Oxygen magazine

23 March 2014

“We are not a magazine. We are your free voice.” This was the headline of the first issue of the Oxygen magazine, created by a group of young men and women from the town of Zabadani, in the outskirts of Damascus, in January 2012.

The name, Oxygen, is inspired by the suffocation to which Syrian detainees are subjected to, in Syrian cells and dungeons throughout the country. In the words of one of the founders in an interview with Syria Untold, “the detainees’ craving for oxygen reflects the craving for freedom that took millions of Syrians to the streets since the outbreak of the uprising.”

The magazine, closely associated with the peaceful civic movement, was established with the aim of reaching the segments of the population that chose to remain neutral, or silent, in the face of the historic events that Syria has undergone since March 2011. It attempted to convince them of the importance of taking a stand. Oxygen has since evolved into a nuanced and in-depth analysis of the uprising, its evolution, its challenges, as well as its mistakes.

Even though the magazine’s reach goes well beyond the local level and covers other areas of the country, Oxygen has remained a reference point for those forced to flee the Zabadani area, allowing them to stay updated on the situation in their neighborhoods.

A printed copy of the Oxygen magazine in Kafranbel, Syria. Source: Oxygen's facebook page
A printed copy of the Oxygen magazine in Kafranbel, Syria. Source: Oxygen's facebook page

For more than a year, around 1000 copies of Oxygen were distributed in Zabadani. The military escalation and the displacement of a large part of the population forced the team to focus on the online version of the magazine. However, they have since managed to print copies of the magazine in some liberated areas including Aleppo, Idlib, and Raqqa. Due to the efforts of the team, the magazine has also reached cities such as Brussels and Washington.

The difficulties and threats Oxygen faces are similar to those suffered by many other groups attempting to promote free speech in the country. In addition to a shortage of funding, due, partly, to the will to remain independent, members of the team constantly risk being arrested or abducted. They are consistently targeted by the regime, and also by groups such as ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), which continue to attempt to impose their agendas on the local population.

The magazine is currently supported by ASML (Association de Soutien aux Médias Libres), a Syrian association based in France that provides support for independent media projects. Oxygen remains committed to the “ethics of the revolution, and issues related to respect for diversity and coexistence.” According to one of the founders, “there are no red lines in what can be covered, and all contributions are welcome, including ones very critical with the revolution.”

“We hope to become a bridge between different spectrums of our society, and to contribute to an archive of the uprising,” he adds. “And we hope it will useful for those who come after us.“


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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad