NI 485 - Syria’s good guys - Inside a forgotten revolution - September, 2015

NI 485 - September, 2015

Buy this issue $7.50

Subscribe from $15.00

Syria’s good guys - Inside a forgotten revolution

A note from the editor

Daniel Silas Adamson

Syria – the good guys

Before the war, the best way to enjoy Syria was in complete ignorance. That’s what I did in 2005, when I arrived in Damascus as a tourist. For two weeks I explored the country’s Roman ruins and medieval markets, enthusing about the sophistication of the food and the friendliness of the people. Syria, as my guidebook put it, was ‘the Middle East’s best kept secret’.

It was not until the following year, when I returned to Damascus to live, that I started to see that Syria had secrets of its own. Buildings from which Syrians averted their eyes. Jails from which no one emerged. To walk these streets, as writer Rana Kabbani has said, was ‘to walk on pavements that were the ceilings of basements where political prisoners hung upside down by their feet’.

As my naïveté diminished, so my admiration for the Syrian people increased. After they rebelled against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in 2011, I followed their progress closely through the blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds where activists debate the revolution, the war, and the ongoing struggle to build a better Syria.

Their stories deserve to be far more widely known, and this magazine is a contribution towards that end. In putting it together, I have relied on the insight of Syrians far more expert than me, as well as the contributions of Syrian writers, artists and activists represented in these pages. My thanks and respect to them all.

Elsewhere in the issue, French economist Edouard Tétreau urges Pope Francis to take a stand against ‘insane money and alienating technologies’ when he visits the UN headquarters later this month.

Daniel Silas Adamson for the New Internationalist co-operative.

Keynote article.

Syrian artist Tammam Azzam celebrates the power of creative protest in this digital artwork titled ‘Demonstration’.

Syrian artist Tammam Azzam celebrates the power of creative protest in this digital artwork titled ‘Demonstration’.

Photo: Tammam Azzam

A resilient revolution

Nonviolent activists are holding out in Syria, despite the destruction. Do not abandon them, says Daniel Adamson.

Buy this magazine

In December 2011, a group of Syrian activists released 2,000 ping-pong balls onto a steeply sloping street in Damascus. On each one, they had written a single word: freedom.

The activists belonged to Freedom Syria Days – a collective of revolutionary groups dismayed by Syria’s slide into war and desperate to hold on to the nonviolent, subversive spirit that had marked the first months of the uprising. Insisting that Assad’s regime could be crippled by civil disobedience, they instigated a ge...


Is anybody out there?

ISIS’ savagery must not blind us to the bravery of civil-society activists, says Hania Mourtada.

Buy this magazine

Syrian conflict - the facts

The death toll, political prisoners and timeline of the Syrian civil war.

Buy this magazine

Free Mazen Darwish

We must stand in solidarity with Syria’s human rights defenders, says Salman Rushdie.

Buy this magazine

Yara and Mazen in Damascus, in happier times.

‘I love you, and you love 20 million people’

Yara Badr, Darwish’s wife, says she always knew she’d have to share him with the rest of Syria.

Read this article

Bravery's edge

Thousands of unknown activists have risked their lives to defy extremism and violence. Daniel Adamson interviews some of them.

Buy this magazine

Aref Tarikh (‘The Syrian people know their way’) is a collective of Syrian artists producing political posters. This image is a comment on breaking the fear instilled by the regime’s security apparatus. It reads: ‘This is civil disobedience. There is no need to stay quiet any more.’

Singing in the kingdom of silence

The Syrian revolution released a flood of artistic and intellectual creativity. Four years later, it has not subsided.

Buy this magazine

Members of the White Helmets rescue children in Aleppo after an air strike by the Syrian armed forces, June 2014.

Rushing towards death

It has been called the most dangerous job in the world. The White Helmets are a fearless volunteer force that has pulled thousands of Syrians from the rubble left by the regime's deadly barrel bombs.

Read this article

Children pose for a picture in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan.

What do Syrians Want?

The story of how Rafif Jouejati organized a survey in a warzone, and the answers she got.

Read this article

Resources and further reading

Resources and further reading

Action, resources and further reading on Syria.

Buy this magazine

Will humans survive the new economy of the 21st century?

Edouard Tétreau makes the case for a more humane economics.

Buy this magazine



Crying out for change: a protester at an anti-corruption demonstration in Guatemala City.

Guatemala: Fed up with corruption

General elections in Guatemala usually follow a predictable pattern of propaganda, violence and despair, writes Anna Bevan.

Buy this magazine

Toxic lobby

Toxic lobby

The corporate lobby may be working to protect harmful chemicals rather than our health, writes Hazel Healy.

Buy this magazine

Abortion by drone

Pro-choice advocacy groups have taken up new tactics in their struggle, writes Cristiana Moisescu.

Buy this magazine

Basic income trialled

Basic income trialled

How would basic income work if scaled up?, Tom Lawson asks.

Buy this magazine

Introducing...Selahattin Demirtaş

Richard Swift introduces the up and coming Turkish politician to New Internationalist readers.

Buy this magazine



Praise, blame and all points in between? Your feedback published in the September 2015 magazine.

Read this article

Letter from Bangui: Breaking down

Help is at hand when Ruby Diamonde is involved in an accident.

Buy this magazine

Top left and bottom right: Girl washing clothes and boy waiting for porting work at Segou, on the Niger River. Centre right and bottom middle: Concertgoers and a dancer in Timbuktu. Top right: Looking north across the old bridge across the Niger in the capital, Bamako. Bottom left: Camel riders at the Festival in the Desert held at Tin Essako in the northeast.

Country profile: Mali

Mali was once renowned amongst African nations for its calm, its culture and its welcome.

Buy this magazine

Worldbeater: Juan Orlando Hernández

Behind his fig leaf of respectability, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández hides some dirty secrets.

Buy this magazine

Calling time on the MDGs

No development process succeeds without the participation of those it targets, argues Maggie Black.

Buy this magazine

Making waves: Rajendra Singh

Rajendra Singh is reviving Indian villages through traditional rainwater harvesting.

Buy this magazine

And finally... Mark Thomas

Comedian, activist and author Mark Thomas talks dissent, tax and people power.

Buy this magazine

Film, Book & Music Reviews.

Stunning scenery and gripping adventure in Naji Abu Nowar’s Theeb.

Mixed media: Film

Theeb, directed by Naji Abu Nowar; and 45 Years, directed by Andrew Haigh.

Buy this magazine

Resistance – a knowing, cheeky defiant album.

Mixed media: Music

Resistance, by Souljazz Orchestra; and Amores Pasados, by John Potter and Others.

Buy this magazine

Mixed media: Books

Now and at the Hour of our Death by Susana Moreira Marques; Kill Chain by Andrew Cockburn; The Body Snatcher by Patrícia Melo; and The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret.

Buy this magazine