Thank you very much for this guest post Jeanne d’Arc Remko. Jeanne is one of the panelists for today’s event in Kelowna: What’s Going On in Syria
Jeanne Remko is a criminology student at Simon Fraser University, with a passion for human rights and justice. Jeanne’s parents are Kurdish Syrians . She gained activism experience through her father, who has been an outspoken critic of Ba’ath party (ruling party of Syria) and was eventually incarcerated for it.
Jeanne is currently a volunteer with the Amnesty International and is a member of Voice of New Syria Non-Profit Society. Her family was the first to rally in Vancouver against Assad prior to this revolution, and she, along with her family have continued to rally every week throughout the entire year.
Assad thinks this is another country where people will be pushed to civil war: It’s war against ASSAD, not each other. #ByeBatta
— Jeanne d’Arc Remko (@JeannedarcRemko) April 26, 2012
I often try to distance myself from the word “activist” because so many people have hopped on the activism bandwagon since 2011. Growing up as a daughter of an exile, I learned from a very young age that activism meant more than just receiving collateral benefits, like fame. The real benefits of activism affect everyone. Activists seek to reveal the truth, question authority, and educate the masses in attempts to increase the collective humanity in the world. There is no question that the Internet and various social media outlets help activists, educators and those wishing to learn more about the world we live in. Social media becomes a tool, not the activity.
After the death of a quiet hero of Tunisia, Mohammad Bouazizi, Tunisians took to the street in defiance. His tragedy not only sparked Tunisia’s revolution, but the entire Arab spring. The world progressed a little more each time a dictator fell: Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi. But the inspirational people of the Middle East had unfinished business. Syria was next.
Children wrote slogans on the side of their school: “Bashar, you’re next” in the city of Daraa. These children were arrested by secret police, and severely tortured. When the mothers and families demanded their release, the response from security forces were “Go make new children, because you will be saying good bye to these ones soon.” It is no surprise this ignited protests of several thousands of people, day after day.
Syrians took to Facebook to show the world their peaceful protests, and how Assad forces responded. Since then, thousands upon thousands of clips have been uploaded, showing the sharp contrast between creative protests of the people and the brutish response from Assad troops. Much of what is recycled through Re-Tweets on Twitter, and Shares on Facebook is horrid to watch but would be worse to ignore. I find that some people have gotten the “idea” of the violence instigated by Assad troops, so RT and Share is automatic, even without watching.
My presence on Twitter is my favourite way to communicate with those on the ground in Syria as well as other activists who have different perspectives to offer. Twitter has opened by eyes to the vast array of information that is constantly available. It is like an infinite scroll of education. With any social media or online site, there needs to be precautions and scrutiny to be able to decipher what is ‘true’ and what is not.
Social media is the revolutionary tool of the new millennium. Revolutionaries no longer wield swords or are on the attack like in previous eras. The Syrian revolutionary is in the form of a citizen journalist; one of the most noble, important and dangerous roles of the revolution. They are equipped with camera phones or maybe camcorders, and film tragedy on a daily basis.
Social media has also helped in reaching out to family in Syria, to know what the atmosphere is like and what we can do to help in a practical way. I have been fortunate enough to get in contact with an outspoken revolutionary from Homs who in many ways is an inspiration. He tweets about the general atmosphere of his city, what happened and has even offers political opinions regarding the main transition opposition entity, the Syrian National Council (SNC).
Other outlets like Skype are useful in speaking to activists or family who want to talk about the revolution but fear their phone lines are tapped by the government. They know the government cannot control their online activities.
It’s easy to become an “activist” online because of the accessibility, low cost, and ability to reach millions of people within seconds. “Slacktivists” are a new breed created by the click of a “Share” or “Like” that are helpful but not what makes revolutions successful. It’s easy to forget the quiet, and hard work of millions of activists worldwide who are tireless in their efforts to achieve justice. It’s safe to say activists voices are amplified with social media, and we will continue to ring in the ears of tyrants and oppressors the world over.
Jeanne d’Arc Remko
Photo credit: FreedomHouse on Flickr