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Revolted Syrian actress Fadwa Suleiman: Where are you?
Syrian Alawite actress Fadwa Suleiman joined protests last year against President Bashar al-Assad: She took the stage at demonstrations in the city of Homs, center of resistance to his family’s four-decade rule, and in Damascus and other cities after the regime slaughtered peaceful demonstrators in the southern city of Dar3a.
Fadwa Suleiman
Actress Fadwa Suleiman after she cut her hair short to protest her family members disclaimer of behaving properly. Picture taken Dec. 14, 2011. REUTERS

Fadwa Suleiman, Syrian actress and a high-profile Alawite member of the Syrian revolution led by an opposition dominated by Sunni Muslims against the government controlled by Alawites, is saddened that the revolution is not going in the right direction.

Disillusioned at the level of state control over theater and films, Suleiman joined the popular protests last year, to become one of the most recognized faces of the violent uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

She expressed resentment over her country’s peaceful demonstrations having turned into an armed conflict that was heading toward a sectarian war.

One of Fadwa’s friends told her: “Be very careful of how you behave: You are already a symbol of the Alawi actress revolutionaries…”

Fadwa replied: “I am not an idol. I am not Sunni or Alawit. The Syrian people is crushing all the idols in his country. I do fast and pray in my own way, and I may drink a cup of wine of what my granddad concocted… and from his wine, I’ll be drinking for victory and freedom…”

When the Assad regime pressured one of Fadwa’s brothers to disclaim her political attitudes and protest against Fadwa’s behaviors, which don’t match tradition and customs, She retorted:

I have cut my long hair and everyone should be informed that, if I recant on the Syrian “World” channel, this should be your signal that I have been tortured to say what is contrary to my belief. Do not believe a word, do not believe what my family members might say that I’m a traitor. This is Bashar Assad system for coercion…”

Amrutha Gayathri published:

In an interview with the AFP, Suleiman said she was saddened to see that the revolution is not going in the right direction, that it is becoming armed, that the opposition which wanted to resist peacefully is playing the game of the regime and that the country is heading for sectarian war.

I didn’t want to leave Syria but I didn’t have the choice. I was being threatened and I was becoming a threat for the activists who were helping me, she said.

Before she joined the protests, Suleiman was well-known for her roles in movies, theater, radio and television. She was drawn to the movement as part of the mobilization of the cultural elite of the country after the revolution erupted in March last year.

She is considered an anomaly in the revolution, largely attributed to being a woman belonging to Syria’s ruling Alawite minority taking part in a male-dominated Sunni rebellion, a Reuters report said.

Fadwa’s position has led to many influential Alawites disavowing her, including her brother Mahmoud, who declared on state-run television channel that Syria’s unity was more important for him than his sister.

Suleiman — who became a well-recognized representative of the Syrian rebels when she appeared in footage shot in the Sunni dominated rebel city of Homs that was broadcast on the Al-Jazeera television news network — said she wanted to stop the revolution, which was eventually sliding into a sectarian war, by being a part of the protests.

Everyone was saying that Salafist Sunnis were going to attack the Alawites, she said. So, in Homs last November, I, an Alawite woman, got up on the stage and declared that we were all united against the regime.

Suleiman is widely seen as the product of westernized and secular Syria, while her opponents are largely religious fanatics sponsored by Syrian supporters in the rest of the Arab world.

The actress, whose Alawite identity plays a major role in determining her place in the revolution rejects her own sectarian labeling.

On her Facebook page in December, Fadwa wrote: “I am not Alawite, and not an artist.  I have actually been a rebel against all the obsolete values in our society since the day I was born.. .A rebel for freedom, and for people to be free to think, believe and love as they want, so long as that comforts them, even worshiping trees…So, down with the Alawites and long live their humanity…Down with the Sunnis, Druze, Ismailis, Muslims, Jews and Christians, and long live their humanity…Long live humanity in dignity everywhere, of whatever religion or affiliation.

Amrutha Gayathri
Note 2: You may read ” Death of the Eternal Syria: Eye-witness accounts of the generations of Silence and Revolution” by Mohammad Abi Samra
Note 3:  Razan Zeitouni, another revolutionary, wrote describing a night demonstration in Zamlaka quarter (Damascus): “The few steps separating the silent and closed streets from the place of the gathering was like a crossing using a time machine. I recall this bus trip in secondary school to Lataquieh, and my eyes were riveted on windows, trying hard to locate this blue horizon of the sea…”

For over 30 years: Generations of Syrians endured prison terms, torture, and isolation…

The Assad regime, from father Hafez to Bashar, conducted systematic genocide and perpetual and extended prison terms and tortures of “potential” political opponents. After the 1982 mass killing in the city of Hama, every Syrian suspected of being a member of the Moslem Brotherhood was detained and assassinated in the prisons.

The members of the suspected opponents were detained, interrogated and tortured. Many of them endured extended prison terms and frequent torture sessions.

For over 30 years, recruits and soldiers suffered terrible humiliation and indignities: Treated like human farms, cursed, mishandled, sent to work in officers homes and farms to save on expenses…

The skilled recruits were sent home to generate money and a cut taken from them every month. Recruits left alone in remote area to fend for themselves, wearing thongs (shahhata) and tattered “army” clothes, in harsh cold weather and desolate regions.

The Syrian army was not meant to fight Israel: Just to take the youth out of the streets and use them to enrich the officers and the officials.

For over 30 years, the occupied Golan Heights by Israel were a haven for peace and tranquility, like Gaza was during Egypt Muhammad Morsi one year Presidency.

The Syrian army was not meant to fight Israel: Just humiliate the occupied Lebanese, torture them and rob them dry and tell the occupied Lebanese: “you cannot curse Syria, Hafez, Bassel, Bashar…”

And the UN, the Western “democratic” States and major news media knew all about these practices and refused to condemn or expose the Syrian regime. They even gave this regime “carte blanche” to exterminate opponents and spread humiliation on the society, as long as no pictures or gruesome news seep out of Syria.

Until the interests of the Western States and the USA were at stake, and Syria was to be devastated, weakened and submitted. And the Syrian people had to suffer another round of mass slaughter on the hands of the regime and the Takfir Islamic, Nusra Front, and Da3esh.

On April 16, 2011, a large peaceful demonstration in Homs was disbanded by live ammunition and 7 people died. By noon, over 500,000 gathered at the Clock Square and accompanied the martyrs to their graves shouting “The people want to overturn the regime

The demonstrators kept their ground till 8 pm. The security officials warned the demonstrators to disperse by midnight. Over 50,000 youth refused to go home, and by 10 pm, live bullets were targeting the youth.

Still, by midnight, more than 5,000 youth stayed and defied the authorities. Around 4:30 am, the square was emptied but for hundreds of corpses. The authorities loaded the dead people in trash trucks to unknown destination or mass graves. It was estimated that 500 Syrian citizens lost their lives. Only 35 bodies were returned to their families.

Syrian Alawite actress Fadwa Suleiman joined protests last year against President Bashar al-Assad: She took the stage at demonstrations in the city of Homs, center of resistance to his family’s four-decade rule, and in Damascus and other cities after the regime slaughtered peaceful demonstrators in the southern city of Dar3a.
Fadwa Suleiman
Actress Fadwa Suleiman after she cut her hair short to protest her family members disclaimer of behaving properly. Picture taken Dec. 14, 2011. REUTERS

In Douma, a new revolutionary song caught fire:

“Hi, hi, my prison guard

Hi, hi the obscurity of my prison cell

Your darkness is gone

Your Baath is disintegrating

Your cruelty vanquished

My sun is waiting to shine on me tomorrow

Syria wants freedom, freedom…

Syria, freedom, freedom “wa bass” (only)…”

It is to be noted that many angry demonstrations have roots in the mixed schools that the regime enforced after the Hama killing in 1982.

The regime even pressured the girls to unveil as they entered the school premises. All these regulations were meant to humiliate the traditional Sunnis, suspected of supporting the Moslem Brotherhood, and exercising vengeful practices.

The irony was that the high officials in Damascus, highly secluded and isolated from the rest of the communities, were not aware that schools in Banias (town of 50,000)  were mixed, as if living in another planet. The system was in place and immutable, even after the succession of Bashar Assad to power, and no one dared revisit or suggest to review the rules and regulations of 20 years ago.

The demand of the town to separate genders were understood as separating Sunni from Alawi communities.

The isolated authorities in Damascus were unaware that the rules imposed 20 years ago were still alive and kicking and nothing had changed.

The authorities agreed for separation of genders in schools and for permitting the girls to enter classrooms veiled.

But the people in Banias were scared as the security forces amassed their forces in order to resume their old tactics, and the demonstrations got larger and more frequent, and the crackdown more brutal…

The Syrian regime had about one thousand extreme Islamists in prison before the uprising in 2011, and 43 of their leaders. Those radical Takfir Islamists were Syrians and Iraqis, until foreign mercenaries were dispatched to Syria from Somalia, Tunisia, Jordan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the Caucasus region.  The Assad power used these Islamists during the Iraq war with the USA and in Lebanon, and manipulated them in situations that matched their destabilization policies.

When the Syrian uprising began after the fall of Egypt Mubarak, mass demonstrations swept the Syrian cities in Dar3a, Homs, Banias, and even in Damascus. The uprising was peaceful because people had no arms or the courage to overcome 30 years of silence and humiliation and fear.

And the regime decided to let the extreme Islamists out of prison without any conditions or further crackdown: The regime decided to turn the uprising into an armed confrontation for an excuse to resume armed squashing of the opponents.

The US ordered Qatar and Saudi Arabia to untie their purses and finance the uprising in money, arms and communication tools.

And the Nusra Front took over the armed confrontation against the regime, and the civil war has been going on for two years now.

The main cities of Aleppo, Homs and many parts of Damascus have been demolished, devastated and ransacked.

And over 100,000 perished, and 4 million Syrian refugees have been displaced within Syria and 3 million took refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Note: You may read the Arabic book “Death of the Eternal Syria: Eye witnmess accounts of the generation of Silence and Revolution” by Mohammad Abi Samra




May 2023

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