The new nonviolent movement in Syria
Nonviolence has been at the heart of the political protests in Syria since they began in the spring of 2011. However, when state military suppression escalated in response to civilian calls for democracy, people on the ground resorted to military tactics for self-defense and the preservation of the movement. Amidst the continuous fighting, a new nonviolent movement was born this spring through the brave political act of one woman, 33-year-old lawyer Rima Dali.
On April 8th, Rima stood in the middle of moving traffic in front of the People’s Council of Syria in Damascus, carrying a red banner emblazoned with white letters that read, “Stop the Killing, We Want to Build a Homeland for All Syrians.” This brave act, for which Rima endured a brief stint in prison, triggered a domino effect throughout the country. In both cities and rural areas, people have begun carrying the same banner in a public display of solidarity and a demand for an immediate end to the intensive bloodshed that the country been witnessing for over a year.
The Syrian nonviolent struggle has focused its efforts on bringing about an immediate end to the killing. It is a political movement that advocates for regime change in the country using the strategy of marches and silent demonstrations, of the sort that Rima Dali carried out. Some Syrians do not agree with the principles of the movement, suggesting that armed self-defense with the Free Syrian Army is the best course of action. Meanwhile, the violence continues as the Assad regime cracks down on both armed and peaceful protesters alike.
Ali Aydin Karamustafa is from St. Louis, Missouri, where he graduated from Washington University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in history and Arabic language and literatures. In the fall of 2012, he will pursue his doctorate in Middle Eastern history at Stanford University. Ali regularly follows political and cultural developments in the Middle East and at home in the United States.