This morning, 4 western journalists are home safe with their families, the echoes of the horror and heroism of Baba Amr still ringing in their ears. Over 50 Syrian activists, supported by Avaaz, volunteered to rescue them and scores of wounded civilians from the Syrian army’s killzone. Many of those incredible activists have not survived the week.
Abu Hanin is one of the heroes. He’s 26, a poet, and when his community needed him, he took the lead in organizing the citizen journalists that Avaaz has supported to help the voices of Syrians reach the world. The last contact with Abu Hanin was on Thursday, as regime troops closed in on his location. He read his last will and testament to the Avaaz team in Beirut, and told us where he had buried the bodies of the two western journalists killed in the shelling. Since then, his neighborhood of Baba Amr has been a black hole, and we still don’t know his fate.
It’s easy to despair when seeing Syria today, but to honour the dead, we must carry forward the hope they died with. As Baba Amr went dark and fears of massacre spread, Syrians took to the streets — yet again — across the country, in a peaceful protest that showed staggering bravery.
Their bravery is our lesson, the gift of the Syrian people to the rest of us. Because in their spirit, in their courage to face the worst darkness our world has to offer, a new world is being born.
And in that new world, the Syrian people are not alone. Millions of us from every nation have stood with them time and time again, right from the beginning of their struggle. Nearly 75,000 of us have donated almost $3 million to fund people-powered movements and deliver high-tech communications equipment to help them tell their story, and enable the Avaaz team to help smuggle in over $2 million worth of medical supplies. We’ve taken millions of online actions to push for action from the Security Council and the Arab League and for sanctions from many countries, and delivered those online campaigns in dozens of stunts, media campaigns and high-level advocacy meetings with top world leaders. Together we’ve helped win many of these battles, including for unprecedented action by the Arab League, and oil sanctions from Europe.
Our team in Beirut has also provided a valuable communications hub for brave and skilled activists to coordinate complex smuggling operations and the rescue of the wounded and the journalists. Avaaz does not direct these activities, but we facilitate, support and advise. We have also established safe houses for activists, and supported the outreach and diplomatic engagement of the Syrian National Council — the opposition movement’s fledgling political representative body. Much of the world’s major media have covered Avaaz’s work to help the Syrian people, including features on BBC, CNN, El Pais, TIME, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, AFP and many more, citing our “central role” in the Syrian peaceful protest movement.
Today, a dozen more nightmares like that visited on the city of Homs are unfolding across Syria. The situation will get worse before it gets better. It will be bloody, and complicated, and as some protesters take up arms to defend themselves, the line between right and wrong will blur. But President Assad’s brutal regime will fall, and there will be peace, and elections, and accountability. The Syrian people simply will not stop until that happens — and it may happen sooner than we all think.
Every expert told us at the beginning that an uprising in Syria was unthinkable. But we sent in satellite communications equipment anyway. Because our community knows something that the experts and cynics don’t — that people power and a new spirit of citizenship are sweeping our world today, and they are fearless, and unstoppable, and will bring hope to the darkest places. Marie Colvin, an American journalist covering the violence in Homs, told Avaaz before she died, "I’m not leaving these people." And neither will we.
With hope, and admiration for the Syrian people and courageous citizens everywhere,
Ricken, Wissam, Stephanie, Alice, David, Antonia, Will, Sam, Emma, Wen-Hua, Veronique and the whole Avaaz team
P.S. If you want to do more, click here to help keep our lifeline of hope into Syria open:
Powered by millions of online actions and donations from 75,000 of us, our community is playing a central role in supporting the Syrian people as they persist in peaceful protest against all odds. Together, we’re empowering citizen journalism, smuggling in medical supplies and western journalists, and much more.We’re making a difference, but the staggering bravery of the Syrian people is their gift to the rest of us. Read this email for the full story, or look at this recent media coverage of Avaaz’s work on Syria: BBC, CNN, El Pais,TIME, The Guardian, Der Spiegel,AFP.
Intervention has started in Syria and there won’t be any end in sight now.
An as-yet-unconfirmed report has emerged today claiming that 13 French soldiers have been captured in the Syrian city of Homs. If confirmed this would be the first conclusive proof of direct Western intervention in Syria’s civil war.
The report comes from the Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star. It says there are discussions between the Syrian and French governments already regarding what to do with the captured “officers.”
The French Foreign Ministry was quick to deny the reports, saying there were no ground troops in Syria to begin with. The French Defense Ministry stopped well short of denial, however, saying it would “neither confirm nor deny” the claim.
Speculation is that the troops could have been involved in the rescue of Western journalists from Homs, though one of the journalists adamantly denied having seen any French troops during their time in the city, saying “we owe our escape” to the rebel army.
“They call it the widows’ basement. Crammed amid makeshift beds and scattered belongings are frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs, the Syrian city shaken by two weeks of relentless bombardment. Among the 300 huddling in this wood factory cellar in the besieged district of Baba Amr is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and her home to the shells and rockets. ‘Our house was hit by a rocket so 17 of us were staying in one room,’ she recalls as Mimi, her three-year-old daughter, and Mohamed, her five-year-old son, cling to her abaya. ‘We had had nothing but sugar and water for two days and my husband went to try to find food.’ It was the last time she saw Maziad, 30, who had worked in a mobile phone repair shop. ‘He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.’ For Noor, it was a double tragedy. Adnan, her 27-year-old brother, was killed at Maziad’s side.
Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death. The refuge was chosen because it is one of the few basements in Baba Amr. Foam mattresses are piled against the walls and the children have not seen the light of day since the siege began on February 4. Most families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs.
The city is running perilously short of supplies and the only food here is rice, tea and some tins of tuna delivered by a local sheikh who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket.”