Lezione di Rivoluzione a Reggio Emilia

Una segnalazione last minute che mi e` arrivata da Tommaso di Egypt-a dream in progress


Vi segnalo un’iniziativa importante di un gruppo di giovanissimi attivisti italoegiziani, “Giovani che amano l’Egitto”, che non si sono fatti scoraggiare dalle recenti vicissitudini politiche e hanno organizzato per Venerdì 29, a Reggio Emilia, un incontro con Asmaa Aly e Malek Adly, due attivisti  di piazza Tahrir legati al movimento del 6 Aprile.

L’obiettivo è continuare a parlare di rivoluzione e portare all’attenzione di tutti le difficoltà e le esperienze di chi lotta per i diritti e per la democrazia. 

Asmaa Aly è anche responsabile media della campagna dei giovani per un giovane presidente (Khaled Ali) e responsabile Cospe per le pari opportunità e i diritti delle donne in Egitto. Malek Adly è stato difensore nei principali processi penali contro gli attivisti della rivoluzione e protagonista nelle principali cause di questo ultimo anno contro le violenze della giunta militare.
L’incontro, moderato dal prof. Damiano Razzoli, è fissato per le ore 18 all’Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia – viale Allegri n° 9, Reggio Emilia – 2° piano – aula 8.  

Due parole in più sugli organizzatori: i “Giovani che amano l’Egitto” sono basati a Reggio Emilia e lavorano da mesi per favorire la partecipazione politica degli egiziani in Italia alle elezioni e ad altre iniziative.
Durante le recenti consultazioni per il presidente, hanno allestito un servizio di assistenza per spiegare le procedure di voto dall’estero e informare le persone sui propri diritti. Lavorano in rete da sempre con diverse associazioni reggiane.

Per altre informazioni giovanicheamanolegitto@hotmail.it

Syria: some little things out of macro-analysis

When opening my Twitter timeline earlier today I ran into a tweet by Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for the joint Arab League-United Nations special envoy, Kofi Annan. Fawzi tweeted the following

#Syria’s Propaganda Cloud: How the West Is Falling for Misinformation http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/06/22/syria-s-propaganda-cloud-how-the-west-is-falling-for-misinformation.html via @thedailybeast

Usually when people retweet something is because they have found it interesting or worth discussing. In Fawzi`s case, it was unclear why he did that, since he didnt add any personal comment when retweeting the article nor did he engage with the discussion he had generated online when folks where asking: why the hell did he retweet that article?

Usually when famous people or public personalities  retweet stuff on Twitter they do carry an alert under their Twitter name: “RT does not mean endorsement”.

Well, Mr Fawzi does not have this, so the issue stays ambiguous and we`ll never be sure of the reasons behind his retweet.

Anyway, let`s assume Mr Fawzi had found the article`s perspective on Syria somehow interesting and decided to share it with the broader online community.

This is where I have a problem.

First of all, I personally dont trust articles that begin with  the phrase: “Having just returned from Syria a few days ago..”.

This kind of articles contains the unverified and usually very pretentious “truth” that having been recently in a place means knowing that place better. This is even more “true” in the Syrian case, where the government has carefully turned an entry visa in a precious exchange commodity that can be shown when truth is needed.

I don`t know the author of the article and I don`t want to criticize him for the sake of being critical, but I`d love to understand what was in his mind when he wrote “ the government remains in control over most of the country—including the economy—despite the best efforts of propagandists to say otherwise”.

What I can see is exactly the contrary, and not only on a macro-level. There are small indicators in the daily lives of people that signal that the regime is everything but in control of the internal situation, let alone at a business level. The most relevant of these indicators is that businessmen operating in different fields that were very close to the regime are now being touched by an intensive arrest and interrogation campaign.

When members of a prominent family like Joud -loyal to the Syrian regime since the time of Hama in 1982- are being held and interrogated by security services this means that the regime is freaking out. This is just one case among many others reported these days in business circles in Damascus. Nobody seems to be untouchable anymore, not even the old allies, not even those who once secured financial stability to the country and helped it to prevent  from descending into chaos. Arresting and interrogating members of prominent business families seems to signal that Syrian regime is not really in tight control of the situation: or, maybe better, that one part of the regime -the security minded side- is leading the game, regardless of what the (once) reform-minded side wants or aims at.

A security project is driving everything in Syria these days, despite  reformists` claims to be still in control of the game.

Not only the treatment of once untouchable businessmen signals this. Also, the way security forces are dealing with the middle class is not promising and it is scaring out people more and more.

I have a friend who used to live in the Inshaat neighborhood in Homs. This is a middle class area: engineers, doctors, professionals do live there. But Inshaat is close to Baba Amro, a slum made up of informal settlements that became a stronghold of rebels and was brought back to “normalcy” after days and days of military siege by the Syrian army. Inshaat has nothing to do with Baba Amro, at least socio-demographically speaking. And we could think of it as an area where lots of Assad`s supporters could eventually live, i.e. people who have a good life and in search of stability. But these people were becoming maybe too sympathetic with their poor neighbors; or maybe the military required a strategic position from where to launch the attack to Baba Amro; or maybe it suddenly just became too attractive to enter these middle class` houses and occupy them. Whatever the reason was, the result is that, little by little, the Inshaat people were pushed to leave  their houses for lack of security. They left without anything and their houses were taken, together with all their belongings. In my friend`s house they even took the bidet. It is told there are informal souks (markets) where these belongings taken from Inshaat and from other area in Homs are sold.

Video from Inshaat, Homs, posted by @javierespinosa2 on Twitter

This is how the Syrian economy is solid at the moment.

If , just for a while, you think at that middle class once leaving in places like Inshaat, which is now displaced elsewhere in Syria or abroad, yes indeed they have the financial means to do that, but how will they react to what happened to their properties?

The Syrian regime justification is, of course, that displacing people in Homs is nothing when it`s Syria`s fate at stake. But the middle class gets angry when stability lacks and when those who are supposed to provide it fail to meet their promises. And there is not just the Homs middle class. Middle class is everywhere, and we should watch out to what is happening to the Damascus` middle class and where this is heading.Also, there is not only one slum in Syria, but many others rather that Baba Amro, including in the Syrian capital. Theoretically speaking, this means that the same strategy used with Inshaat and Baba Amro can be adopted for other places in the country.

At the end of the day, there are so many stories to be told concerning the Syria situation, but so few get international media`s attention. And these are always macro-analysis, think-thank style overviews that get noticed by international observers, policy makers, international journalists. Whereas the micro-analysis gets buried into Facebook, the goldmine of Syrian daily lives and chats. Yet, too difficult to penetrate for those in search of  relevance, I`m afraid.

Towards active citizenship in Syria

“Towards active citizenship in Syria” is my contribution to the collective publication ” Culture in Defiance: Continuing Traditions of Satire, Art and the Struggle for Freedom in Syria“, in the occasion of the art exhibition hosted by Prince Claus Foundation Gallery in Amsterdam, 4 June-23 Nov 2012.

I`ve analysed the “raised hands” campaign, a government backed outdoor campaign that was released in Syria last year, just few weeks after the beginning of the uprising. After more than one year people have been sharing and remixing this campaign changing its original message in unexpected ways that signal a new approach to idea of citizenship and people`s participation to public life.

The article is licensed under a CC BY NC license so you`re free to download, share and remix it at the conditions listed here.

A publication about Syrian creativity and creative resistance

Today the art exhibition “Culture in defiance: continuing traditions of satire, art and the struggle for freedom in Syria” opens at Prince Claus Foundation in Amsterdam. It will stay open until Nov 2012 and we`ll host a number of events (lectures, film screenings, etc) there over the next months.

This is the cool publication that Malu Halasa has put together for the exhibition. It really looks great and includes lots of essays that explore different forms of creativity and art coming out from the Syrian revolution.

My contribution, “Towards active citizenship in Syria”, looks at user-generated-content in the context of the uprising and, particularly, to the “raised hands” campaign. 

“Join the strike”: a message to merchants and shop-keepers in Syria

“Sharek fel Idrab” (Join the strike) is the latest song composed by Syrian revolutionary band Syrian Bear who did “Ana ismi nidham” (My name is regime).


The song calls upon all the workers -whether a taxi driver, a builder, etc- to join the strike because  “you`re not a client in your country”.

In the past few days in Damascus the strike looked as the best way to protest against the killings who took place in Houla a week ago.

It seems that many shops were closed in sign of protest yesterday, too.



Sarrujia, Damascus, 31 May 2012




Shagoor, Damascus, 31 May 2012



Aasali, Damascus, 31 May 2012


Many videos also showed how, in response to the huge success of the strike even in Old Damascus (an area which has been very quiet and very controlled too), the army and some thugs have clearly threatened shop-keepers and obliged them to keep their shops open.





Old Damascus, 31 May 2012 


And this is a beautiful video of a peaceful march organized by Damascus youth just under Mount Qassioun, the beautiful mountain surrounding the Syrian capital. The march also calls for the release of Yahya Shurbaji, a prominent activist from the peaceful movement in Daraya, in the outskirts of Damascus. Yahya “disappeared” somewhere in Syrian jails last October 2011.