That 17 February of two years ago a spontaneous protest erupted in Hariqa, a crowded market in central Damascus, few minutes away from my house.
A hundred people gathered in front of the police station and shouted “The Syrian people won`t be humiliated”. The protest did not have a directly political nature; rather, it was a spontaneous expression of popular rage, for a man had been beaten by local police. The protesters asked for the excuses of the local authorities and, in fact, the police apparently apologized and the protest ended.
But this was just one of the many signals you could hear in town during those first months of 2011, following a general unrest that started in the Arab world since Mohamed Bouazizi had set himself on fire in December 2010.
The fact that nobody attended the “Syrian days of rage” on 4 and 5 February 2011, which had been organized by a Facebook group from outside Syria, only proved that protests cannot be staged from abroad if there is no genuine feeling amongst the local population.
Yet, genuine sparks of protests and unrest happened in Damascus in that very same month of February 2011, and nobody can claim they were managed or engineered from abroad. Whoever was there in Hariqa, that 17 February of two years ago, knows that this was a genuine feeling of anger; as much as whoever attended the sit-in in front of the Libyan Embassy in Damascus, few days after the Hariqa protest, knows that this was a sort of general rehearsal to express feelings that were directed at the Syrian regime, not at the Libyan one. And, in fact, on February 24th (the second day of the protest in front of the Libyan embassy) Syrian police crushed the sit-in and arrested many of the protesters.
All these “little” episodes happened in February 2011, which seems so far away. Yet, maybe it is worth recalling them to our memory, especially now that the escalating violence and the increasing number of armed foreign fighters in Syria give a perfect excuse to those who claim that Syrian revolution was never started by Syrians asking for their legitimate rights.