SYRIA

Student risks his life to defy Syrian government on YouTube

 A university student from the coastal city of Banias has captured media attention with his on-camera challenge to the Syrian government. Risking his life by revealing his identity, the video posted on YouTube shows the young student addressing the international community in English. Unlike other videos circulated by the Arab world’s “Generation Y” that simply show images of mass crowds at demonstrations, here a student goes a step further by personally demanding an explanation for the violent crackdown on protesters.

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A university student from the coastal city of Banias has captured media attention with his on-camera challenge to the Syrian government. Risking his life by revealing his identity, the video posted on YouTube unconventionally shows the young student addressing the international community in English. Unlike other videos circulated by the Arab world’s “Generation Y” that simply show images of mass crowds at demonstrations, here a student goes a step further by personally demanding an explanation for the violent crackdown on protesters.

 

The video comes after weeks of continuous protests across Syria that have been met with brutality on the part of the government. Escalating the repression, President Bashar al-Assad deployed security forces and secret militias earlier this week in an effort to hold on to his family’s four-decade rule.

 

Over the last few months, sites such as Facebook and YouTube have become increasingly important in Syria. Although the government does not comment on its Internet restrictions, the Associated Press reported in February that Damascus had lifted its ban on these popular sites. For the first time in years, Syrians could access social networking sites without having to side step Syrian government controls.

 

In addition, videos of the protests taken by eyewitnesses in Syria and spread over the Web have become increasingly important since a majority of foreign journalists have been expelled from the country, making it difficult to verify the situation on the ground.

 

The video was filmed Tuesday, April 26, in Banias. Adel, the student who appears in the video, openly condemns the government’s crackdown on demonstrators.

 

This post was written with Sarra Grrira, journalist at FRANCE 24.

"I don’t regret doing what I did and I am not afraid. The most important thing is for the truth to be revealed once and for all".

A day after uploading his video on YouTube, Adel spoke with the Observers Team via webcam.

 

We have been protesting in Banias for over a month. These demonstrations have been covered by the Arabic media but we want to make sure that our message is heard in the international community. This is why I decided to make this video in English. Governments across the Arab world never hold each other accountable for the repression we, the people, suffer.

 

International organisations can, however, pressure them to change this. I want the world to know that we are not Salafists [a school of thought within Islam that has been often accused of supporting jihadism] nor do we support sectarianism.

 

The state of emergency has been lifted but Bashar al-Assad is creating a law against terrorism. He wants to pass off demonstrators as protesters so that he can justify the crackdown.

 

My family and my loved ones tried to dissuade me from doing this video, but fear isn’t going to bring about change.

 

I am completely aware of the risks involved with doing this video. I know that I’m in danger of being arrested, imprisoned, tortured and accused of being a collaborator with foreign powers—even with the Zionists. I know that at least a 20-year sentence is well on its way. I could also just be killed.

 

From today onward, I cannot go back to the university. I am afraid that I will be kidnapped. I know that I am being watched and that my phone has been tapped. In any case, you’re blacklisted as soon as you make your way to the first protest.

 

I don’t regret doing what I did and I am not afraid. The most important thing is for the truth to be revealed once and for all”.