COLUMN: History and the Arab spring.

Shereen Rafea | Website Editor

 He stood with a smile on his face. Wide-eyed with a long white beard, a traditional hat and an overcoat, he addressed the crowd in the auditorium. So far it had been a day filled with reflections on the ongoing conflict in Syria. Syria Awareness Day at Concordia University only seemed to confirm what was already on my mind about the brutal crackdown in the country. It was bad and it was getting worse. The death toll has been rising everyday these past weeks until the numbers of Syrian fatalities on my computer screen have become a blur.  Men, Women and Children are dying and the world is still scratching their heads, trying to figure out what to do.

 His name was Jawdat Saeed, and he was introducing the documentary that the Collective for Syria were airing that Sunday two weeks ago. Saeed started off his speech, which originally in Arabic and was then translated separately into English, by saying that he was over “80 years old and has been for most of his adult life a Syrian opposition person.” He spoke about his own personal history  and the history he studied throughout his life. I am not sure what I expected him to say or how I thought he would say it. However in some possible way he connected the past year of revolutions in the Arab world to decades worth of human history.

Saeed cited books he studied and read as boy, and quoted poems from poets such as Abou-Al-kacem El-chebbi. He emphasized to the audience how history has away of connecting us together. Saeed learned growing up through what he read that““ We as nations and cultures belong to a human journey, a common journey, and that we are part of a larger story,”he said.

History shows us that 2011 and 2012 are not the first time revolutions have taken place. In fact, he said, that Europe went through struggles similar to those in other nations. Saeed mentioned Giordano Bruno, the Italian philosopher and astronomer who was burned at stake in Rome for his beliefs. People have been dying and struggling under tyrannical rulers for decades and this continues, he mentioned.

However Saeed spoke with such optimism and faith in humanity, I found myself taken aback. The message he gave was one I wished everyone would hear and absorb. Saeed preached equality of all human beings. Throughout his knowledge and understanding of history, he knew that what it meant for people to stand up, fight and claim back their power. The journey, he talked about, was one we all belonged to together.

  Saeed said, it is not just an Arab revolution, it is not just happening in Syria. “What’s going on now is a force of nature. It will not be stopped by a Chinese veto nor the Russian veto,” he added.“In fact what’s going on in Syria is the seed for a world revolution in which people are gaining back their power, and this power will reach beyond the Arab world… and will also reach the Untied Nations, where the veto right will be changed to free all of humanity and where all of us will live as equal citizens on this planet.”

Syria is in a dire state and the people there desperately need help. Almost a year has passed since Syrians began their protests towards reforms in their country. Since then over 7000 people have been killed and Bashar al-Assad still refuses to step down. History shows us people’s strength, but more importantly for us right now is to unite together. What affects one region should affect us all and protecting human life in Syria has never been more important.

Optimism. I use this word very carefully when writing about war and conflict. Yet the reason Saeed surprised me as much as he did, was because he was optimistic. In the end he wanted to show, that the struggles will one day end and people will achieve victory. It’s a struggle we are all in together.

The beginning of the poem he quoted from Abou-Al-kacem El-chebbi is translated on aasilahmad.net by As’ad Abu Khalil and reads as the following:

 “If the people will to live


Providence is destined to favorably respond


And night is destined to fold


And the chains are certain to be broken


And he who has not embraced the love of life


Will evaporate in its atmosphere and disappear”

 Editor’s Note: All the quotes were taken from the translated version of the speech.

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