Syria diary episode 1: “because words are stronger”.

In Syria, peaceful opposition activists need patience. For example, the group in Kafranbel. They have been fighting for democracy since 2011.

Without words: cartoon of the activist group. Image: Kafranbel

The small town of Kafranbel is located in Idlib province in northwestern Syria. The town has since gained international notoriety thanks to its colorful, often humorous political posters. The leader of the activist group, Raed Fares, has already served several prison terms. On January 29, 2014, an attack was made on him, which he barely survived. Below, Fares reports on his group’s latest activities.

For the commemoration day of the beginning of the revolution on March 18, 2011, we have planned various smaller events. But that’s not so important to us; we’re focusing mainly on long-term activities. For example, on International Women’s Day on March 8, the Mazaya Women’s Center, which is part of our large network in the region, honored more than 100 women for their extraordinary commitment since the beginning of the revolution.

At the moment, we are focusing on education in general, but especially that of children. Our approach is based on an alternative system, different from that of the ruling Baath regime. We have established many psychological support centers for children and now there are more than eight small educational centers in the region. We have also equipped secondary schools. We also want to open a medical vocational school for all specialties and another for training teachers. For the latter, we are seeking a license for a European university.

Militarization and the change in power relations in the region naturally also have an influence on the dynamics of the protests. We are constantly being bombed by the Assad regime. But other factors also count. Among the most important is the sympathy we have within the population.

documents impressions and developments from the civil war country. It will appear in loose succession from now on.

Bullets on words

At the moment, the Nusra Front (the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda, ed.) controls the area. So we have to be very careful and plan our actions carefully. The same applies to the Assad regime, which, like the Nusra Front, belongs to the authoritarian school. Both respond with bullets to words.

But despite their military superiority, we have defeated the Nusra Front before. They painted over one of our graffiti with black paint and wrote Koranic verses over it. We fight their violence with words. We painted over their slogans in white and sprayed our graffiti back on.

Probably the most important thing that has made us internationally famous is our consistency. That we continue, despite the difficult conditions from the first protest in 2011 until today.

Words instead of weapons

In addition, we take an interest in what is happening in the world and do not focus solely on Syria. The ingenuity and meticulousness with which our media team designs the posters, and the fact that we write them in English, also contribute to our success. The wit and black humor have certainly done their part. And, of course, the fact that we use YouToube and Facebook.

Despite all the pain and the countless terrible moments that have left many of us completely numb mentally, I have also experienced some happy moments. For example, when we recently sprayed another expressive graffiti on a wall in our village. We risked our lives for it, did it despite the brutality of the Nusra Front. But in the end, words are stronger than weapons.

Translation: Jessica Siepelmeyer

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