Syrians have not been united on anything in the past five years as they have on the fifth anniversary of the revolution. On March 15th, 2016, five years after the Damascus protest of 2011, circumstances for Syrians inside the country and out allowed for the restarting of the peaceful revolution once again. Among these circumstances are the cessation of hostilities which stopped the shelling and barrel bombing of civilians and the announcement of the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria, in addition to the demand to release prisoners.
Damascus and its Countryside
In Darayya, residents decided to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the revolution in their own fashion, launching the “Cleaning the Martyrs' Graves” campaign to renovate the graveyard which had been neglected due to the continuous shelling, which had made it impossible to access. With this campaign, activists wanted to send a message and say that the victims of war are still alive in the hearts of the city's residents, and that the martyrs are giving them the energy to persist with their revolution, something they also reiterated during a protest on the fifth anniversary, which demanded the breaking of the siege on the oppressed city, which remains alone, without aid and excepted from the cease-fire.
In solidarity with Darayya, a 100-strong protest was held in Saqba, which also stressed continuing to protest until obtaining freedom and dignity for all Syrians. A similar protest was also held in Douma, where protesters raised the banner “No to Division, No to Federalism”. In Yelda, southern Damascus, Rabi' Thawra, or Revolution Spring collective, held a 300-strong protest under the banner “The People Want the Downfall of the Regime”, which also stressed the importance of unifying revolutionary forces into a political project working to build a democratic civil state. Similar protests were also held in Douman and Babila.
In Daraa, a protest was held on the 18th of March 2016, chanting the revolution's first chants, as well as songs in the local style in order to commemorate the eruption of the first Daraa protests on that same day. What is notable in these protests is the development of its slogans, among them “no to foreign tutelage, no to agendas, no to selling the nation”, which was raised by a child in the protest.
Aleppo and Idleb
In the Sha'ar neighborhood of Aleppo, a protest was held on the 17th of March 2016, renewing the demand to free all imprisoned by the regime. In the city of A'azaz, a large and well-organized protest was held, renewing the demand for the downfall of the regime and chanting the song “Paradise my nation”, which was originally chanted in Homs in the early days of the peaceful revolution. A 500-strong protest was also held in Ma'adi, Aleppo, where protesters sang “I yearn for freedom”.
In Ma'arat Nu'man, which witnessed a ceasefire after clashes between Nusra Front and the FSA's 13th Brigade, a protest was held demanding the downfall of the regime and the withdrawal of Nusra Front. Protests were also held in Binnech and Saraqeb, and in Kafranbel protesters raised a banner stating, “Don't call it by any other name, it is the fifth anniversary of the revolution”.
In the town of Dar Al-Kabira, children raised a large revolution flag, singing “Mawtini”, or my nation. A protest was also held in the city of Talbissa, raising the revolution flag and chanting in their performatory fashion the early songs of the revolution.
Functions in the Syrian Exile
At Duzce University in Turkey, Syrian students organized a silent protest, and Khaled Bris, one of the participants, told SyriaUntold, “no matter how long the revolution goes on, the demise of this brutal regime and all of its security institutions is inevitable, and we as Syrian students in exile reiterate that we only started our education in exile in order to return and be the seeds for a free generation to rebuild a free Syria.”
In France, a protest was held on the 12th of March, 2016 in Paris by the Syria Freedom group and Amnesty International, demanding the trial of the head of the regime. Protesters walked from the Fontaine des Innocents square until the Hôtel de Ville. Four days later another protest was held in the city of Saintes in western France by the human rights and refugee support group committees of the city.
What united the protests inside and outside Syria, in addition to the calling for the downfall of the regime, is that they raised nothing but the revolution flag, and that they were purely locally funded, without any foreign assistance, as one Syrian Revolution Network activist told Syria Untold.