The teenager behind Syria’s revolution says ‘has no regrets’

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The Syrian teenager, whose arrest helped ignite the Syrian revolution, said he had no regrets in an interview published by a U.S. newspaper on Friday.

The 17-year-old teenager, who agreed, along with his father, to speak with The New York Times as long as his name was not revealed to protect and shield his relatives residing in the southern border city of Dara’a near Jordan.

Covering his face with the rebel flag during the interview in Jordan where his family took refuge, the boy said after all what happened, “we found out who he really is,” in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Syrian revolution was fueled by teenage rebellion against authority when the teenager watched his cousin spray-paint the wall of a school in Dara’a with a graffiti directed against President Assad, who is a trained ophthalmologist. It read: “It’s your turn, doctor.”

The graffiti symbolized the opening episode for a new Arab Spring in Syria starting March 2011.

The teenager said he had sleepless nights after his cousin’s acts of defiance. According to him, it was not only the graffiti but the cousin had set alight a new police kiosk in the same day.

While the teenager and his friends did not talk much about politics, the language of dissent filled the TV channels.

The authorities reacted furiously on the slight, arresting the teenager and more than a dozen other boys and then torturing them for weeks.

The teenager didn’t expect the police, the military and the military police to have such strong reaction. “I thought it would pass,” he said. But it did not.

To stop the arrest, the boy’s relatives, neighbors and hundreds of others in the city gathered for protests demanding release of the boys. Security forces opened fire on the crowds expecting them to succumb but they were wrong.

“People became uncontrollable,” the father said.

According to The New York Times, “it is impossible to say how things might have turned out had the Assad government taken a more accommodating stance toward the protest.”

Activists in the southern city still insist that the Syrian regime could have contained the incident, but hopes were dashed quickly as the deaths began to mount.

After returning from jail and torture, the teenager was unrecognizable by his father.

He fled to Jordan about a year ago to look for work as a day laborer. Two months ago, he heard that his cousin who wrote the graffiti and somehow managed to avoid arrest, had joined the rebels as a fighter and was later killed.

In January, the United Nations has lifted the 23-month Syria conflict’s death toll to 60,000, in a dramatic indication of the brutal extent of the crackdown in the country during the uprising which developed into civil war.

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