Robin Yassin-Kassab

Turn It Up

with 9 comments

For Syrians it’s an exhilarating experience simply to express honest political opinions out loud in a public place. For decades anti-regime gripes have been expressed in private, in whispers. Many were frightened to speak even in the home, lest the children repeat what they’d heard at school. But now people are screaming and singing against the regime every morning, afternoon and night. The sense of solidarity amongst the revolutionaries – breaking the fear barrier together, facing possible torture and death together – is enormous. These two films demonstrate the sometimes carnivalesque quality of the revolution as well as the Syrian people’s musicality. In the first, filmed in Da’el in the Hawran, a romantic tune is turned into an  anti-Asad anthem. In the second, filmed in the Baba Amro neighbourhood of Homs, the authorities cut electricity to a protesting area; the protestors illumine their mobile phone screens and keep on going. Both films should be watched with the volume on maximum.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

November 26, 2011 at 1:06 am

Posted in Syria

Tagged with ,

9 Responses

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  1. There are so unbelievably cool, Robin! Repeated viewings fill one with a sense of empowerment and hope for those brave, beautiful, unified masses. The defiant spirit of man in solidarity overcomes all odds, all attempts at spiteful, imbecilic, cowardly suppression. It is made all the more poignant when you realise that these are your ancestral brethren, the countrymen from your mother’s dear and beautiful homeland, standing up and screaming out against the odds. Makes me feel proud to be an Arab, no matter how Anglicised (hah!)

    Bergman Siamrock

    November 27, 2011 at 11:11 pm

  2. “… carnivalesque quality of the revolution” I read, the writing of that sentence was as I see here November 26, 2012. I did see this footage several weeks ago as it has been distributed on public television channels all over the world. From the first moment I did see these images and the ones with fierce insurgent young men and their weapons, I have feared for the worst. Now the worst has happened and it could have been foreseen. As an outsider I read in the first comment “beautiful, unified masses” and I must say never to have believed in such romantic views of realities that are quiet different. Means and ends have been separated. Armed insurgency against a militarised and entrenched policing system like the Assad-System regime, stood little chance and even when successful it is bound to bring yet another variation of totalitarian rule with large parts of the existing power structure in tact. Means and ends better should be married, the methods for chance should be in line on the kind of chance one wants. Militia revolution ends up in militia reign. Have a look at Libya. Non-spectacular citizens movements on all aspects of social live are needed, however minor, this will herald change. What you may see as carnivalesque, I see as a ‘dance macabre’.

    Tjebbe van Tijen

    March 15, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    • i’m not sure what you’re saying. the fact that people are dancing and singing in solidarity with each other is not the same fact as the arming of the revolution. i agree that there are great dangers in the arming of the revolution, but I don’t see what other option there is. As for Libya – it’s a little too early to say, surely. It would have been a miracle if a country with no permitted political culture for four decades suddenly became a model democracy. Qaddafi’s refusal to budge before a civil war budged him has certainly created a lot of problems for the future though, of course.

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      March 15, 2012 at 3:13 pm

  3. I have understood that the video footage on this neighbourhood came into existence because this part of the city was so called ‘liberated territory’, a liberation effected by armed insurgents, welcome or not by the local inhabitants. It ended with these ‘liberators’ having to withdraw, leaving behind them those who fell in the battle with the Syrian army and the de-liberated population. In that sense I saw the dance you seem to glorify with another mind-set, as a ‘dance macabre’. What I try to convey is the fate of ‘temporary liberated zones’ and the switching off of the electricity certainly proves my point. I invite you to draw up a list of stance-last dance festivities in history and posing the question if the insurgents did greatly endanger those who may have thought that somehow by miracle NATO would fly in and destroy their enemies, like it happened in Libya. And of course you are aware that certain inhabitants of a pro-Gaddafi stronghold like the town of Sirte had the misfortune of receiving the opposite of what was called ‘civilian protection’ by NATO, as well as by anti-Gaddafi insurgents. You may also include other examples of scenarios for democracy (and I leave in the middle how we can define this notion) than regime-systems like Assad and Gaddafi before concluding that weapons are the only answer. Let me suggest one: Myanmar (Burma).

    Tjebbe van Tijen

    March 15, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    • I’m still not sure what you’re on about, but your arrogance does come through very clearly. I think you should learn to write English before you tell me what to write about. And you should grow some brains before you presume to lecture the Syrian revolution. Keep on pontificating irrelevantly while brave Syrians fight and die for their freedom.

      Robin Yassin-Kassab

      March 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

  4. Aside from me learning to write English instead of my Dunglish (Dutch/English) … which indeed will only happen beyond my grave, when another opinion as yours gets classified as ‘arrogance’, then maybe I have misunderstood the function of your blog, as a place for discussion and not only to applaud you. I hold that a critical stance on the limits of fighting for ‘freedom’ with guns (especially against the forces available to the Assad regime) is relevant. However brave the Syrians that fight are, one may question the end result of such bravery. Social change often is wrought in a less spectacular way. It has been my job to document modern social movements with an international scope for several decades, which has learnt me that the way changes are made determine the outcome. A recent cartoon by Ali Farzat on ‘regime change’ and the use of weapons in Libya, sadly also is relevant for Syria now. (see: http://www.maysaloon.org/2011/08/brief-tour-with-syrian-we-love-you.html)

    Tjebbe van Tijen

    March 20, 2012 at 5:31 pm

  5. My problem is that you mix things up and don’t show respect for the revolutionary Syrians. Your ‘dance macabre’ comment is in poor taste. I am happy to celebrate syrians expressing themselves so well. If it weren’t for the free syrian army, made up of armed locals as well as defected soldiers, the Baba Amr area would have been ‘cleansed’ by the regime long ago. Yes, the FSA perhaps made a mistake by trying to hold urban spaces before they have the capacity to do so, and seem to have learnt this lesson. As for your lectures about Libya – Qaddafi bears most of the blame for turning Sirte into a warzone. And I have never called for NATO intervention – which isn’t coming anyway – in the very different conditions of Syria. If some Syrians are calling for intervention – from anywhere – we can hardly blame them. They and their children are being murdered. Your argument that social change is wrought in a less spectacular way is all very good from Holland. The Syrians under fire are responding however they can. They are not theorists of revolution but people who find themselves having to defend themselves. They deserve our support even when they make mistakes, just as the Palsestinians do.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    March 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  6. You say I “don’t show respect for the revolutionary Syrians” which is you must know a much too general qualification in a confuse situation like we face now. The word ‘revolutionary’ needs to be place in a very specific context to be valued either positive or negative. There are as much ‘revolutionary killings’ as ‘counter-revolutionary killings’ and I can say from the comfort of my study in my home in the Netherlands and I do not see why I should limit my opinion and the freedom I have to express that as if I were a Syrian citizen. You live – as far as I can discern in the comfort of being in the UK, if os, that is a good thing. You do good by engaging yourself to change the abhorred regime reigning in your country. But, as you are elsewhere it is your task – in my view if you pardon me – to support whoever says they are fighting fro freedom with whatever means. You must be well aware of realities as they exist, the heroic good ones and the ugly bad ones. And I hope you will consider to take position for the good and not the ugly. The letter by Human Rights Watch of today to the “Leaders of the Syrian Opposition” on abuses by armed opposition forces is just one example, that forces you to be less general and more critical. (http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/03/20/open-letter-leaders-syrian-opposition) The sad thing is that the Libya intervention has set Syrian opposition expectations for a similar scenario, that have proven to be utterly wrong. Expectations by people who seem to have forgotten the terrible massacre of Hama decades ago and how this mass killing has a kind of smoothly been absorbed and forgotten by the entity we call ‘the free world’. After all both the Gaddafi and the Assad family belonged to the political class of ‘befriended tyrants’ for geo-political and economic reasons. The NATO bombs that did struck – collateral or not – an apartment building in Sirte may be blamed on Gaddafi – as you try to do – but I am sure that the population of this city that survived has a different way of seeing it.

    Tjebbe van Tijen

    March 20, 2012 at 11:07 pm

  7. “There are as much ‘revolutionary killings’ as ‘counter-revolutionary killings’ ” – this idiotic statement sums you up. I am too old to talk to people like you. Go talk to the angry arab or someone. or Joseph Massad. you’ll have more fun there.

    Robin Yassin-Kassab

    March 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm

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