: Samuel Moyn is author of Human Rights and the Uses of History and is the Bryce professor of European legal history at Columbia University, where he has taught since 2001. His previous books include 2012’s The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History. Samuel’s book Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History, which he co-wrote with Darren M. McMahon, was published in paperback earlier this year, and he co-authored two books last year: 2013’s Global Intellectual History, which he wrote with Andrew Sartori, and The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s with Jan Eckel.
Here’s how you describe your writings in your new book: “the emphasis of these essays falls on distinguishing the abuses from the uses of history for thinking about the present and future of one of the most central notions and one of the most illustrious political movements of our time: Human Rights.”