Syria: an uprising so far, so close

So far, pictures coming from Damascus were very rare. Between July 4 and August 8, Carole Alfarah, a young Syrian photographer has interviewed Damascenes from the middle-class by asking them two questions: "How do you perceive the revolution in progress?" and "How do you see Syria in the future?" Below are their answers, which do not belong in any way to the photographer herself. (First published by Le Monde.)
By Carole Alfarah

Rudi Othman, 23 years old, is a law student at Damascus University. He aims to change the world since he was 17.

The contestation: "At first we were not well organized. In the early gatherings, we used to look at each other without saying a word. On March 15, we found ourselves in front of the Umayyad Mosque. No one dared to speak. I felt desperate and I was about to leave when I heard a girl screaming out loud: "God, Syria, Freedom!" I started screaming too and then we were all screaming together. It was terrifying and exciting at a time. Later on, I was filming with my cell phone when two members of the State Security came forward. I managed to escape and I posted the video on Facebook and it was taken up by several Arab channels. That's when I realized that we could tell the entire world about our revolution."

The future of the country: “After the revolution, Syria should become a State based on participatory democracy, where there is no differentiation between Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians or Turkmen."

Ghalia Seifo, 32 years old, employee at the British Council in Damascus. She wants both Bashar Al-Assad and freedom.

The contestation: "I remember when people had called February 5 on Facebook, the “Day of Anger”.”Then nothing happened. So I didn’t pay more attention to Internet calls. But when the revolution started seriously, I was amazed. My father and brothers told me about the troubles of 1980s. My father took a bullet in his leg pulled by a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. I believe that what is happening in Syria is unfair especially after many years of stability and security. "

The future of the country: "At the end of the day I am optimistic. The new Syria will be better and stronger than Syria today. The blood of martyrs won’t go in vain. We will benefit from Freedom, democracy, and a multiparty system; a new free Syria, under the leadership of President Bashar Al-Assad. At that moment, the youth will be able to play the greatest role. But everything won’t be perfect as the wounds of the Syrians will certainly take good time to heal. "

Wafa Al-Assafeen, 42 years old, is a tailor. She is a widow and mother of four children. She puts her trust in God and in the President.

The contestation: "I was shocked when I knew about the demonstrations against the government but I was not afraid because I believe in divine providence. God protects Syria. We Syrians believe in God and we fear God. I feel sad for every Syrian killed during the recent events. It is heartbreaking to see these young people seduced by money and fake freedom in the name of djihad and killing in the name of Allah."

The future of the country: "I am optimistic. I see a bright future for Syria, especially for those categories that were previously unnoticed. The new reforms will help more classes of society. There will be equal and social justice, even if all our dreams do not become reality, although we will take time to recover. Syria is everything to me and my children. I wouldn’t at any price change my place on earth. We are all with the president. We do love him; and I see the future of Syria with him."

Mouftah Nour, 34 years old, works as a hotel manager. For him, the revolution is nothing but a foreign plot.

The contestation: "I was not surprised. I expected what is currently happening in Syria. I believe the Arab revolutions are not real popular revolutions. They are directed in order to weaken the Arab regimes. It is certain that Syria is targeted because of its strategic position in the Middle East. Syria is the only independent Arab country, which strongly supports the Palestinian people and makes no concessions to Israel and America."

The future of the country: "In the near future, I can see Syria as a stable and prosperous country. I expect a high level of economic development. Syria is one of the top ten tourist destinations in the world. Unfortunately, because of the current situation, tourism has been stopped. But I think next year will be a great year for tourism in Syria. In conclusion, I analyze the current events optimistically, and Syria will come out stronger."

Hibat Allah Al-Anssari, 26 years old,is an Arts student at Damascus University. She is terrified by the security forces.

The contestation: "When the Egyptian revolution started, my friends and I wanted to participate, but we did not know what to do. That was before the recent events in Syria. We decided to demonstrate outside the headquarters of a mobile operator in Damascus to claim lower prices. We have been controlled by the security forces and I did not have my ID. They arrested me, I was shocked, I cried…. They put me in prison with women arrested for prostitution… I'm really happy that the winds of change are finally blowing in Syria. Under the guise of the state emergency, they arrest whoever they want. Security forces are everywhere: in coffee shops, in the streets, and even in taxis. I feel suffocated in my country."

The future of the country: "My dream is that the new Syria becomes a democratic country that guarantees freedom of opinion and mutual respect."

Ralda Khawam, 31 years old, is a makeup artist. She is angry against the Western media.

The contestation: "It was a huge shock. I was watching the news in my room when I saw the demonstrations in the Umayyad Mosque. I could not believe my eyes. I was convinced that the whole thing will bring to an end very quickly, but when it became a huge event and when I saw the false news disseminated by foreign media, I realized that all this was a vast conspiracy against Syria. The idea of a civil war in Syria terrifies me. I hope this will not happen."

The future of the country: "I trust President Assad. I am pretty sure that he will find a solution to get us out of this crisis. Since the events, I realized how much I love my country. Before, I hated all the traditions and complications of our society, but now I can see that it was absolutely nothing comparing to living safely in Syria."

Rasha Akil, 33 years old, unemployed. She went from a pro-revolutionary to an anti- revolutionary.

The contestation: "At first, I was happy because I was fed up with the corruption, nepotism, and inequality. And I was pleased when President Assad launched his reforms, accepting more freedom of opinion. But when the crisis has gained momentum and reached a tipping point and affected me personally, my feelings have changed. I was working on a project funded by the European Union and because of sanctions against Syria, I lost my job. These sanctions have not affected the government but the people. We were 300 people, all licensees. Officials still have their jobs ...”

The future of the country: "The protests are not peaceful. Maybe there are some exceptions, but most of the protesters have weapons; they are killing police officers, and demonstrators. If the blood continues to flow, the situation will turn into a real disaster. In Syria, we are not accustomed to political pluralism. Each opponent is against the regime for personal reasons, which means that none of them can represent me or the Syrian people. Moreover, I cannot imagine those who have lived all their lives abroad raising Syria at a higher level of democracy given all the hatred that they carry with them."

Wael Al-Samhouri, 53 years old, is an architect and professor at Damascus University. He fears a loss of investors’ confidence in the country.

The contestation: "My first reaction? I was shocked. I did not expect that to happen in Syria! Syria, the country of security! We are not used to see people fighting with each other. It is absurd to see the Syrians killing each other. It was not really the right timing. The country was progressing, and experiencing a major growth. I have personally benefited. I have a steady job that keeps me going in life. What a waste! Big infrastructure projects will be stopped and investments will be reduced. It wasn’t easy for the country to earn investors’ trust and now that trust has vanished.

The future of the country: "I am actually working more than before since the beginning of the crisis. My students and I are redoubling efforts to ensure that, when all this is over, Syria will become a new stable and effective country."

Amer Mattar, 25 years old, is a journalist in Al-Arabiya channel and Al-Hayat newspaper. His passage in the jails of the regime has changed him forever.

The contestation: "I am proud to take part in the revolution as a free Syrian, and a journalist with integrity. I broadcast the truth of the Syrian revolution. I was arrested and imprisoned for sixteen days. I was beaten and tortured for publishing the reality and not the official speech. Only painful words can express my experience in the prisons of the regime; too much darkness, too much fear and humiliation. I will never forget those moments. Friday, July 1, I went to the demonstration and left a letter to my father, saying "Paint our door with my blood and do not clean it up before dawn. Your freedom is my ransom." "

The future of the country: "I see a better Syria, liberated from the Assad regime. A Syria liberated from jails and massacres. It will be a country washed from the dark colors of tyranny."

Mohammed Said Yaghmour, 47 years old, a janitor at Beit Nizam (historic home of Damascus). He is not seeking democracy.

The contestation: "I never thought such a thing could happen in Syria. We are peaceful people. These scenes of killing and brutality are not possible. Even though my salary is only 10 000 Syrian pounds (145 euros), and nothing remains for me at the end of the month, although I should take several jobs to pay my accommodation and my children expenses, I will never destroy my country!"

The future of the country: "President Bashar al-Assad represents the future of Syria: a young moderate and intellectual man. He loves his people and his nation has developed. I hope this crisis will be over soon. We have no need for democracy in Iraq; we do not need freedom in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. We saw what happened to them. We do not need any foreign interference. We can solve our problems ourselves."  

Tasneem Al-Qassem, 66 years old, is a mother and grandmother, and works in landscaping. She also teaches yoga. For her, the revolution has awakened the Syrians.

The contestation: "At the beginning of the events I was shocked, just like many other people. We thought that we were safe and secure until came this event to disturb us. Once awakened from the shock, I began to think that this crisis was the best thing that ever happened in Syria. It aroused our feelings, our thoughts, our interests and visions. This crisis has awakened our conscience to go forward, to take initiatives and move towards what is best for Syria."

The future of the country: "We need time, especially for the youth, to understand the invisible dimensions of these events. Each one of us must be careful in his thoughts and actions in order not to fall into a wrong path. Each one of us must take the path of forgiveness and liberate himself from the shackles of the past and the feelings of anger, tension and rage. Consciousness can be positively developed by joining the universal system of balance and harmony. This would require more initiatives and efforts, by way of patience, perseverance and determination."