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Op-ed: Act Now, Save Syria - What You Can Do To Help

by Pham Binh, published
Free Syrian Army fighters. Credit:

Never in the history of revolutions has it been possible to see what is actually happening on the ground the way it is today in Syria. Dig, and you will find the unfiltered, unembedded truth.

For those who believe the Syria revolution is just as much a part of the Arab Spring as the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya, the following are concrete steps you can take to lend Syrians a hand in toppling their tyrant.

What to Read

For those confused about what is going on in Syria, these articles may help provide perspective.

  1. Nir Rosen traveled to Syria and wrote about what he saw of the revolution. He also did a five-part interview with Al-Jazeera that is worth reading in its entirety.
  2. Anand Gopal, an anti-imperialist reporter who spent time in Afghanistan and Libya, wrote what is probably the only on-the-ground class analysis of the revolution and its social forces, specifically the town councils that govern post-regime areas. You can also listen to his interview on Democracy Now where he first talks about U.S. war crimes against Afghans before moving onto Bashar al-Assad's war crimes against Syrians.
  3. Joshua Landis, Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Associate Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oklahoma wrote a good piece in 2006 about the class divide in Syria that underpins the revolution. He has a new blog that combines rigorous, factual analysis with historical perspective.
  4. An inside look into the Assad regime's propaganda apparatus by McClatchy, a news outlet that distinguished itself during the 2003 Iraq war and occupation for its independent reporting.

The Misinformation War

The Russian and Iranian governments (through their respective Fox News equivalents, Russia Today and PressTV)  spread misinformation about Syria among the gullible and the cynical. The canard that the Free Syrian Army was responsible for a massacre in Houla spread like wildfire on the Western left, but when the truth came out, few if any of them did a retraction.

This is strikingly similar to the behavior of neocons in the run up to the 2003 war on Iraq. They played up every hint (true or false) of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al-Qaeda while ignoring, dismissing, or downplaying all of the hard evidence to the contrary because it conflicted with preconceived notions of reality and fixed policy prescriptions.

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

The Western left's dire predictions about post-NATO Libya turned to be just as wrong as neocon fantasies about post-invasion Iraq. Both remain stuck in denial.

There is a lot of first-hand reporting going on in Syria, almost exclusively through pro-revolution sources (although Robert Fisk has chosen to embed himself with Assad's military a la Fox News in 2003). The Syrian Freedom tumblr posts photos, videos, and generally reliable information about moves on the battlefield and defections. Their livestream channel is the best English-language source that compiles live video of street protests/fighting in Aleppo, Damascus, Daraa, and other places with live tweets by the Local Coordinating Committees and other Syrian activists, breaking news items, regime atrocities, and the daily body count. Brown Moses, a blog by Elliot Higgins, focuses on the military-technical challenges the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is grappling with as they fight a 21st century people's war. Stephanie Lamy, a French photographer-turned-Libyan-revolutionary-(h)activist, compiled a very extensive listing of YouTube channels and Facebook pages correlated with a map of Syria so people can look into and investigate for themselves the demonstrations and all-out battles that break out in various parts of the country.


Revolutionary Syrians will march and rally on September 2 from 9 a.m. to noon in Lafayette Park in front of the White House under the slogan: "World Silence is Killing Syria." This is being organized by the Syrian American Council, an umbrella organization of Syrians living in the U.S. and co-sponsored by the Syrian Expatriates Organization, Syrian Emergency Task Force, United for a Free Syria, and Amnesty International.

On September 1, there will be a local rally in New York City on 40th Street and 7th Avenue in Times Square at 4 p.m. to help build for the national march the next day under the slogan, "The World Has Failed Us."

Think Global, Act Local

Forging close and enduring relationships with revolutionary Syrians living abroad through joint work with their communities is more difficult task than showing up to a one-off rally. You have to do research, make some phone calls, email people/groups, poke around a bit, and consistently walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. There dozens of organizations and initiatives (even small ones) that have sprung up literally overnight to support the Syrian revolution much as Occupy Wall Street rapidly spawned occupations, protests, sit-ins, and other initiatives all over the United States (and the world).

Thus far, the revolutionary wing of the Syrian community (and there is a counter-revolutionary wing too) has been extremely isolated in its activities in solidarity with the revolution. Many of their Web sites and Facebook updates are written only in Arabic even though their organizations are based in the West. After all, why bother writing and speaking English if no English-speakers take an interest in the revolution?

As you can see from the above protest in Times Square, New York City, the ostensibly pro-Palestinian left was completely absent with out leave. So were progressives, liberals, anarchists, socialists, and Marxists. So was everyone -- except the Syrians.

The Western left's groundswell of support for the 2011 Egyptian revolution (see above) dried up when the Libyans needed it last year and the Syrians need it now due to our simplistic brand of anti-imperialism.

In the New York City area, there are two organizations doing work around the Syrian revolution, Syria First and Syrian-Americans for Democracy. Both have organized protests at the United Nations and in Times Square as well as raised money to distribute badly needed humanitarian aid to Syria's swelling internal and external refugee population.

The humanitarian/relief aspect of solidarity work is crucial. Revolutions are not made primarily by guns and bullets but by people, and people can't struggle effectively without something to eat (the Assad regime knows this; it's why they shell bakeries). Occupy Wall Street succeeded in mobilizing people where the conventional left failed in part because it gave people a hot meal and a place to sleep instead of haranguing them to buy a newspaper, "join the revolution," or stand in a rally cage to "demand" 1% politicians act in our interests instead of theirs.

The fact of the matter is that the Syrian people are not just being killed at a rate of 100-200 per day, they are being forced to flee their homes, forced to make due with what little they have (which wasn't much to begin with), and forced to survive on the charity of strangers, often in strange lands. The groups that are providing humanitarian supplies and relief are doing essential work; all friends of the Syrian people should aid, assist, and organize those efforts where ever possible.

Give them bread and give them roses.

When schools come back into session, people can organize teach-ins, speak-outs, and flash mobs about the Syrian revolution in conjunction with Arab/Muslim student associations (who will probably be interested in relief work as well). It's also worth inquiring at nearby mosques whether they are doing any activities for Syria since many Syrian-American organizations have held prayer days, fund-raisers, and other events through them.

All of the above can be done no matter where you live.

If you are not comfortable or able to organize these types of events and activities, you can donate money to Syria Assistance or, if you're feeling really adventurous, you can send money through Paypal to the FSA through its American affiliate, the Syrian Support Group (SSG). (The old-fashioned among us can write checks to SSG; see their Web site for the address and details.) SSG obtained a license for fund-raising from the U.S. Treasury Department that exempts them from U.S. sanctions on Syria.

Those who profess to support the Syrian revolution now have the opportunity to take action.

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