The return of the Syrian revolution to its beautiful youth
The film Little Gandhi tells the story of a young Syrian dreaming of freedom
While attending the annual conference of the Syrian American Association in Washington DC, I came to realize the new reality of the Syrian revolution following a series of mistakes and distortions. Among the activities organized was the screening of Little Gandhi, a film that tells the story of a young Syrian dreaming of freedom. He thinks he could achieve peace by offering a bottle of water and a white rose to Bashar al–Assad’s soldiers to convince them of their unity. The soldiers, however, kill him in the beginning of the revolution.
Ghaith Matar – called the “little Gandhi” by his admirers – was indeed killed but was among those who sparked the revolution, an armed struggle against the brutality of the regime, despite the fact that his colleagues, in the film, were still debating whether it was possible to return to a peaceful revolution. Obviously, most of them wanted a peaceful revolution.
This is no longer a choice after the brutal bombings of Daraya. The city is holding fort despite the siege, the starving of its people and lack of weapons to put up a fight. While the regime was able to expel ISIS from Palmyra last week, it could not enter into Daraya. The regime never believed in peaceful protests nor in Ghaith’s dream of a democratic and diverse Syria.
While watching the film, three facts seemed almost certain to me about the future of the Syrian revolution: first, the revolution will return, in all its freshness and vitality, to the places tyrannized by either the regime or ISIS. Second, eventually the true nature of al-Nusra will be exposed and it will become clear that neither the outfit nor the regime nor ISIS can have anything to do with any lasting peace and prosperity in Syria. Third, in spite of Russia’s initial powerful support to the regime the true heart of the revolution continues to beat as evidenced by Russian withdrawal, the ceasefire, and the Geneva negotiations.
Because of all the killings, denunciation, and international conventions, we are led to forget about the Syrian revolution’s original objectivesJamal Khashoggi
Ghaith Matar offers a bottle of water and a white rose to Assad’s soldiers in the first scene. Other scenes show his speech, his dreams, his death, his funeral and the pain of the people of Daraya. They capture the entire nation’s longing for freedom.
In the movie, young people are seen talking about the need for an armed revolution, others about the need for peaceful revolution and places liberated from regime control. There are also those who want territories liberated, signifying the vision of Gaith Mattar.
The regime describes the protesters as armed gangs, speaks about foreign conspiracies, terrorism, and interventions by the Saudis, Turks and Qataris. The regime, on the other hand, is presented as a murderer who wants to hide the image of thousands of people killed in the country. Because of all the killings, denunciation, and international conventions, we are led to forget about the Syrian revolution’s original objectives.
Images of freedom
Images of freedom and white roses fade only to be replaced by opposition’s discussion of war maps and strategies. Black images of ISIS cast a dark cloud over the entire country. The Syrian Revolution captures the headlines and is described as an “indirect war” between Saudi Arabia and Iran causing further confusion in the mind of the US President Barack Obama.
In the third or fourth year of the revolution, no one remembers Ghaith, or Hamza al-Khatib or other such figures, but awaits a meeting between Kerry and Lavrov and Adel al-Jubeir and Shawish Oglu, the foreign ministers of the most important countries concerned about the crisis. The revolution switches to anger and revenge in the writings of some journalists.
Bashar al-Assad describes Arab leaders as “half-men” in an important Arab summit. Others speak only about an international conflict over oil and gas. Suddenly Syria comes back to the forefront with the innocent demands of the Arab Spring, as a wonderful dream of Ghaith.
Ghaith reminded me of another young man named Wael Ghanim, one of the driving forces behind the January 25 Egyptian revolution as he appeared as a guest of Mona Shazli after being released from prison. As he watched the killings of so many people that were aired on the show, he collapsed and declared that he did not want anyone to die. At that time, Egypt was full of hope and love, which is very different from the Egypt of today.
Today after all the killings, and the destruction of our cities and villages, we no longer cry; our stronger fear is that our nation will die.
This article first appeared in Al Hayat on Apr. 02, 2016.
Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels. Twitter: @JKhashoggi