سميرة ورزان والنضالات المتعددة الأوجه ضد الطغيان

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ترجمة الصديق وليد ضوّ

عندما تأكدت الأخبار عن اختطافها، جرى التعريف بسميرة الخليل على نطاق واسع كـ”زوجة ياسين الحاج صالح”. الحاج صالح الكاتب المعارض المعروف والأكثر تأثيرا من بين الكتّاب العرب، فضلا عن كونه صوتا مثقفا وبارزا للثورة السورية. وبالتالي، فإنه ليس من المستغرب أن يتم الإشارة إلى سميرة كزوجته. هذا الكلام لا يحمل ازدراءً، بل يجب التأكيد على أن سميرة الخليل هي أكثر بكثير من مجرد زوجة لياسين. هي أولا وقبل كل شيء، مناضلة مثابرة من أجل الحرية والثائرة المحبة من أجل حقوقها.

ربما لديها ميل لتجنب الأضواء قدر الإمكان، الأمر الذي يجعل العديد من الناس غافلين عن الجهود والعمل الشاق الذي قامت سميرة به قبل وخلال الثورة. كما هو الحال مع الكثير من الثوار السوريين، حيث بعد إلقاء القبض عليهم حتى يتم  تقدير وتكريم ضخامة تضحياتهم.

ولدت في 2 شباط 1961 في قرية المخرم الواقعة في ريف حمص، أصبحت سميرة الخليل ناشطة في حزب العمل الشيوعي، الذي تأسس عام 1976 وسرعان ما تم حظره على يد النظام السوري لكونه “جمعية سرية تهدف إلى تغيير البنية الاقتصادية والاجتماعية للدولة”. وكجزء من حملته الشرسة ضد المعارضين اليساريين خلال الثمانينات، اعتقل نظام حافظ الأسد المئات من حزب العمل الشيوعي والحزب الشيوعي السوري (المكتب السياسي) في محاولة منه لخنق آخر الأصوات المعارضة له بعد أن سحق حركة الإخوان المسلحين في مجزرة حماه عام 1982.

في شهر أيلول عام 1987، ألقي القبض على سميرة الخليل إلى جانب عدد من رفيقاتها النساء من ضمنهن لينا الوفائي ووجدان ناصيف وهند بدوية وفاطمة الخليل وغيرهن. وأمضت ما يقارب ستة أشهر في سجن فرع الأمن العسكري في حمص السيء السمعة، والمعروف بظروفه المروعة وحيث تمارس فيه أبشع أنواع التعذيب، ومن ثم جرى نقلها إلى سجن النساء في دوما، حيث بقيت مسجونة إلى حين إطلاق سراحها في تشرين الثاني 1991.

بالعودة إلى هذا العام، عام 2013: سميرة مسجونة حاليا في دوما، من جديد، ولكن هذه المرة على يد مجموعة تدّعي أنها تقاتل ضد النظام السوري، النظام نفسه الذي سجن سميرة لمدة 4 سنوات (وزوجها لمدة 17 عاما).

قبل وقت طويل من محاولة هذه القوى خطف الثورة وفرض أنفسهم كطغاة جدد، وعلى الرغم من كل ذلك، سميرة هي- من بين الآلاف من السوريين غير المسلحين- الذين خرجوا إلى الشوارع للمطالبة بالحرية والكرامة والعدالة الاجتماعية. وقد شاركت في اعتصام احتجاجي تضامنا مع الثورة في ليبيا. كما شاركت في المظاهرات الاحتجاجية خلال الثورة السورية. وقد انفصلت عن ياسين لمدة سنتين تقريبا بعد أن اضطر إلى الاختباء هربا من الاعتقال على يد النظام. وقد تلاقى الزوجان عام 2013 في دوما المدينة المحررة.

“سمّور”، هكذا تسمّى توددا من قبل عائلتها وأصدقائها، بقيت في دوما حتّى بعد انتقال ياسين إلى مسقط رأسه في الرقة ومن ثمّ إلى تركيا. خلال الأشهر السبعة التي أمضتها في دوما، كتبت بشكل واضح ومؤثر عن الحياة اليومية والنضال تحت الحصار، مشبهة الحياة تحت الحصار بالسجن مدى الحياة. وقد وصفت تفاصيل عمليات القصف الجوي اليومية، وانقطاع الكهرباء، والهجمات الكيميائية على الغوطتين الغربية والشرقية في 21 آب. نادرا ما تحدثت سمّور عن نفسها، إنما ركّزت على شجاعة ومثابرة سكان دوما، من النساء والرجال والأطفال الذين عانقوها وعاملوها كواحدة منهم على الرغم من كونها مختلفة عنهم. على صفحتها على الفايسبوك، روت سميرة قصصا يومية مؤثرة، وباعثة على الأمل، متحدثة عن الصمود والتضامن الأهلي وسط ظروف غير إنسانية، من قذائف تصبح لعبة للأطفال، في حين تحاول العائلات تأمين احتياجاتها في ظل ظروف فظيعة فرضها النظام عليهم.

في مساء 9 كانون الأول 2013، اختطفت سميرة إلى جانب رزان زيتونة، المدافعة الدؤوبة عن حقوق الإنسان والمساهمة في تأسيس لجان التنسيق المحلية وزوجها الناشط وائل حمادة، والشاعر ناظم الحمادي. وقد خطف الأربعة من منزلهم، الذي كان أيضاً مكتباً لمركز توثيق الانتهاكات.

على الرغم من أن “جيش الإسلام” نفى مسؤوليته عن خطف الثوار الأربعة وتعهد البحث عن مكان وجودهم، وهو المشتبه الرئيسي في تنفيذ أو على الأقل شريك الخاطفين. جيش الإسلام هو اللواء الأقوى والمهيمن على دوما وريف دمشق. وقد هدد رزان زيتونة سابقاً وأطلق مسلحوه النار خارج منزلها بهدف حملها على ترك دوما.

على صفحته على الفايسبوك، اتهم ياسين الحاج صالح جيش الإسلام وقائده، زهران علّوش، بخطف الثوار الأربعة أو التحريض على خطفهم، وشدد على حقيقة أن “الجيش” المذكور كان قد وعد في التحقيق بالأمر ولكنه لم يفِ بوعوده.

كل من الثوار الأربعة، ولا سيما رزان وسميرة- امرأتان شريكتان في النضال- يجسد بطريقة أو بأخرى المسار السوري المؤلم نحو الحرية.

وكانت رزان زيتونة المحامية العاملة على قضايا تتعلق بحقوق الإنسان، التي دافعت بلا هوادة ولأكثر من 13 سنة عن المعتقلين السياسيين كما رافقت عائلاتهم خلال كل ذلك المسار. ومنذ اندلاع الثورة في سوريا، دعمت نضال مواطنيها من أجل تحقيق الحرية والكرامة في كل السبل الممكنة. وساعدت على تأسيس لجان التنسيق المحليةـ شبكة لامركزية على امتداد البلاد لمجموعة واسعة من الناشطين التي تنظم المظاهرات وتنشر المعلومات وتنسّق أعمال الإغاثة. في نيسان 2011، ساهمت رزان في تأسيس مركز توثيق الانتهاكات الذي يراقب انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان في سوريا، ويمكن القول أن هذا المركز هو الأكثر موثوقية. ولم يقتصر نشاط رزان على المناصرة، لكنها شاركت أيضا في مظاهرات دمشق وضواحيها، وكانت القوى الأمنية تهدف إلى اعتقالها الأمر الذي أجبرها على الانتقال إلى العمل السري. خلال البحث عنها، اعتقل عناصر من المخابرات زوجها وائل حمادة لبضعة أسابيع خلال المرحلة الأولى من الثورة. واعتقل، أخ رزان غير الشقيق، لؤي حمادة، أيضا للمرة الثانية من قبل النظام السوري في 15 تشرين الأول 2013 بعد أن أمضى تسعة أشهر في سجون النظام بين أيلول 2012 وحتى أيار 2013.

بعد تحرير دوما من قوات النظام، انتقلت رزان إلى هناك. حيث واصلت توثيق جرائم النظام الفظيعة والكتابة عن مدن الغوطة الشرقية المحاصرة، محافظة على معايير صارمة من الاتساق والموثوقية والعمل بلا كلل في منطقة بطريركية مزّقتها الحرب.

دعم رزان الشديد للمقاومة الشعبية المسلحة ضد النظام السوري لم يمنعها من توثيق التجاوزات والانتهاكات التي ارتكبها الثوار وعن مطالبتهم بالتصرف وفق القانون الإنساني الدولي. حتى أنّها نظّمت ورشات عمل لاطلاع قادة الثوار على واجباتهم خلال الصراع المسلّح، بما في ذلك ضرورة احترام حقوق أسرى الحرب.

في آب عام 2013، رزان وسميرة الخليل وغيرهما من النساء في الغوطة الشرقية أسسن تحالفا للمرأة ومكتبا للتنمية المحلية ودعم المشاريع الصغيرة، وذلك للتأكيد على أهمية خلق توازن بين أعمال الإغاثة والأنشطة المدنية، وخاصة الأنشطة التي تهدف إلى تمكين المرأة.

بغض النظر عن الجهة التي اختطفت رزان وسميرة ووائل وناظم، هذه العملية تشكل ضربة قوية للثورة، ونكسة للنضال التحرري في سوريا بشكل عام، والغوطة الشرقية على وجه التحديد. لم تكن رزان وسميرة ناشطتين “معتدلتين” كما يحلو لوسائل الإعلام التبسيطية تسميتهما. هما، من دون شك، ناشطتان علمانيتان غير مسلحتين، لكنهما ثوريتان راديكاليتان مؤمنتان بالعدالة، وإيمانهما الراديكالي أعطاهما الشجاعة التي سمحت لهما بالعمل تحت الحصار والقصف، والترهيب في بعض الأحيان.

شمت العديد من مناهضي الثورة السورية بلا خجل من اختطاف رزان وسميرة ورفيقيهما، واعتبروا عملية الخطف فرصة أخرى لانتقاد الثورة. أولئك الذين تلفظوا بعبارات مثل “لقد قلتُ لكم ذلك” و”هذه هي حال الثورة منذ البداية” غاب عنهم شيء، صحيح أن الجماعات الفاشية كجيش الإسلام والدولة الإسلامية في العراق وسوريا قد وسعا من هيمنتهما على المناطق التي حررها الثوار، ولكن كان ذلك بسبب، في جزء كبير منه، الفشل الذريع في توفير الدعم الفعال للناشطين من القاعدة الشعبية ولكتائب مسلحة غير طائفية. كما تتجاهل هذه الأصوات أنه كلما استمر نظام الأسد ممسكا بالسلطة، كلما تصبح هذه المجموعات أكثر قوة. كما تتجاهل حقيقة أن النظام و”أعداءه” من التكفيريين يتبادلون، حتى لو لم يكن عمدا، الدعم المتبادل.

اختطاف الناشطين في دوما والمواطنين الصحافيين في حلب والرقة وإدلب يترك لنا مساحة صغيرة من الأمل. أولئك الذين أطلقوا الثورة، ووثقوا جرائم النظام، وخاطروا بحياتهم وظلوا على إيمانهم حتى بعد عسكرة الثورة تتم مطاردتهم من قبل كل من النظام والمتطرفين الإسلاميين، في حين أن المعارضة السياسية السورية فاسدة وغير كفوءة. تماما كما روع النظام الآلاف من الناشطين وآرغمهم على ترك البلاد، تقوم داعش، وجبهة النصرة وجيش الإسلام بالأمر نفسه في مناطق التي يسيطرون عليها.

اليوم يتوزع السوريون على زنازين النظام ومخيمات اللاجئين وفي المنفى، ترك الثوار السوريون من دون أي خيار إلا مواجهة ذراعي الفاشية والاستبداد اللذين يخنقنان سوريا اليوم: النظام البعثي والمتطرفين الإسلاميين.

الحرية لسميرة الخليل

الحرية لرزان ورفاقها

Samira, Razan, and the multi-faceted struggles against tyranny

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When news of her abduction was confirmed, Samira al-Khalil was unanimously referred to as “Yassin al Haj Saleh’s wife.” Al Haj Saleh is widely regarded as one of the most influential Arab writers and dissidents as well as a prominent intellectual voice of the Syrian revolution. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that most would primarily identify Samira as his wife. While there is no disrespect in this, it must be stressed that Samira al-Khalil is much more than just Yassin’s wife. First and foremost, she is and has been a freedom fighter and a persistent, loving revolutionary in her own right.

It is perhaps her tendency to keep a low profile and avoid the limelight as much as possible that makes many people oblivious to the efforts and hard work that Samira has put in before and during the uprising. As is the case with so many Syrian revolutionaries, it is only after their arrest that we get to appreciate and honour the enormity of their sacrifices.

Born on 2 February, 1961 in al-Mukharram village in the Homs countryside, Samira al-Khalil became an active member in the Party for Communist Action, which was founded in 1976 and immediately banned by the Syrian regime for being a “secret organisation that aims to change the social and economic structure of the State.” As part of its vicious crackdown against leftist dissidents during the 1980s, Hafez al-Assad’s regime arrested hundreds of activists from both the  Party for Communist Action and the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau) in a bid to smother the last remaining voices of dissent after it had crushed the Muslim Brotherhood in the Hama massacre in 1982.

In September 1987, Samira al-Khalil was arrested along with a number of her female comrades including Lina Wafai, Wijdan Nassif, Hind Badawiyeh, Fatima al-Khalil, and others. She spent nearly six months in the notorious military security branch in Homs, known for its horrendous conditions and abundant torture practices, before being transferred to the women prison of Douma, where she remained until her release in November 1991.

Fast forward to December 2013: Samira is currently imprisoned in Douma –again– but this time by a group that pretends to fight against the Syrian regime, the very regime that imprisoned Samira for 4 years (and her husband for 17).

Long before those groups had attempted to hijack the revolution and impose themselves as the new tyrants, however, Samira –as well as thousands of unarmed Syrians– took to the streets to demand freedom, dignity, and social justice. She took part in the protest outside the Libyan embassy in solidarity with the Libyan uprising. She also protested during the Syrian uprising. She was separated from Yassin for almost two years after he was forced into hiding to escape arrest at the hands of the regime. The couple was reunited again in May 2013 in the rebel-held city of Douma.

‘Sammour’, as she is lovingly called by family and friends, stayed in Douma even after Yassin moved to his hometown of Raqqah and then to Turkey. During the seven months she spent in Douma, she wrote vividly and poignantly about daily life and struggle under siege, likening life under siege to life in prison. She detailed the regular aerial bombardments, electricity blackouts, and the chemical attacks on Eastern and Western Ghouta on 21 August. Sammour rarely spoke about herself, but rather focused on the courage and perseverance of the residents of Douma, the women, men, and children who embraced her and treated her as one of them despite being different. On her Facebook page, Samira daily recounted the moving stories of hope, survival and communal solidarity amidst inhumane conditions, of shells ending kids’ games, and of families trying to make ends meet under terrible circumstances forced on them by the regime.

On the evening of 9 December, 2013, Samira was kidnapped along with Razan Zeiotouneh, the indefatigable human rights defender and co-founder of the Local Coordination Committees (LCC); Razan’s husband and activist Wael Hamada; and poet Nazem al-Hammadi. The four were kidnapped from their house, which also served as the office of the Violation Documentation Centre (VDC).

Though the “Army of Islam” denied responsibility for kidnapping the four activists and pledged to find their whereabouts, it is the main suspect in carrying out –or being an accomplice in– the abduction. The Army of Islam is the most powerful and dominant brigade operating in Douma and Damascus countryside. It has previously threatened Razan Zeitouneh and opened fire outside her home in an attempt at intimidating her into leaving Douma.

On his Facebook page, Yassn al Haj Saleh has accused the Army of Islam and its leader, Zahran Alloush, of abducting the four activists or abetting the kidnappers, stressing the fact that ever since the incident, the brigade has failed to investigate it as it promised to do.

Each of the four disappeared revolutionaries, particularly Razan and Samira –two women and partners in the struggle– share a story that, in a way, personifies Syria’s excruciating path to freedom.

Razan Zeitouneh has been a human rights lawyer who, for over 13 years, has relentlessly advocated for political prisoners while accompanying their families in the process. Since the eruption of the Syrian uprising, she supported her compatriots’ struggle for freedom and dignity in all possible ways. She helped found the Local Coordination Committees, a countrywide decentralised network of grassroots activists that organises protests, disseminates information, and coordinates relief work. In April 2011, Razan helped establish the Violations Documentation Centre that monitors human rights violations in Syria and is arguably the most reliable Syrian monitoring group. Razan’s activism was not limited to advocacy; she also participated in demonstrations in Damascus and its suburbs and was the target of arrest attempts by the regime which forced her to work mainly underground. Looking for her, the regime’s intelligence officers arrested her husband Wael Hamada for a few weeks during the early stages of the Revolution. Razan’s brother in Law, Louay Hamada, was also arrested for a second time by the Syrian regime on 15 October, 2013, after previously spending nine months in regime jails between September 2012 and May 2013.

Following the liberation of Douma from regime forces, Razan moved there. She continued to document regime atrocities and write from the besieged cities of Eastern Ghouta, maintaining uncompromisingly strict standards of consistency and reliability and working tirelessly in a patriarchal, war-torn zone.

Razan’s vehement support for armed resistance against the Syrian regime did not stop her from reporting abuses and violations committed by rebels and from demanding they act in accordance with International Humanitarian Law. She even conducted workshops to inform rebel commanders about their duties in armed conflict, including their obligation to respect the rights of prisoners of war.

In August 2013, Razan, Samir al-Khalil, and other women in Eastern Ghouta founded a women’s coalition and Local Development Foundation and Small Projects Support Office, emphasising the importance of creating a balance between relief work and civil activities, especially activities that aim to empower women.

Regardless of the party that abducted Razan, Samira, Wael and Nazem, their kidnappings represent a massive blow to the revolution, a setback to the liberation struggle in Syria in general, and in Eastern Ghouta in particular. Samira and Razan were not “moderate” activists as the simplistic media narrative suggests. They are indeed secular unarmed women, but they are also radical revolutionaries and believers in justice, and it is that radical belief which has given them the courage that allowed them to work under siege, bombardment, and (at times) intimidation.

Many opponents of the Syrian revolution unashamedly gloated at the abduction of Razan, Samira and their comrades, using the incident as yet another opportunity to slam the uprising. Those who uttered phrases such as “we have told you so” and “this was never a revolution in the first place” have missed something, however: It is true that Fascist groups such as the Islam Army and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria expanded and dominated rebel-held territories. But This was due, in large part, to the utter failure to provide effective support for grassroots activists and non-sectarian armed battalions. They also ignore that the longer the Assad regime stays in power, the stronger such organisations become. They also ignore the reality that the regime and its Takfiri “opponents” are mutually –even if not deliberately– dependable.

The abduction of the activists in Douma and the citizen journalists in Aleppo and Raqqah and Idlib leaves us with little space for hope. Those who started the uprising, documented regime crimes, risked their lives, and kept their faith even after the uprising was militarised are being hunted down by both the regime and Islamist extremists, while Syria’s political opposition is completely and utterly incompetent and corrupt. Just as the regime terrorised thousands of activists into exile, it is true that ISIS, al-Nusra Front, and Army of Islam are doing the same in the areas they control.

Dispersed and fragmented among prison cells, refugee camps and exile, Syrian revolutionaries are left with no option but to fight the two arms of fascism and tyranny that are strangling Syria right now: the Baathist regime and Islamist extremists.

Free Samiar al-Khalil
Free Razan and her comrades

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Freedom for Jihad and Syria’s Wretched of the Earth

On 10 August, 2013, Syrian security forces arrested Syrian journalist and Marxist dissident Jihad Asa’ad Muhammad near Athawra Street in central Damascus. News of his arrest was confirmed by his sister Lina, a fellow Marxist and anti-regime activist forced into hiding. Jihad had been among the few revolutionary activists who remained in the Syrian capital, a deceptively quiet bubble under the strangling iron fist of the regime, despite the ominous threat of arrest hovering over his head. Soon after his arrest, a Facebook page was created that both demanded Jihad’s immediate release and re-published articles he had written during and before the uprising.

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There exist, according to conservative estimates, tens of thousands of Syrian civilians similarly languishing in the myriad detention centres across Syria. The vast majority of them are not well-known tech-savvy activists or writers; they do not speak a foreign language or possess social media accounts; and no-one, except for their families, will care to call for their release and will shed a tear if they die in jail. But it is precisely those – the unsung and unknown heroes and heroines of the revolution, the forgotten women and men of impoverished neighbourhoods and the marginalised countryside, and Syria’s wretched of the earth – were the protagonists of Jihad Muhammad’s pieces.

His pieces tell us about Massoud, the “Lionel Messi of the Syrian revolution,” a 17-year-old schoolboy from one of the poorest Damascene cantons. Massoud, a top-scorer of his neighbourhood’s football club, participated in demonstrations wearing Messi’s shirt for FC Barcelona. Taking advantage of his Messi-like speed and diminutive size, he raised the revolutionary flag and freedom signs on rooftops, scrawled anti-regime graffiti, and constantly dodged the security forces. Massoud was arrested from his classroom and, for two months, tortured while in custody. After his release, he joined the Free Syrian Army.

Jihad also tells us about Umm Haytham, as one of thousands of Syrian women tirelessly going to jails and security branches to look for the whereabouts of their detained and forcibly disappeared sons, brothers, husbands and loved ones. They travel every day under shelling and despite checkpoints, in scorching sun and heavy rain, and put up with insulting remarks of police officers and soldiers. And they remain steadfast, buoyed with hope.

He tells us about revolutionary women from socially-conservative and patriarchal communities. Despite their frontline role in the uprising, those women are viewed with repugnance by the self-styled “feminists” and bourgeois “leftists” who claim to promote women’s rights while not being able to see beyond a woman’s veil and looks.

He tells us about Adnan, an Alawite soldier from the Latakia Mountains who served in Assad’s army but vehemently supported the uprising. Unable to defect, he was ultimately killed in battle, prompting his bereaved mother to murmur helplessly: “Their sons are in mansions while our sons go to graves.”

In addition, Jihad explores the social, economic and political roots of the Syrian uprising and its evolution into an asymmetrical militarised civil conflict, elegantly discussing the sectarian demographics and the gluttonous neo-liberalism that characterises Assad’s ostensibly secular and socialist Syria.

Issues concerning social justice, class struggle, and critique of the urban bourgeoisie were focal points of Jihad’s articles, coupled with themes of civil and political liberties and the struggle against tyranny.

Born in 1968 to a left-wing family in Damascus countryside, Jihad is the eldest male among nine siblings. Between 2003 and 2004, the Damascus-based Radio Sawt Asha’ab aired folktales he wrote and edited. The first major turning point in Jihad’s journalistic career came in 2006 when he became Editor-in-Chief of the Qassioun newspaper, founded that year by the National Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists, an off-shot of the Syrian Communist Party. But Jihad was more than just an editor. He encouraged young Syrian writers to contribute and kept the newspaper going through the thick and thin for five years. Jihad himself wrote columns about a plethora of subjects ranging from arts and culture to state corruption, capitalism and imperialism. His vocal criticism of the government made him a target of persecution by the police state long before March 2011.

For him, the Syrian uprising lay bare several truths. The biggest of them, as Jihad puts it, is that “long gone are the times when the omnipotent, corrupt and pretentious political and corporate elite dominated their subjects. Now that people have virtually lost what gave them the little that was left for them, people no longer have anything to lose except for the chains that used to shackle them and hinder their liberation.” Moreover, “He who kills his people and burns his country, its cities, patrimonies and historical citadels is not entitled to claim that he supports other peoples’ struggles for freedom.”

Another truth that was exposed by the Syrian revolution is that while people began to liberate themselves, the mainstream leftist elite in Syria tightened its own fetters. The communist Qassioun newspaper took a hostile stance towards the revolution ‒ Jihad’s column existed as the paper’s sole space that truly sided with the people’s demands until he left the paper and began to write independently only a few months after the revolution’s outbreak. Jihad’s writings got more radical and revolutionary as the uprising went on. Though his articles could fall into populism and excessive optimism occasionally, he always maintained a room for rational and critical analysis while never pontificating or pretending to know more than the revolting masses.

Jihad’s ex-comrade Qadri Jamil, co-founder of Qassioun paper and the national Committee for the Unity of Syrian Communists, would go on to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Economic Affairs. Many of Jamil’s fellow veteran Syrian communists, who for decades lectured the Syrian proletariat about revolution and liberation, now looked down with degradation and repulsion at the “rabble” causing chaos and riots. In one of his most eloquent and scathing symbolic texts, published on the first anniversary of the beginning of the uprising in Dara’a, Jihad used the shoe metaphor to describe those old “revolutionaries”: A privileged bourgeois man suddenly discovered a newfound empathy with the poor so he called himself a revolutionary and started seeking a way to help the oppressed and subjugated attain their rights. He started preaching to the villagers, peasants and farmers who understood nothing from his big slogans, complex language and empty rhetorics. People visited him out of pity only when he was attacked by the police, landlords and village leaders. Ostracised, hungry, naked, and disappointed that his passionate speeches failed to “inspire the masses,” the self-proclaimed “revolutionary” man sold himself out to the new affluent leaders of the village who sought to keep him in their pocket. The revolutionary man quickly began attending their bountiful feasts wearing the shoes he was gifted. With the passing of some years, he was reduced to a mere pair of shoes whose only mission is to attend meals and be worn by those who lavished him with their charity. The metaphor used by Jihad in this article articulates the situation of many self-appointed revolutionaries not only in Syria but in the Middle East and worldwide.

In another sharp piece, Jihad Muhammad addressed the artists and intellectuals who thought they are entitled to celebrity treatment within the revolutionary movement. In April of 2011 when mass protests spread to the working-class suburb of Douma in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta, some artists, intellectuals and actors hoped to climb on the bandwagon and hire themselves as its custodians and spokespersons. Engaging the revolution as an opportunity to nurture their egos, they considered the people of Douma a worthless, ignorant mob that must be educated. To their disbelief, people in Douma did not look at them with awe. Unwilling to allow another power dictate or lecture them, the people treated them as demonstrators rather than VIP guests. Those artists would abandon the revolution when it stopped being “cool and “sexy,” and when it no longer lived up to the lofty standards of their ivory towers. Jihad’s letter to them succinctly and rigorously sums up the Syrian revolution:

“This uprising does not need the intellectual elite as masters and theoreticians. Rather, it is the elite who need the uprising to liberate them from their ignorance. And in order to deserve to be a part of the uprising, the elite must be ready to take classes in the Syrian streets about the art of giving, living and freedom.”

Having taken inventory of Jihad’s writing and of his participation on the ground, it is not surprising at all that he was eventually arrested. Perhaps some might be shocked that two and a half years into what has become a grinding military stalemate, the Syrian regime is still arresting seemingly harmless unarmed activists and writers. Certainly not all of the regime’s actions are rational, but the systematic bid to arrest or kill people with free pens and loud voices is a deliberate, concerted tactic that the regime will deploy until the end.