Syrian activist tells tales of revolution

Syrian author and activist Samar Yazbek, right, spoke about her experience of the Syrian revolution at a talk on campus Wednesday night.
Syrian author and activist Samar Yazbek, right, spoke about her experience of the Syrian revolution at a talk on campus Wednesday night. Photo by Sarah Yazji.

As the revolution in Syria continues to escalate, one Syrian journalist gave a personal account of the violence Wednesday night as she called for an end to the country’s current government.

Syrian author and activist Samar Yazbek spoke at the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies on Prospect Street about the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria as well as the progress made by the Syrian anti-government forces. Before a crowd of roughly 25 people, Yazbek asserted that the Syrian government’s unnecessarily violent response to peaceful demonstrators sparked the revolution that grips the media’s attention today.

“The only solution for Syria … is the fall of the Bashar Al-Assad regime,” she said, according to a translator that relayed her speech from Arabic to English. Otherwise, she said, Syria will “drown in a sea of blood.”

Yazbek and her daughter fled from Syria in 2011 and are now exiled from the country.

She recounted how in early 2011, young students in Southern Syria began writing anti-government slogans on their school walls. The government’s forces “arrested these kids like they were criminals, and these kids were 11 or 12 years old,” she said. When the parents of these students asked for the release of their children, they too were treated in a “terrible, savage way” by the government. She described how she saw firsthand security forces harshly beating demonstrators on the street, even though the demonstrators were carrying flowers and olive branches as symbols of peace.

This level of brutality against non-violent protesters drew widespread resentment toward the regime, she said, even from soldiers in the Syrian army. Because the punishment for failure to obey orders was death, she said countless soldiers fled the army and formed their own brigades in order to protect civilians.

“The [soldiers’] orders were to shoot the demonstrators, and many refused to follow the orders,” she said.

In discussing the revolution’s future, Yazbek highlighted what she referred to as “the real danger in Syria:” the growing number of Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters in the Free Syrian Army. While most opponents of the current regime in Syria are rational and tolerant, she said, the relentless violence from the government has also prompted an increase in extremist combatants. Yazbek noted that these extremist fighters are not welcome in the Free Syrian Army, but there is a concern that their numbers may grow to more dangerous levels.

In response to a question about the potential for Western intervention in Syria, Yazbek said the Free Syrian Army does not need the support of ground troops from the West, pointing to the “great victories” that the Free Syrian Army has achieved on land. Still, she urged for the establishment of a no-fly zone in order to prevent the Syrian Air Force from attacking the revolutionaries, who have no air-based military power themselves.

Five audience members interviewed all said they were impressed by Yazbek’s dedication to the revolutionary cause, especially since she comes from an upper-class family in Syria. Tiraana Bains ’15 called the talk “illuminating,” saying that it was particularly interesting because Yazbek has firsthand experience with the events in Syria.

Yazbek chronicled her memories of the revolution in her 2012 book, “A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution.”


  • gunner221

    Ok, how do we know that the people fighting against the government are not members of the Muslim Brotherhood or other terrorist organizations? What have we seen in other Muslim countries that had the same type of revolution?

    Islamic law put into place, Attacks on Christian Coptic churches and people. Brutal implantation of Sharia.

    The present government of Syria is not perfect. But it’s a lot better than having the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorists controlling the country. If the people fighting in Syria were in Afghanistan they would be called the Taliban. Know just who you are supporting before you do.

    • smyle

      Supporting the downfall of Assad’s regime is definitely not supporting any terrorist organization, as you put it. First of all, generalizing terrorist organizations to mean the entire Muslim world is shallow and misinformed on your part.
      The revolution began by peaceful protests of Syrian civilians, as stated in the article, and the Free Syrian Army was created after the violent response by Assad’s regime to protect the inhabitants of the targeted cities from these massacres. Any involvement of extremist organizations does not originate or come from Syria nor are any of them welcomed by Syrians or the Free Syrian Army. Supporting the downfall of Assad’s regime as soon as possible is both supporting the end of his dictatorship as well as supporting any more entrance of extremist combatants into the country who are looking into further destroying Syria rather than bringing justice to its lands.
      The present government is a dictatorship that is endorsing a genocide in his own country. I can’t imagine it getting any worse. I also can’t imagine you know too much on what exactly is going on in Syria because of the limitation of media coming from the inside (which is for a reason too.) I’m stating this because I have firsthand information, and I wouldn’t want to argue anything but the truth.