The real Hiwar!
Like many Syrians abroad and in the country, I have been following every possible source of information about the Syrian rebellion/uprising/revolution (choose the one you believe to be true). Like many others, I have found the social media to be a faster, more interesting, and richer source of data about what is happening in our country.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others were an amazing way to go knee-deep into the massive swamp of information, lies, and rumours from all sides about all subjects related to the events.
The art of information-filtering has never been more important or useful before. However, the information filters in our brains are biased, and as many have said repeatedly, we are more prone to believing the bits and pieces that align with our already established beliefs.
I, for one, found it yesterday difficult to believe a note on Facebook that talked about the establishment of the Salafi Principality of Qatana complete with a horseback riding Emir (prince), the story went on with massive details about the heroic fight the security forces took to eradicate those Jehadists from just a few kilometres from Damascus.
On the other hand, I didn’t find it completely implausible when I heard a rumour that the Ministry of Religous Affairs (Awkaf) has decided to cancel the Ramadan post-meal Taraweeh prayers to prevent protests out of mosques everyday. I thought the regime is stupid enough to try something like this which, I speculated, would be the last straw. This was denied later.
The information filters, hence, are not of much use in finding pure truth, but the overflow of information (or nonformation if you will) has had another effect… it has, combined with the fall of fear, pushed people into the open. Syrians who didn’t dare speak their minds before are now speaking, even the Scared Syiran has put a couple of comments here and there under my real name.
Then the few words turned into many words, and then into an argument, and then into a whole lot of arguments, and then into fights, and then into a holly mess of contradicting, contrasting, and often angry Syrian opinions all over the cyber chalkboard.
A holly mess that is so beautiful I cannot look at without a smile of pride to cover my shame. Shamed I truly am, for I have allowed myself while living abroad and enjoying the advantages to lose faith in my people. I never thought of it too much, but I have indeed lost faith before this revolution.
More than a year ago, my young sister was visiting me, we were driving in a calm and organized European street when someone illegally double-parking almost hit my car. I got angry and shouted, in Arabic, that he is driving like a Syrian. All that was left in my head was that the mayhem that passes as driving in the streets of Damascus is an intrinsic characteristic of my people, one that took me years of self-discipline to rid myself of.
My little sister, full of ideals I hope won’t go away soon, shouted at me with rage I haven’t seen before. She called me an arsehole among other things and told me that I am behaving in a snobbish manner that is only fit for someone who has forgotten where they came from.
Instead of apologising, I reasoned that my comment is statistically correct and that the stereotype stands. She was offended. I thought she was being childish.
I was so painfully wrong. My people defy stereotypes and here’s how you too can see it.
The Syrian dictatorial regime asked for Hiwar (National Dialogue) when it didn’t want it to work. It only wanted a cover its massacres and appear to be moving the country forward.
The Hiwar, of course, did not go anywhere in its big meeting halls and among the people the regime hoped would make it look like a genuinely reforming, open minded, government.
It is, however, happening everyday… Our Hiwar, our National Dialogue, is happening on the digital superhighways, on blogs, Facebook pages, Tweets, and YouTube short films where Syrians, the young and the old, are learning a new language, a language that comes from different directions and not only from above; a language that includes synonyms, but also antonyms; a language that accepts differences level-headedly.
Syrians are breaking all their stereotypes, the ones of fear and submission when they rise like giants, the ones of intrinsic corruption when they refuse political bribes, and the ones of backwardness when they discuss a future that carries the best of our culture, the best of our heritage, and the best of what we can learn from other peoples all to fit us as unique people.
My people, the stereotype defying Syrians, are my heroes!