Syria Notes Spring 2019

Testimony: Listening to Syrians

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Editor: Kellie Strom. Contributing Editor: M. Yafa. Design by Superpower Partners®. Printing of this issue funded by Lush Charity Pot. All contents are copyright © the individual contributors.

Our previous issue from Autumn 2018 is here.

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Introduction: Telling difficult stories of Syria

The Editors

Outside the sun was shining down on London. We were in a room with a group of secondary school students who had given up two hours of a spring afternoon to learn about Syria. We were telling them the story of Raed Fares and Hammoud al-Juneid, two non-violent activists murdered just a few months ago.

It is a story that touches all parts of the history of Syria’s revolution from 2011 until now. To tell it, we have been interviewing women and men who knew Raed and Hammoud, who worked with them and were friends with them. In this issue we bring you a first taste of this ongoing project.

The students were bright, inquisitive, and generally politically aware, but they knew very little about Syria. There we stood, trying to convey eight years’ worth of history, tragedy, and layers upon layers of complicated details. In that room we were faced by a realisation. This realisation is not new or shocking, and we have seen it creep up year after year, but it is heart breaking nonetheless: The story of the Syrian people is getting harder to be told, to be dissected and connected, and to be understood.

This issue of Syria Notes is an invitation to listen to Syrians telling stories about Syrians. About friends and family lost to imprisonment, torture, and murder. About dreamers who challenged the Assad dictatorship with its Russian and Iranian government backers, and also challenged the tyranny of jihadist armed groups. With these stories we hope the reader can capture parts of the Syrian dream that drove millions to the streets in 2011, a dream of a free and democratic inclusive civil state for Syria, a dream of a better world for all of us. In the words of one of the chants of Syria’s peaceful marchers: ‘Yes, we still want freedom.’