Almost two years since its start, the Syrian revolution is still dissipating the darkness of 50 years of Baathist rule. An initially peaceful uprising turned into an armed conflict, but this did not make it deviate from another mission it has had in addition to toppling the regime: shedding light on Syria.
Because of the revolution, we have started learning the names of cities and neighborhoods, and we have seen the faces of the revolutionaries, and the passion with which they are protesting. We have realized that we knew nothing about Syria, and we are still learning. True, the tragedy has spread all over the country, and around 20% of the infrastructure has been destroyed by the regime, but the darkness is gradually lifting.
For example, now we know that a museum in Damascus has been categorized as the world’s 10th most important. Who was aware of that? We got to know only when the museum was closed, and its contents transferred to the central bank. We also got to know a lot about historic sites in Syria through reports about looting. We never knew about underground rap groups or techno music. We used to be impressed by the courage of Iranian directors such as Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami, but we never paid attention to Omar Amiralay and Osama Mohamed Ali.
In the past two years, the regime killed 60,000 Syrians. The number is frightening, but it is paralleled by something intangible and perhaps even more brutal: killing Syria's soul.
The spotlight has been shone on the 60,000 fatalities. This was not the case in 1982, when around 30,000 were killed but not recognized. Now that this darkness is being lifted, each killing is made known. Rich Syrians have appeared in the hotels of Beirut, Dubai and Amman after finally coming out of hiding. True, they were forced into this situation, but it is from them that we hear the truth now. The bourgeoisie of Damascus and Aleppo had always been involved in compromises with the regime, but now they are talking after themselves being abandoned by the regime.
The poor, who constitute the majority in Syria, are no longer invisible. The reasons for their poverty are now being made public, after the regime banned the press from highlighting their problems. The case of hundreds of thousands who migrated to Rif Dimashq because of drought serves as one of the most typical examples. Now, the peasants of Idlib are saying that the new economic system destroyed the massive agricultural sector in the region, and turned its residents into casual workers in big cities and in Beirut. Now, we know why the countryside has played such a major role in the revolution.
It is true that 60,000 is a huge number, but as we add to them the souls and minds that were killed by the darkness the regime imposed on the country, this number will multiply in an astonishing manner.
The revolution did not make the regime kill its people; it made this slow, ongoing killing known. The killing of the soul, and the despair and humiliation that accompany it, is what the Syrian revolution is fighting. This explains the famous phrase chanted in one of the Damascus protests: “The Syrian people shall never kneel.”
*This article first appeared in al-Hayat on Jan. 6, 2013. Link: http://alhayat.com/Details/469465
Hazem al-Amin is a Lebanese writer and journalist at al-Hayat. He was a field reporter for the newspaper, and covered wars in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza. He specialized in reporting on Islamists in Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, Kurdistan and Pakistan, and on Muslim affairs in Europe. He has been described by regional media outlets as one of Lebanon's most intelligent observers of Arab and Lebanese politics.