Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Nation, Gender, and Identity: Children in the Syrian Revolution 2011

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Nation, Gender, and Identity: Children in the Syrian Revolution 2011

Article excerpt

I have seen the children of my people fall one by one like unripe peaches from a tree.

--Samar Yazbek, A Woman in the Crossfire


Although the Arab Spring took many by surprise, its roots are deep in the fertile ground of resistance to corruption, injustice, and oppression. The last three years have been pivotal for many countries, especially those that the Arab Spring reached and has not yet left. A powerful resistance of men, women, and children in the Arab world has brought about this wave of change. These uprisings shifted the nature of power discourse between the state and its people, shook the ground beneath dictators, and confronted everyone with uncertainty (Brynen 2). The two key demands of the rallying masses in the sweeping upraising since 2010 have been karama (dignity) and hurriya (freedom), powerful and inspiring words that have permeated their slogans and chants and enticed people from all generations, especially the young one.

As the case in all wars and revolutions, children are the most vulnerable people affected by the brutality and predicaments that inevitably accompany war. With the Syrian Revolution entering its third year, the victimization of Syrian children is escalating. Syrian children and the younger generation have played a major role in the Syrian Revolution 2011 and have suffered the most because of the ceaseless violence and the repercussions of the revolution.

This study aims to explore the role of Syrian children and their victimization in the revolution, whether caused by the regime or by the rebels. I examine their victimization in Samar Yazbek's A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution and Abdullah al-Zamakshari's movie Blood of Freedom, both of which come as documentary accounts of the Syrian Revolution. Yazbek's nuanced diaries document the Syrian Revolution from its eruption on March 18 until July 9, 2011, and contribute significantly to a better understanding of the revolution by delving deeply into and relocating Syrians' stories of victimization within a sociopolitical context. Through her participation in several demonstrations and her membership in the Syrian Arab New Agency (SANA), and by being detained more than one time, Yazbek, who is an Alawite, is able to depict people's aspirations, oppressions, and victimization. People's testimonies are taken from personal interviews, which Yazbek put herself in danger to conduct. In its form and content, through its layout and its self-described "poetic language," the book reveals Yazbek's creativity and talent as an Arab novelist and journalist, and her political affiliations and faith in the revolution.

In the same manner, Abdullah al-Zamakshari's movie Blood of Freedom (2013) depicts in fifty minutes the predicament of living under Assad's regime and the harsh realties Syrian people face after the eruption of the revolution whether they remain in Syria or emigrate. The movie traces the story of a Syrian family displaced in Egypt after the older son, Ahmad, has defected from the Syrian army and joined the Free Army. While the movie concerns itself with documenting the Syrian Revolution's demands and ambitions through the eyes of Abu Ahmad and his family, it sheds light on the victimization of displaced Syrian children and their hopes of a "free Syria."

Both A Woman in the Crossfire and Blood of Freedom form compelling documentary accounts to the Syrian people and their ambition for dignity, freedom, and a pragmatic society. Both works enunciate the truth behind the regime's efforts to implement and spread sectarianism among Syrians to deface the Syrian Revolution and present it as an armed gang of terrorists.

The examination of Syrian children's role and victimization within the context of the Syrian Revolution 2011 are informed by Mariam Cooke's notion of "responsibility," the "blurred contours" of what seems to be right and what appears to be wrong during war, and "awareness" of the state of "haziness" in war and the person's responsibility towards the self and others. …

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