Syria's nonviolent resistance is dying to be heard
by Rania Khalek
Much of the debate over U.S. intervention in Syria boils down the conflict there to a clash between the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and an armed rebellion in which al-Qaeda affiliates play a significant role. Typically ignored in that conversation are the voices of the non-violent opposition movement that took to the streets to challenge Assad in March 2011, and which has persisted against great odds.
"No matter how beleaguered it is, civil resistance continues," says Mohja Kahf, a Professor of Middle East studies and literature at the University of Arkansas and a member of the Syrian Non Violence Movement (SNVM). A network of peaceful groups remains active in opposition to the regime inside Syria, their activities plotted by SNVM on an interactive map that can be viewed online.
Although it was the activists in such groups that originally drove the nationwide uprising against the Assad regime, these days much of their activity involves triage, mitigating the impact of the civil war and building the capacity for self-governance in towns no longer under regime control.
Reem Salahi, a Syrian-American civil rights attorney who spent time in Syria over the summer, witnessed a flourishing alternative media infrastructure, grassroots councils to run local government and organize humanitarian relief in areas vacated by the regime, and projects such as the Karama Bus -- or "bus of dignity" -- which travels around Idlib province offering psycho-social support for internally displaced children. "For Syrians living in Syria, just surviving and engaging in daily activities is a form of opposition, a form of activism," said Salahi.Read more