Syria: Is anybody out there?

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Is anybody out there?

The media only looks at ISIS’ violent videos, but nonviolent Syrians are working to build a humane society. The world must look at this, says Hania Mourtada.


Planet Syria artwork. by Tammam Azzam

Imagine a town or area that the rebels control. ISIS controls parts of northeast Syria with violence. But in a lot of the country, ordinary Syrians are trying to build a culture that is humane, lively, democratic and fair.

Even now, after four and a half years of war, groups are working every day to create a better Syria. Syria’s new civil society has graffiti, radio stations, schools, field hospitals, groups that give psycho-social support to children and centres for the education of women. And all this has happened as the government are bombing the areas controlled by rebels.

Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, is controlled by the rebels. The Unified Revolutionary Medical Bureau there gives medical care to the community, who have no food. It also reports chemical attacks. They do not have much medicine or equipment, but these men and women continue to help. The local people have no-one else to help them.

In Maaret al-Noaman, an important city in the northeast, Muznah runs an educational centre. She gives courses to teach women to read and write, and train them in nursing and hairdressing. Some women who come are single mothers. After the courses, they can find work and support their children. ‘Older women thought their life was finished’ says Muznah, ‘but here they can begin again and make the best of a very bad situation.’

In Daraya, Damascus, a group of young female journalists have started an outspoken independent weekly newspaper, Enab Baladi. It is the first newspaper like this in liberated areas.

In December 2014, we started Planet Syria. This is a network of more than 100 groups working across the country, so others will know what is happening. We want to make the movement stronger and more important by bringing groups together and telling their stories of creativity and resistance.

These Syrians desperately want support to become active citizens controlling their own future. We want the people in power to listen to the people who want social justice in this complicated war. The media is more interested in the violent ISIS videos. But this humanitarian work and nonviolent activism is more important.

Many of these groups have had problems in their work from radical militia groups. But the main problem is bombs – killing Syrians and destroying houses. They need a No-Fly-Zone to protect the liberated areas controlled by rebels from Assad’s daily bombs. Then the nonviolent civil society in Syria will develop, refugees will return, and an alternative government to Assad will start to develop. If the bombing continues, Planet Syria won’t trust what the international community are demanding, or a peace process supported by other countries.

At the start of this uprising there was a time of great hope. Many ordinary Syrians have been developing that. People who say they care about Syria must support them.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).