ROME – Shady Hamadi is a young Italian-Syrian who was among the first to have openly spoken on the repression that the Bashar al-Assad regime is enacting against the Syrian people. Despite the intimidations, he continued to take to the streets in protests and to address the mass media in order to raise awareness in the general public. Now, he is asking Italians to not cling to indifference and to join in the “Black Ribbon for Syria” campaign, by wearing a symbol of solidarity to the Syrian people each day.
Q: It has been almost a year of repression and death in the country of your origins, when the drama directly affected your loved ones as well. What happens when history bursts into the life of a family? How has the history of your family changed in two generations, through the Assad governments?
A: My family’s history is interwoven with the fate of an entire people. The drama of the sudden deaths, of arrests and exile has touched my family as it has the families of millions of other persons. When this happens, the drama begins to be part of daily life, so one simply needs to move forward and never go back, avoiding regrets and second thoughts.
Q: Your family members in Syria have been intimidated due to your activism in Italy. You have decided to continue to speak and put yourself in the public eye, defending the cause of the Syrian opposition even in the Italian and European Parliaments. What resistance and difficulties have you met since then?
A: I didn’t have any real difficulties myself. At times I felt very much alone, abandoned, but during those moments I thought of my family in Syria and about my father’s example so that I could carry on.
Q: Tell us about your first travels to Syria. What was happening those years in the capital? Did the Damascus Spring leave any traces of cultural life in the country? What are the “Voices of the Spirits” that you would write about today?
A: In 2009, Damascus was a sleepy city, the times of the Damascus Manifesto were by then far away and certainly no one imagined to be able to muster up so much courage. I remember having met many persons who were literally famished for knowledge, they wanted to know what people from other countries thought on any cultural argument or even wanting to know their simple conception of daily reality. The Syrian people are not stupid, and they never have been. There are so many voices to talk about today, but one comes to mind in particular, a friend who recited poetry in English in the basement of a hotel on Monday evenings, and we would meet to listen to him.
A: A symbol is able to raise awareness more than a thousand words. Unfortunately the Italian public is not very aware of the Syrian tragedy, since its beginnings. This initiative, present also in other countries where small committees have been formed, seeks to create a common awareness on what is happening in Syria, bringing people into the street and squares. It is not possible that in Syria even children are executed and the world is not outraged.
Q: What are the greatest fears of those Syrians who live in the cities these days? With the shelling of the cities, the Syrian repression seems to have entered into a new and more terrible phase.
A: There are many kinds of fears: that of ending up in prison, that women in one’s family will be raped, and so forth. The situation is terrible, we are not even able to send medicine from Lebanon to Syria because the Lebanese government collaborates closely with the Damascus regime.
Q:The price that journalists have paid with their blood in Syria has been high. What has been the contribution of journalists to the coverage of information? Some say that they had been silent for too long, others challenge the information that comes out of Syria.
A: I think that more could have been done. Today we celebrate, rightly so, the two western journalists killed but together with them was Rami al Sayd and the hundreds of young people who continue to die for the reasons of uploading their videos on Youtube. Western journalism has to give more credit to the Syrian activist journalists who are in Syria and live there. If a journalist is treated like a hero because he entered into Syria for four days wouldn’t it be right to publicly recognise that there are Syrians who have done this work for eleven months, right in Syrian, in such a risky situation and they have died for this?
Q: During the rebellion of the Muslim Brotherhood, between 1976 nd 1982, one of the accusations raised against Assad and his loyalists was that of belonging to a sect of non-believers, and those most harshly struck by the armed actions of those doing the revolt were not only the government representatives and the Alawite officials of the military, but also ordinary citizens whose only fault was belonging to the same religious group as that of those in the regime. How do you interpret the relationship between Alawits and Sunnis in recent years?
A: There is the false believe that all the Alawites are with the regime and that all of them gain from it. This is untrue. In Syria, coexistence between religions is rooted in the society and has been for millenia, not only since 1963, as the government tries to suggest. Killing persons only because they are Alawites, has had happened in 1982 is wrong, just as it is wrong to kill anyone, if it it might sound merely rhetorical. The Syria of tomorrow will also have Alawites and for this reason work must be done to destroy the culture of the vendetta.
Q: Do you think that the new Constitution could open a margin for reaction to the opposition or do you think that it has definitively handed the keys of the nation over to Bashar?
A: I think that it is a farce. Assad has never recognised that an opposition exists, he has always said they are only a band of salafist terrorists who want to kill the minorities. When he recognises that there is dissent, then maybe one can start thinking about it.