The Silent Resistance Fighters
Beyond initiatives such as protests, distributing pamphlets and other revolutionary activities, there is a more subtle resistance culture being cultivated in Syrian society. This silent activism manifests its resistance in the day-to-day support of the beleaguered communities that have been punished for years for protecting the work of nonviolent activists as well as militant ones.
Strategy of punishment
Many communities across the country have been made to pay for their participation in the revolution by denying them access to foodstuffs, drinking water, in addition to the daily bouts of destruction. The need for special projects to support these communities has never been greater, according to one involved activist: “especially with regards to providing specialist psychological assistance to the children who have had to live through this for years now.”
This is another important arena where the activists find themselves face to face with the regime’s machinery of destruction. In response to the activists efforts in protecting and supporting the role of communities as the natural social incubator of the uprising, the regime has placed tremendous resources into destroying this role. Its main strategy has been to terrorize a community into absolute submission, in an attempt to drive a wedge between the activists and their social context. This was evident in the siege of hunger laid by the regime on al-Yarmouk Camp, or the town of Muaddamiya, as a way of pressuring the community to end its support for the activist groups, as well as the militant ones. Syria Untold has attempted to document this silent resistance in the Syrian uprising.
The activists of al-Maliha
The town of al-Maliha near Damascus has been under such siege for many months, and it is a place of daily clashes between the regime’s forces and militant groups. Despite this daily danger, a group of activists has taken on themselves to provide psychological and mental support for the children of the town. This, according to one activist, was done to relieve some of the burdens from the families who are already worried about staying alive in this time of madness. In the beginning, the local communities were wary of trusting their children to people they didn’t know, but in the end, “they understood the importance of our work, and we have received several requests to do this on a regular basis.”
The project served around 60 children, divided in six groups, each with a different daily activity. Finding and furbishing a suitable place was the hardest part, according to the activists: “We had to find a safe place, away from the daily bombardment. We also needed to work in secret, away from the regime’s spies.” The project was also faced with financial difficulties, as it was financed by the activists themselves.
The activities started with a meeting of each groups where the main ground rules were laid through democratic voting among the children. Suggestions for activities were also subject to the children’s votes. This was an important component of the project according to one activist: “This was one of the first attempts to cultivate a democratic spirit in the children by involving in the decision making. Democracy is a culture, and we hope to be planting the seeds of that culture.”
The activities were sponsored by the Syrian Association for Women and Children and focused on taking the children’s minds off the ensuing daily destruction. They included, clay crafts, football, painting, musical chairs and facepainting.
The activists behind the project insist that their work is not related, nor is it against, the militant groups. They maintain that since it is essentially a “humanitarian work”, they did not feel the need to coordinate their work with opposition militias. Nevertheless, this humanitarian work is an important line of defense against the total collapse of the revolution’s most important supporters: the Syrian people.