A young man involved in the opposition movement discusses the mood in Damascus, his torture, and what activists want from the outside world
Still from an activist-recorded video shows protesters chanting slogans in the Al-Midan area of Damascus / Reuters
One of the more pernicious myths of the Syrian uprising is that the country's capital is "quiet" and therefore the movement is more of a countryside phenomenon that lacks the sufficient backing of the metropolitan elite. In fact, the protest movement first took hold in Damascus' Old City on March 15, as a group of 40 people gathered in the al-Hamidiyeh souk chanting, "God, Syria, Freedom -- that is enough." The following day, March 16, 150 demonstrators convened outside the Ministry of the Interior building in central Damascus to rally against the jailing of 21 human rights activists. One protester, Suhair Atassi, a veteran human rights campaigner, was severely beaten by security forces the previous month after she attended a candlelight vigil in another part of the city. Since the early months of the uprising, the outlying suburbs of Damascus have been a hotbed of protest that have been met with the same barbaric reprisals documented in Deraa, Homs, and Hama.
This past weekend saw two separate but galvanizing events that show anti-regime agitation persists in Damascus. First, there was the savage attack on celebrated Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat by regime security officials, which has led to a Facebook campaign of Syrians adopting the artist's portrait as their profile photos (there's also this eloquent tribute to his defiant spirit.) The 60-year-old satirist, whose hands were broken, has long mocked Arab dictators with his pen; he was once threatened with death by Saddam Hussein. Early Thursday morning, masked men assaulted him up in his own car, then forced him into an SUV, beat him again, and dropped him by a roadside in the middle of nowhere. He was only discovered hours later.