Since the earliest days of the Syrian uprising, protests have been distinguished by the banners carried by anti-Assad activists. Initially, these gave basic information --- date and location --- as a message to the country, and those beyond who might be viewing on a computer screen. As the days drew on, and the protests grew beyond counting, so the banners evolved. Eventually, one town placed itself above all the rest, creating colourful, thoughtful, witty, provocative, angry, and imminently human messages in both English and Arabic, designed for the entire world to see.
That town is Kafranbel.
Many in the "West "have wondered what would replace the Assad regime. With the splintered ideologies of the insurgency, they have asked, "Who are the Syrian people and what do they believe?
Each Friday, and many other days as well, the people of Syria take to the streets in an attempt to provide those answers. Syrian activists vote on Facebook each week for a national theme, but locals add their own narratives. So each week, the banners and slogans in Youtube videos give snapshots of the state of hearts and minds --- hopes, dreams, fears, and frustrations.
This video, with English subtitles, shows the making of some of the banners, and features the voices of the Syrians who risk their lives to make them. These are the voices of Kafranbel and Binnish, Hama and Daraa, Damascus, Homs, Deir Ez Zor, Tartous, Lattakia, Suweyda, Aleppo, and all areas in between. It is a reminder that, before there was Jabhat al Nusra or cluster bombs or massacres, there was a desire to express ideas, to be heard and counted in a political process.
The banners are a reminder that, despite the divisions and the violence, the simple yearnings for freedom and democracy remain.