The story of an activist: The revolution that was born peaceful will end peacefully

“When I saw a group of guys outside the Officers’ Club in Homs, stomping on a picture of Presidents Hafez and Bashar al-Assad, I felt that the regime had collapsed. It was a military building after all, who would dare insult the regime in its place of power? This bold action could mean only one thing, that the people had made great strides toward toppling the regime.”

To Sulaiman, this is one of the greatest moments he has witnessed in the uprising, and his face lights up upon remembering it.

Sulaiman is one of hundreds of activists who remained in Syria after many had left. He insists on continuing the nonviolent struggle against the brutality of the Assad regime. In an increasingly militarized conflict, he searches for any opportunity to organize a demonstration or activity that would aid in the battle against the regime, especially in strongholds such as Damascus or Homs. He believes that nonviolent protest continues to be effective.

“I insist on peaceful protest until this point, despite the fact that militarization was forced upon us,” he says. “I believe that armed struggle will accomplish one of the revolution’s goals, while the rest will be met through nonviolent struggle. Armed resistance will help topple the regime, while peaceful resistance will help bring about the alternative to the regime.”

Sulaiman is extremely active, constantly meeting with different groups and planning different activities. “Each group plays a different role,” he says. “This role varies depending on the situation and the task at hand.”

Despite the important role he plays, Sulaiman refuses to be referred to as a leader. “Our generation, the youth, organizes itself differently than previous generations. We are built differently, and rely on different internet tools, such as Facebook. The methods of organization that once required leadership and charisma, that were prevalent in political organizations of the past, are no longer relevant. Now, it is important that each individual plays an active role within the group, in order to work well with others. I am just another individual. I offer what I can from my knowledge and experiences, and we exchange ideas and make suggestions to one another in any activity that we plan. It’s a team effort.”

Sulaiman points out one of the factors that has made the traditional opposition irrelevant in the revolution, as the older generation has been unable to cope with the youth’s way of doing things, and has thus been unable to be an active participant in the revolution.  

The young activist has long awaited change in his country. “Before the revolution in Tunisia was sparked, I was taking lessons related to Marxism. But as soon as we learned of the revolution, we stopped studying Marxism and instead began focusing on the possibility of change in Syria. We wanted change to start here, and began participating in protests in front of the Tunisian and Egyptian embassies. We knew that the Syrian regime was strong, so we told ourselves, ‘The Egyptian regime lasted for one month, so the Syrian regime will last for two!’”

The first protest Sulaiman attended was on March 25, 2011, in Damascus’ renowned Hamidiya market. “We were not scared,” he recalls. “Protesters in Daraa faced bullets, but those of us in Damascus did not. Security forces were not that brutal in the beginning.” Sulaiman continued to join protests throughout the course of the revolution, and does so until this very day.


There are many reasons Sulaiman had hoped for change in Syria, but there is one incident that summarizes his desire to topple the regime. “My uncle was arrested in the late 1980s because he was a member of the Communist Labor Party, and was locked up for 12 years. He had been living with us, and he and I were very close. I was about 13 years old when he was arrested. After he was taken from me, I developed an interest in politics, and began paying attention to what the Syrian regime was doing to its people.”

Sulaiman remembers the story of his uncle’s arrest with a faint smile drawn on his face. “About a year after his arrest, I asked my other uncle why he had been taken. He told me that my uncle was a Marxist communist, and I asked him what that meant. He explained to me many things, none of which I understood. So I searched my detained uncle’s library, and I read a book that my he valued greatly. It was Mohammad Said Ramadan Al-Bouti’s Critique of the Delusions of Dialectical Materialism.” After learning about Marxism from Al-Bouti, a strong criticizer of the movement, Sulaiman joined the leftist movement. “My uncle had written sarcastic comments in the margins of the book. I used to enjoy reading them,” he recalls.

Though there is a personal connection to Sulaiman’s opposition to the regime, his demands for regime change are much broader. He sees the current regime as oppressive and dictatorial, and sees the revolution as a path toward political, economic and societal change against corruption.

Sulaiman realizes that the Syrian revolution is caught up in a web of complicated international affairs, but he is working with friends and fellow activists to raise their voices and prevent anyone from stealing their revolution. Sulaiman lost two of his closest friends since the beginning of the uprising, and does not want their blood to have been spilt in vain. Losing his friends has made Sulaiman more insistent on realizing his dream “of seeing one of Damascus’ large squares filled with Syrians celebrating the downfall of the regime.”

“I do believe that this day will come,” he says. “I’m not sure when, but I’m sure my dream will come true.”


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad