On the eve of the second anniversary of the Syrian Revolution, I watched a single video: footage of an early expression of resistance recorded in central Damascus on March 15, 2011. After watching thousands of videos for the last two years of protests, funerals, destruction, bombs, and countless corpses — I was surprised that this video was as difficult to watch as the horrific ones. It’s a video that accidentally recorded an act of unparalleled bravery: one voice that pierced 41 years of a nation’s voluntary silence.
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On March 20 last year, an intelligence officer in Damascus rounded up a group of teenagers from Daraa and told them: "You disrespected the president, but he has decided to pardon you." The boys were surprised. They had been held by the authorities for more than a month and Bashir Abazid, who was just 15 at the time, almost refused to believe what he was hearing, because every time the boys had been told they were being released, they had been transferred to yet another intelligence branch.
Remarkably, the teenagers were sent back to Daraa later that same day. "We were terrified for the entire way home," Bashir recalls. As they approached the city and headed towards the Baath party headquarters, they witnessed a scene they only knew from television: they saw crowds of people lining the streets.
"I thought they had prepared the square for our execution," he says. "Our eyes filled with tears. When we got to the square, the officers ordered us to draw the curtains on the bus. That made us even more scared. The news spread to the people that we were inside. They stormed the bus. We opened the shaded windows and I saw my brothers and uncles. My mother was crying. I jumped out of the window."
Bashir's brother embraced him and
cried: "You see all these people? They are here for you."