This is an op-ed I wrote for Syria Deeply that appeared on December 6th, 2012.
Whether one is a supporter of the opposition, the regime, or the people, we all recognize that Syria is on the verge of a drastic change. This change extends beyond the political upheaval we’re experiencing today. It is shaping a new level of civic participation among Syrian youth.
As with other uprisings across the region, “social media” became a prominent medium in the Syrian conflict. The buzz was sometimes too much to bear, considering how quickly these mediums could spread incorrect information. Still, it’s valuable to note that Syrian youth is using these tools to spread information beyond real-time news.
Towns and cities are being destroyed, and basic logistics—such as trash pick-up—are no longer viable. Those Syrians not dying from bombs are struggling just to live. Social networks have become a way to raise awareness of the difficulties affecting people on a daily basis.
Damascus Civil Emergency Broadcast is one of these campaigns. The Facebook page started on July 19th of this year and has around 2,775 likes so far. According to the page, the owners support neither “the revolution” nor “the system”; instead, they support “jasmine” and “loaves of bread”.
The page publishes tips on how to survive the disaster in Syria on a regular basis. From cautionary advice on how to protect oneself from mortar shells, and tips on how to avoid fire shots, snipers, bomb shards, splinters, or fragmentations, to how to deal with wounded civilians in the state of shock, and ideas on how to keep oneself composed during stressful times.
Other campaigns are responding to emerging situations. For example, due to the lack of security, kidnappings from both sides have increased. Project: Safety prepared a documentexplaining how to deal with these kidnappings, from negotiating on the phone to the actual delivery process.
Another guide to survival was prepared by Freedom Days, a campaign that claims to promote peaceful civil resistance. This document explains the harmful effects of constant exposure to violent execution scenes, dead bodies, and the aftermath of bombings or massacres, which are usually uncensored on sources like YouTube.
Many more campaigns exist on Facebook, trying to help Syrians survive through this—what seems like—never-ending conflict.
Speculating the future of Syria is difficult, but these online campaigns are offering a new hope: they are preparing Syrians for heightened civic engagement. They are putting people before politics.
These online campaigns may seem small, but they have the potential to counteract the negative forces that drag the Syrian community to isolation. When a new Syria emerges, it will be with a strong civic ethos.
Beshr is a software developer based in Beirut. He founded TweetWeekSyria, a localization of the Curators of Sweden project based on the concept of #RotationCuration. He's passionate about open source, algorithms, and indie music."