Civil, pacifist activists have always been the most effective weapon against Assad’s tyranny. They were the ones who first mobilised people into the streets, and for a certain period, helped control their reaction despite the brutal repression of the regime, and thus they were the first to be targeted for arrest and murder. The story of Darayya became a lesson in the strength of nonviolent activists in the face of overwhelming oppression. Names like Ghayath Matar, who was tortured to death by the regime, to Yahya Sharbaji, languishing in a regime cell, to the late Muhammad Quraytem, who organised the scarecrow demonstration, have left an unmistakable imprint on the Syrian uprising. New generations of nonviolent activists keep emerging, out of necessity as well as to hold up that vaunted tradition. Nevertheless, the past few weeks have been especially terrible for Darayya’s nonviolent activists.
Omar, a young man from Darayya, volunteered early on in the civil defense brigades in the city, refusing to leave the blockaded town and preferring to put his effort into helping civilian victims of bombardment. Omar, who raced against death in his effort to save his fellow residents, today is struggling with death himself. An artillery bomb hit him while he was constructing sand barriers in the town; he lost an arm, a leg and several fingers of his other arms, and he is still in a dangerous state.
Abu al-Izz, who along with other local activists established a small public library in Darayya mostly made up of books they had salvaged from the rubble of houses, was hit by a barrel bomb that targeted the library. The main damage was caused to the head, but due to the lack of specialist medical equipment, no one can tell the extent of the damage.
Finally, the “Painter of Darayya”, or Abu Malik, who has helped rejuvenate the fallen walls of the city with his graffitti was shot by a niper in his shoulder and in the chest. The shots caused a collapse in his lungs and he is still recovering from his injuries.
The activists, among many others, have kept the balance in the city and resisted the attempts to portray the struggle as one only of militants. Their injuries weakens the uprising more than any military defeat.