The following is the summary provided at the end of the 6th Episode of First Step, a reportage program produced by the Tharwa Foundation in 2009 to promote the cause of peaceful democratic change in Syria. I conceived the show after reviewing the YouTube videos prepared by our in-country activists showing the daily realities that people in Syria have to content with. the videos justified my faith in the possibility and necessity of the revolution, and that helped ut this summary together. The real heroes, of course, are the activists who risked their freedom and their lives to provide the videos.
As we noticed throughout the six episodes of our program, we have tried to discuss a number of important topics that reflect the degradation of living standards in Syria as a result of the corruption, negligence and authoritarian predilections of the ruling regime, in addition to a number of objective developments that our region and our country are currently witnessing, developments which we could have been dealt with far more effectively and which impact on our lives might have actually been more positive, had we had a government that is more open in its interaction with people and more sensitive to the true needs and interests of our homeland.
As my words clearly show, our approach was far from neutral, and we made no pretense to neutrality here, we are not external observers. The future of the country and of the region in general is of great importance and significance to us. Our hopes, our aspirations, our dreams, and all the questions concerning the wellbeing and future of our children, all these issues had an impact on our opinions and analyses. And the point which we tried to convey at the end of every episode, and which we reiterate today at the end of the first phase of our program, “The First Step,” is that the project for peaceful democratic change in Syria is the real key for the return of hope to our lives, and for the success of any serious initiative for addressing our concerns and our problems, small and big, social and economic.
This conviction of ours is not premised on theoretical considerations. It has been formed as a result of many practical trials and experiences that led some of us to jail, some to exile, and some to an early grave. Still, we remain adamant on pushing for a peaceful change in Syria even should the regime resort to violence, because we cannot afford to forget about the future and focus only on this moment, like the regime does, we cannot afford to leave our children a legacy of blood, violence and conflict, just as we cannot leave them a legacy of oppression, corruption, neglect and injustice. We have a double duty to our homeland and our future: pursuing democratic change, and adopting the right means to achieving this goal.
The challenge that we have to deal with then is that stemming from a patriotic and humanitarian duty and is not a question of making an arbitrary choice, or embarking on an ill-considered confrontation, or engaging in a power-struggle, or deciding who is better: the regime or the opposition, or searching for saviors and leaders. In reality, each one of us has his own important role in leading change, and each one of us has his/her own share of sacrifices which he/she has to make, and without which no change can ever happen.
But it is clear of course that the people who will have to offer more sacrifices are those who live inside the homeland, for they are in the first line of confrontation, and they, you, are the ones who have to take the initiative. Yours is the true leadership role. You are the initiators. Our role on the outside is to provide the necessary material, logistical and moral support that you need, regardless of the difficulties involved in this. Each situation has its own set of challenges with which we have to deal.
But the first step towards launching our project, the project for peaceful democratic change in our country, is to form the conviction that this change is not only necessary, it is also possible, and that we have the ability to make it happen. This means that we have to retrieve our self-confidence as a people, as human beings, and we have to deafen our ears to all those voices around us that accuse us of backwardness, ignorance, primitiveness and non-suitability, and we have to open our eyes wide and observe our rulers’ behavior, our rulers who treat us like cattle unworthy of freedom even as they call us a great people in their official press. How can we trust that such leaders can really develop our county? How can we put our trust in them?
Here we have to remind ourselves again that the choice is not that between regime and opposition, any opposition, but between hope and despair, life and dying, a real chance for a dignified existence or be satisfied with the nothing that is given to us, if such thing is possible. The people can reject both the regime and the opposition and create their own alternative, an alternative that can only emerge from agitation, from involvement in active rejection of the status quo and the reality of injustice, death, theft and corruption.
If this discourse sounds a bit preachy, let’s ask ourselves this: aren’t these the very questions that run through our heads? Aren’t these the very convictions that were formed long ago inside us?
Perhaps it is about time we let what’s lurking inside get out, so we can be true to ourselves, and because only what is inside us can be the real catalyst for change, and a true expression of life, a life without which we are slowly turning into ghosts.
The old saying “If a people ever opted for life, destiny must obey,” does not come from a void. The First Step towards building a better future for ourselves and our children is for our people to believe that oppression, regardless of the justifications proffered, and the ideological, national, religious, sectarian and social backgrounds of the people who are immersed in it, is something that is absolutely objectionable. This leaves us only one choice, to believe that working for the project of peaceful democratic change in Syria has become possible and necessary, possible and necessary, possible and necessary.