The author of the following text is anonymous. But his deeds have rocked the foundations of our world in Syria. He is one and he is everyone. I don`t know his whereabouts. He is probably already dead or in prison. Or maybe he is still roaming the streets of cities and towns in Syria trying in all earnestness to get the frame of his next picture right where it is supposed to be. At this very moment I imagine him cursing his laptop because it froze a few seconds before the video was successfully uploaded; or struggling to figure out why his Skype cannot work with the new VPN software even though he was told that it should configure itself automatically. But he could very well be spending the night in the basement of al-Mukhabarat headquarters in Kafar Soussa: unable to stretch his leg in the crowded prison cell, unable to rest his back because his wounds from the afternoon beating session are still burning and bleeding; unable to close his eyes because the screams of tortured bodies are whirling in his head like a tornado. But wherever he could be, he knows that he has already won.
I picked up the text from one of the Facebook pages administered by a "local coordination committee" in one of the neighborhoods of Damascus. The text is written in colloquial Arabic. I could tell that he is probably in his early twenties with a clear Aleppo accent. On how a youth from Aleppo ended up in a Damascus neighborhood we can only speculate. Few sleep in their houses these days or in the same place for long.
The text has this ordinary, almost technocratic, quality that makes it extra-ordinary considering the circumstances. It is not written for political propaganda. It does not theorize, it does not make too many claims, it is not poetic, or confessional. The author addresses his "buddies" to neutralize the effect of a paralyzing fear of arrest that may have made some of them too cautious to participate in demonstrations. The rhetorical posture is descriptive. His goal is to demystify the experience of arrest as an antidote to fear. The premise of the text is that his destined reader should expect arrest and torture, and should therefore stop wasting time to avoid it. The fact that one is arrested has nothing to do with the relative strength of the Mukhabarat. It has also little to do with how cautious you are. A revolution is taking place, and if you are there in the regime`s field of projections of power, arrest is a matter of time -- an absurd game of probabilities. Knowing what an arrest entails will make it more bearable, and the fear of it less debilitating.
This article is now featured in Jadaliyya`s edited volume entitled Dawn of the Arab Uprisings: End of An Old Order? (Pluto Press, 2012). The volume documents the first six months of the Arab uprisings, explaining the backgrounds and trajectories of these popular movements. It also archives the range of responses that emanated from activists, scholars, and analysts as they sought to make sense of the rapidly unfolding events. Click here to access the full article by ordering your copy of Dawn of the Arab Uprisings from Amazon, or use the link below to purchase from the publisher.